Different vehicles are of course fitted with different types of transmissions. This is something that then determines which way the vehicle’s gear shifts for the continuous change in speed of that specific vehicle. If you are a car owner, then you need to know the type of transmission your vehicle has. Otherwise, you often need to wonder “What transmission do I have” while getting any part replaced or fixed.
This is something you also need to know because it will help you to handle any sort of complications that may arise with the transmission system in your vehicle. The transmission of your vehicle is one of the most complicated components of your vehicle and you will be doing yourself a favor by taking the time to understand it. So if you have ever wondered “what kind of transmission do I have?” we are going to answer that for you.
What Transmission Do I Have: Different Types Of Transmissions
There are mainly three different types of transmission systems found in modern vehicles today. Some specific ways will help you identify the exact transmission models. For now, let’s take a look at the different types of transmission systems:
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1. Manual Transmission
Just as you would expect from the name of it, a manual transmission offers you a more hands-on approach when it comes to shifting gears. This is something that could be compared to riding a bicycle uphill.
We can all remember the times that we had trouble going uphill on a bike when we stayed in the same gear, but then once we finally got on top, and started to go downhill, we couldn’t move our legs fast enough to achieve more speed. This happens because you did not shift gears.
When you shift gears you can control the amount of power that you put through your drivetrain. In this case, your legs are your engine, so you need to ensure that you put your bike in the proper gear to avoid overworking your legs.
This same concept can work for cars as well. If you want to maintain your car engine and make sure that it lasts longer, then you need to shift through the gears of your car and transfer the power more efficiently. If you did not do that, your vehicle could be accelerating from zero miles per hour while being in 6th gear the whole time.
Identifying A Manual Transmission
A great way that you can identify a manual transmission is to just take a look at it. When you look at it, do you notice a picture view of something that looks like a bunch of lines that intersect each other and have numbers at each end? Then the vehicle most likely has a manual transmission, and you no longer need to ask what transmission I have!
Are you still not feeling very sure? You can also try to grab the transmission and give it a bit of wiggle. If the vehicle is left in a neutral position, which means that it is not in a gear, then you will get a lot of play forward and backward and both left to right. If it does not move when you do this then it could be that it is not a manual transmission, or that it is still in gear.
Another great way to find out whether or not you have a manual transmission system in your vehicle is to take a look at the side of your transmission. Specifically the right side of it. If you see a bunch of numbers that are like, “P, R, N, D, 1, and 2” then you do not have a manual transmission, but an automatic transmission instead.
2. Automatic Transmission
When we talked about the manual transmission system, we talked about how you have to shift the gears in your vehicle manually. However, just as you can expect from the name, automatic transmission means that basically, your vehicle will be shifting into gears by itself.
You will find that almost every car nowadays, around 99% of them, shifts automatically. This means that they all come with an automatic transmission system.
When you press down on the accelerator, the speed of the car engine increases and this makes the transmission spin a bit faster. What this does is that it also increases the pressure of the oil or it might trigger a sensor which will then shift the transmission up to a higher gear. It then lowers the speed of the car engine, which will allow you to drive down the road quite a bit more efficiently since you will not have to be using a lot of gas.
Identifying An Automatic Transmission
This transmission system also still comes with a stick that you need to grab and move to change into the “drive” gear. This one will not have as much play when you are moving it and you will not be getting a series of numbers for you to choose from.
The lever for the shift will usually be located towards the middle of the car on your side, or it could even be on the steering wheel column. If you grab the lever and move it to where it says “R” then your vehicle will go into reverse. As you can tell this is to allow you to be able to get your vehicle out of the park and maybe back it out of a parking spot.
If your vehicle is loud and you do not want to wake up the sleeping passengers then you can easily just put the vehicle in the “neutral” or “N” position. This allows you to kill the engine and is handy if you are going somewhere downhill. You can just roll down the hill and into your driveway.
No Kill Engine
Something to note here is that killing the engine is something that we do not recommend. This is because it makes it harder for you to be able to steer your vehicle since you do not have power steering in the vehicle anymore.
The “D” or “Drive” is just what it sounds like, it’s quite self-explanatory. When you are in this mode, your vehicle will be going around in the most efficient way that it can move. Normally there is a preset shifting that goes under 3000 RPM. If you were to floor this, your vehicle would just downshift and accelerate as fast as it possibly can.
Many times you will find that there is a “2” right under the “D”. The “2” that’s there means second gear. You would normally shift into this gear when you are out doing some driving up in the mountains. You would want to do this when you are going on the downhill portion to save your brakes.
