Automatic or manual: 4 common myths about automatic transmissions

By Jurassic JennMay 16, 2024 16:31 PMCars
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Automatic or manual
Automatic or manual. Source: carro.sg

Automatic transmissions have been used in cars for more than a century. It all started with a concept patented in the early 1920s. Since then, the automatic transmission design has gone through many modernizations, gradually improving stability, durability, and availability.

"Thanks to evolutionary development," SSPDaily writes, "automatic transmissions have effectively supplanted manual transmissions as standard equipment in cars.

When a technology has been around for a long time, fresh information about its development is not always adequately perceived by users. Thus, myths about automatic transmissions have emerged that have survived to this day.

You can, of course, take these tales for granted and ignore such cars, but each of them can be easily debunked with a little research.

Automatic transmission is only suitable for perfectly flat roads

It is generally accepted that a manual transmission is better than an automatic transmission for more technical driving. For example, if you are driving up a steep slope or an unstable sandy surface, then manual control will be a better option. However, just because a manual transmission is better at handling bumps, difficulties, and other oddities, it doesn't mean that an automatic will get stuck in the mud.

Automatic shifting handles most of the tricky shifting moments when driving on bumpy roads, allowing you to focus on steering and acceleration. If the car you're driving is designed to overcome bumps in the road and has a solid body and all-wheel drive, then an automatic transmission won't let you down.

If you are an amateur who wants to have fun, then a manual transmission may be preferable, but in most cases, an automatic will work equally well.

Automatic transmissions are sealed and cannot be repaired

As part of a concerted effort to improve the efficiency of automatic transmissions, some manufacturers have decided to simplify the process of replacing and maintaining fluids by creating self-regulating systems that do not need to be flushed. This is how sealed transmissions appeared – autonomous systems that supposedly do not require fluid maintenance.

For some reason, it is believed that all modern automatic transmissions use this scheme, which means that if they break down, the only option is to replace them completely.

First of all, not all automatic transmissions are sealed – this is an individual case, depending on the make, model, and year of manufacture of your transmission. Secondly, and more importantly, sealed transmissions can be drained, filled, and inspected just like any other transmission. To do so, you need to know how to properly maintain them.

Of course, this process can be more complicated and expensive than maintaining a traditional transmission, but if your sealed automatic transmission breaks down, you don't have to replace it completely.

Automatic transmissions consume more fuel than manual transmissions.

It was once commonly believed that a manual transmission was more fuel-efficient. Older automatic transmissions were not as good at regulating fuel consumption due to a combination of weight and complexity: unlike dry switches in a manual transmission, gears in an automatic transmission must constantly rotate. This means higher fuel consumption to maintain rotation and compensate for the overall higher weight.

However, over the past few decades, automatic transmissions have made significant strides in improving fuel efficiency. Largely due to computer functions such as stop-start systems and adaptive cruise control, they have become better at controlling fuel consumption.

Manual transmissions may still be slightly better at saving fuel overall, but the difference between the two is surprisingly small. If your car with an automatic transmission is newer than a car with a manual transmission, it may outperform it in terms of fuel economy thanks to updated features.

Automatic transmissions should be shifted into neutral when stopped

If you learned to drive a car with a manual transmission, you may have been told that you should shift into neutral when stopping at a traffic light. This is good advice for a manual because shifting into neutral eliminates wear and tear on the transmission when you stop in gear and also saves fuel. However, this is not necessary and impractical on an automatic transmission.

The neutral position of the automatic transmission is intended only for situations where it is necessary to keep the wheels moving without the engine or the transmission itself. For example, when driving through a car wash or towing, as well as in emergencies, in case of engine failure. Shifting to neutral does not give the automatic transmission the same gasoline economy benefits as a manual transmission, and, moreover, can make it difficult to accelerate after a stop.

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