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Automatic gearboxes may be more popular as compared to manual ones, but there is plenty of 'life' left in the conventional type of transmission.

24 Feb 2015 | Category: Car Technical Advice

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Gears, it seems, are a bit of a nuisance. There is a clutch pedal that the left foot has to depress/release with controlled effort, a lever to move in a gated fashion, and if it all works according to plan, the vehicle is able to continue moving ahead. Get it wrong, and driving a car with a manual gearbox will drive you up the wall.

It takes more effort to work with three pedals and hence, more drivers are swopping to cars with automatic transmissions

It does take some degree of skill and experience in order to drive smoothly and efficiently with a manual transmission. It can also be immensely rewarding if you master the art of gearchanging, perhaps together with heel-and-toe (an advanced driving technique that deserves its own dissection).

But the manual shifting of gears is like a lost art these days, with the Class 3A (automatic-only) driving licence giving learner and rookie drivers alike an easy way out of the 'three-pedal problem' since 2005.

Manual Chronicle 

The traditional manual transmission is as old as the automobile. In its earliest and simplest form, the gearbox was nothing more than engine-driven pulleys of varying sizes on a so called throughdrive. 

One of the first proper gearboxes was the four-speeder in Daimler's 1889 'wire-wheel' car, but it would be 11 more years to the turn of the century before the physical 'box' was formed, i.e. with a single lever in a shift gate to work the gears. Engaging the gears in question was made easier and quieter in the 1930s with the introduction of synchromesh.
Operating Manual

A manual transmission uses clutch discs to transmit (hence the term) engine power to the driven wheels, with the gear stick/lever moving a collar to engage different sets of gears underneath.

The shift lever is springloaded to stay in the centre slot until a side force (i.e. your hand changing gears) is applied to the shift knob. The pivoted shift lever would then engage lugs on the control rods that slide forward or backward to move
the shift forks, which in turn move the shift collars that lock a gear to the output shaft. 

Despite the five mentions of 'shift' in the preceding paragraph, the only gear that actually shifts is the one for reverse - the
other gearsets are engaged when a shift fork forces a shift collar against an already meshed gear, locking it to the rotating output shaft.

Automated manual gearboxes are more sophisticated than conventional manuals, but drivers will need to learn how to work them in a smooth manner

Robot Revolution

The robotised manual transmission (also known as an automated manual) was a natural and logical development of the classic 'self-service' gearbox. Basically, its clutch operation is performed by an electro-mechanical device, thus 'removing' the clutch pedal from the footwell and saving the driver some footwork. But to minimise jerkiness on the move, he needs to make a conscious effort to coordinate the gearshifts with his accelerator inputs.
Torque The article first appeared in the May 2013 issue of Torque. Log on to their website to subscribe.
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