When you go into the second gear, it forces the engine to not speed up more than it is required for the second gear. Moreover, the engine will work to slow the vehicle down since the momentum of the vehicle will be propelling you down. It works better for your vehicle because if you press down on those brakes the whole time going downhill, you risk placing premature wear on your braking pads and it might even lead to failure.
Further Notes To Keep
If you are going somewhere uphill then it would be better for you to turn the transmission of your vehicle to “L” (stands for low) or even “1” (stands for first gear). When you do this, you can get a lot more use out of your engine, that too at the lowest gear option, meaning you are getting the most spin in the wheels per the input on your throttle. If you are planning on doing a burnout in your automatic transmission, this feature is necessary if you want to get any wheel spin.
Last but not least, most new cars nowadays will come with an automatic transmission but with manual mode. This allows you to be able to select whichever gear you want to be in, manually. It works great for the same downhill where we talked about shifting into a lower gear when going downhill so that the engine can prevent your vehicle from building up speed. You are also not forced to just be on the brakes the entire time either.
With a manual mode, you are also able to get yourself a bit more fun and engagement with the vehicle as a driver. It is more fun for the people or the purists who just love to be able to go through the gears in a manual transmission.
3. CVT Transmission
A lot of cars that you can buy nowadays will come with a CVT which is short for “Continuously Variable Transmission.” This is a different form of an automatic transmission, in a way that you do not have to be shifting between the gears actively with your hands. However, the feel and the mechanism of it are quite different.
Just like you would with an automatic transmission, to go forward, you also put this into “Drive.” When you are using a CVT you will feel it be a lot smoother since you do not sense it when it shifts from one gear to another. Another thing that you might notice with the continuously variable transmission is that since it is meant more for efficiency than it is for performance, the vehicle will not be accelerating as fast anymore.
You will find a rubber band when you check under the skin of a CVT. This is used to maintain the right ratio of gear when you are driving along. Even though the rubber band is complete of the same length, it still needs to go round both the output as well as the input shafts of the transmission. The way that the transmission can keep the engine working efficiently with the speeds being low is by moving both the input and output shafts (to learn more, check out our guide on how to replace transmission output shaft seal) continuously back and forth.
Each of the shafts comes with a narrow portion and a wide portion which can adjust how quickly each of the shafts spins. Moreover, it is also still able to keep them both in proper relation to each other since it has a rubber band that does not change its length.
Identifying A CVT Transmission
You will normally find most cars on the smaller side use a continuously variable transmission. This is because they do not need there to be a clear separation between the gears compared to something like a semi-truck. When you are dealing with smaller cars, all of the forces are a lot less severe than when you have to deal with a larger truck. This allows the smaller cars to be able to get away with using CVT.
Another benefit that you can get from having a CVT system in your car is its efficiency. They are amazing with efficiency. They will never cause the engine to be using more power than it would necessarily need. A lot of manufacturers even swear that CVTs do not require any servicing for at least the first 100,000 miles. Now that is just some other level of efficiency.
What Transmission Do I Have: How To Identify The Model
When it comes to identifying the model of a transmission system in your vehicle, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. If you are always asking yourself “How do I know what transmission I have?” then you need to just follow the steps below and you will also carefully go through what we mentioned above.
1. Check The Door Card Of the Driver
When you open up the door on the side of the driver and look down, you will notice that inside the doorframe, the side that is closest to the rear of your vehicle, there is something written. This is the part where all the specific information about your vehicle will be. If you take a look there, you will be able to know what the transmission in your vehicle is equipped with.
It is a great idea to check it out since there is a whole lot of other information there, such as the specifications for the engine in your vehicle, the model number of your vehicle, and a bunch of other information about your vehicle that you might need.
2. Check In With The Owner’s Manual
This is of course what it sounds like and should be quite self-explanatory. You will most likely find your owner’s manual in the glove box of your vehicle. In case you need to refer to it in the future, you should store it in the glovebox so that you always know where it is. If you look for the index that says “Transmission,” you will come across a page that will give you all the information that you need about the transmission that is on your vehicle.
The great thing about checking the owner’s manual for this information is that not only do you get to know what model of transmission you have in your vehicle, but you also get to know about useful things like the type of fluid that is recommended for your vehicle, some helpful service intervals, and a bunch of other functional information that can help you when things are looking rough.
