Do You Know How Manual Transmission Cars Work?

Steven Symes

Image: Learn Engineering

About This Quiz

Can you drive stick? Are you able to double-clutch, instead of driving like your grandmother? Are you constantly refining how you work that clutch pedal?  True gearheads of decades past could make a high performance car almost jump straight up in the air with an expertly executed popping of the clutch. Do you know what that means?

Believe it or not, a growing number of drivers don't know how to drive stick. There have been multiple reports in the news lately of would-be car thieves and carjackers who weren't able to take the vehicle simply because it had a manual transmission. Shifting gears yourself is fun, and it provides more control over how a car handles on the road, something people who don't know how to drive stick simply don't understand. If you know how to drive a manual, you're also not limited in the selection of vehicles you could potentially drive, which is another big plus. 

Really mastering a manual transmission is easier if you understand how it works. Not only will you shift smoother, you won't engage in bad habits that will wear out the transmission or clutch prematurely. There's a lot going on inside the transmission, so how much do you know about it all? Take the quiz now to find out! 

What component connects the transmission to the engine?

When driving a manual transmission, you have to be keenly aware of the clutch since you control how it operates when changing gears.

What's the main function of the clutch?

When the clutch is engaged, the engine and transmission are connected to each other, but once you disengage the clutch you've disconnected the two.

When you're moving the stick and hear grinding, what's the sound?

Despite the common misconception that this is transmission gears grinding, the fact is all the gear teeth in a transmission are always completely meshed.

Why do they call it "double-clutching"?

In modern cars you only need to press the clutch in once when switching gears, but race cars and older vehicles require you to double-clutch when shifting gears.

What's at the other end of a shifter?

When you move the stick, you're also moving the selector forks, which are what actually engage the different gears in a transmission.

Keeping the clutch pedal pressed all the way down while stopped does what?

Once the throw-out bearing is gone, you'll have to replace the clutch, even if the clutch disc is only partly worn out. In other words, don't leave the clutch pedal engaged when stopped.

When starting a car with a manual transmission, what must you do?

If you don't press in the clutch pedal to disengage the transmission and engine, your car won't start.

What's the catch point?

Learning the catch point on a manual transmission is key to driving it optimally, and it can change by a fair amount between one model and another.

Why do clutch discs wear out?

The clutch disc gets rubbed down over time, until eventually it starts to slip and needs to be replaced.

If you can only select gears in order with a manual transmission, what type is it?

A sequential manual transmission is common for motorcycles and race cars, but rare in other types of vehicles.

In a traditional five-speed manual transmission, what does it do with the shafts?

A separate selector is located on the layshaft, making this adjustment possible.

Reverse gear uses how many gears to operate?

One of the gears used in reverse is the idle gear, while the other two are input and output gears.

What makes reverse gear engage in the transmission?

The idle gear can slide along the layshaft. Once it connects to the other two gears, the setup causes the output shaft to turn in the opposite direction.

What does the shift fork in a manual transmission engage with?

The dog clutch is a gear that floats on the transmission's input shaft, and it presses against the gear you select by moving the stick.

What is riding the clutch?

Riding the clutch is a good way to really accelerate your needing a new one installed in your car, which is just a waste of money.

What is the layshaft?

The layshaft typically sits underneath the input and output shafts, connecting to both with enmeshing gears.

What does the reverse gear in a modern transmission lack that the other gears have?

Because of the lack of a synchro, the gearbox has to stop moving completely before reverse gear can be engaged

What are most shift forks made of?

Even though the shift fork is made to endure regular use, putting unnecessary wear and tear on it can lead to transmission failure and a big repair.

What is the whole point of a transmission?

The torque band on an internal combustion engine is quite limited, but the transmission helps smooth out the differences some, resulting in better performance.

Resting your hand on the shifter does what?

It's a bad habit to rest your hand on the stick since it will wear out the selector fork and collar prematurely.

How does the clutch help with smooth gear changes?

When you press in the clutch, it literally disconnects the engine from the transmission, allowing you to switch gears without any of the blood-curdling grinding.

What is the input shaft from the transmission connected to for receiving engine power?

Because the clutch disc spins along with the flywheel, thanks to friction, the input shaft is attached to the clutch as a way of receiving the engine power.

When you're waiting to merge into traffic, what should you be doing with the clutch?

Too many people sit with the clutch engaged, which puts unnecessary stress on the diaphragm spring and pressure plate springs, leading to their failure sooner.

As you move the stick around, what is it moving on the other end?

Those sleeves are what select what gear is engaged in modern manual transmissions, and they ensure smooth gear changes as well.

What external force is applied to the clutch disc to begin the transfer of power to it?

The pressure plate has a system of springs that are designed to press against the clutch plate, literally transferring power to the transmission itself.

The gears in a sliding mesh manual transmission slide on what shaft?

As you move the stick around, the end result is the different gears, which are various sizes, slide to mesh with the gears on the counter shaft.

What kind of system transfers the clutch pedal motion to the clutch assembly?

Just like the brakes, pressing on the clutch pedal transfers force through a liquid-filled line, which then actuates a mechanical arm that presses on the center of the diaphragm spring.

What kind of spring in the pressure plate allows the clutch to disengage power to the transmission?

The diaphragm spring is circular and sits between the pressure plate and a cover. Its design allows for pressing on the assembly to disengaged the clutch.

What device in modern transmissions makes double-clutching unnecessary?

Synchronizers or synchros allow the collar and gear to contact through friction before the dog teeth mesh, allowing them to synchronize speeds in advance.

When you press on the clutch, what happens to the flow of power to a gear?

If you press on the clutch in your car and keep it engaged, you'll notice the wheels stop receiving power because you've disconnected the torque from the engine to the gear.

What part connects the synchronizer cones to the gears in the transmission?

The sleeve must slide to connect with the synchro and the gear, making it so they're connected and spin at the same speed.

What makes a constant mesh transmission different from the sliding mesh design?

Since the gears are always in the same positions, a connector must change the output from the transmission.

What connects the input and output shafts on a manual transmission?

The counter shaft acts like a bridge between the other two shafts, transferring the power from the one to the other smoothly.

What's the basic principle that makes manual transmissions work?

Gear ratios greatly affect performance, but it's a principle most car shoppers don't know much about, so they ignore it and concentrate on power solely.

When you park a car with a manual transmission, what should you leave it in?

If you don't leave the car in gear, you greatly increase the chances of it rolling away. It is wise to use a forward gear when parked facing uphill and reverse when parked facing downhill.

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