3. Check In With The Engine Bay
You could also give a check under the hood since a lot of cars and auto vehicles will have descriptions of things related to the transmission of your vehicle under there. You will usually be able to tell whether you have a manual, automatic, or CVT for the transmission system of your vehicle.
However, it might also have more information such as the recommended temperatures for your coolant, the type of engine oil that you should use, warnings, how long it has been since your timing chain or timing belt was changed, and even recommendations for the transmission fluid you should be using.
4. Check The Oil Pan
If none of the easier solutions that we mentioned earlier do work for you, or if you find that the information you are looking for is just missing due to whatever reason, then you would want to check in with the business that you are buying your vehicle from, or the previous owner of the vehicle.
Should that information has just been missing, there could be something sketchy going on, so it is better to check in and make sure everything is okay, or just walk away from the whole thing itself.
If you have already got the vehicle and you own it, and you cannot even make the solutions above work, then you could just crawl under your vehicle. Once you are under there, you need to look for the transmission oil pan. You will notice that there is also a small card there containing the information on what exact model and make your transmission system is.
The solutions that we listed above should have worked, however, if for some reason none of the solutions worked out for you, then you need to go around the front of the driver’s side of your vehicle. When you are there then check out the base of your vehicle’s windshield.
5. VIN Or Vehicle Identification Number
What you are looking for is an alphanumeric string that is 17 characters long. We refer to this string as Vehicle Identification Number, shortly known as VIN.
This code is very important since using this would allow you to look up information about your vehicle. This also of course includes all the information on the transmission system of your vehicle. Not only that, but you will also actually be able to find out about the model and the make of your vehicle, as well as if there are any problems associated with your vehicle or if it ever had any recalls.
In most cases, the details about the transmission system in your vehicle are found within the 4th and the 8th digit on the VIN or the Vehicle Identification Number. You need to be able to decipher these digits to find out the information that you want.
The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN is also actually validated by the 9th digit of the VIN. It is most often the digit that is used by computers to be able to tell if there are any problems with your vehicle.
If you want to get more details about the VIN of your vehicles such as the country of your vehicle’s origin, or the company that manufactures it, then you could always try to contact the manufacturer of your vehicle. You could also try to use the websites and services such as CarVertical which give you a whole list with details about your vehicle as well as its history.
Transmission Identification Facts:
- Knowing the type of transmission in your vehicle is crucial when experiencing transmission problems.
- The year, make, and model of a vehicle may not be enough information to determine the type of transmission.
- The size of the engine and number of speeds can impact the type of transmission.
- Use a lookup tool to find fair prices for a remanufactured transmission and local labor estimates.
- Obtain a written copy of the quote through email or text message.
- Check the owner’s manual for information on the type of transmission, transmission fluid to use, and maintenance recommendations.
- Look for a white card on the inside edge of the driver’s door for information on the type of transmission.
- Check for part numbers stamped into the transmission pan or transmission itself by crawling under the vehicle.
- Use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to decode information about the vehicle, including the factory-installed engine and transmission type.
- Decode the VIN using a website or contact a local dealership for assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the most frequently and most commonly asked questions about the transmission system of a vehicle.
What Is A Semi-Automatic Transmission
We did not include this transmission system in our list since it is quite similar to an automatic transmission. A better way of saying it would be that it is a mix of both manual and automatic transmission. It gives a different experience for the driver and the main thing that separates it from a manual transmission is that you don’t need to be stepping on the clutch.
What Kind Of Transmission Do I Have
To find out the type of transmission system you have in your vehicle, you should carefully follow the steps that we have listed above. If none of them work then you should check in with the people that you got your vehicle.
What Transmission Do I Have By VIN
If you want to use your VIN to find out about your transmission, you can do that by either looking it up on a VIN lookup website or contacting your car dealership or manufacturers with your VIN.
How Do I Find Out What Transmission I Have
If you look under the hood of your vehicle, the white card on the door located on the driver’s side, or check the transmission oil pan, you should be able to find out more about the transmission system of your vehicle.
What Allison Transmission Do I Have
If your vehicle comes with an Allison Transmission then you can find out more about it by locating and checking the data plate which contains a lot of information. There is usually a 10-digit serial number which is normally listed just right under the model number for the transmission system of your vehicle.
The transmission system can be something quite complicated, even more so for modern-day vehicles. This is why it is more important for you to know enough about your vehicle’s transmission system so that you can easily go through the repair and servicing work of your vehicle. We hope this guide has answered your crucial query of “what transmission do I have”.