Manual and Automatic Transmissions Quiz



By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: anton petukhov / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

When you purchase a new vehicle for yourself, there are many choices to make. Some are purely cosmetic, such as what color you want it to be. Others are more mechanical in nature. These include how big an engine displacement are you looking for, or will it be a gasoline or diesel-powered model?

The other major question you need to ask yourself is whether your new set of wheels should have an automatic transmission or a manual one. Now if you are from the U.S., we probably know which one you prefer. That said, in many other parts of the world, vehicles with manual transmissions are preferred over their automatic counterparts. 

Whatever you choose, rest assured that both automatic and manual transmissions are incredibly intricate parts of your motor vehicle. They are built to last for many miles, but as with other systems in your car (the engine, for example) when things go wrong, it can cost you a fair amount of money, no matter if you drive a stick shift or an auto shift. 

Just how much do you really know about each of these transmission types? Enough to ace this quiz? Let's see! Good luck!

Which extra pedal will you find in the cabin of a manual car that a car with an automatic transmission doesn't have?

That's right, in a car with a manual transmission, you will find an extra pedal in the cabin at the driver's feet. In a left-hand drive car, this pedal is found on the right of the brake pedal (middle) and accelerator pedal (far left). The clutch pedal is engaged when the driver wants to change gears.


In a vehicle with an automatic transmission, what is the most likely to damage the gearing system?

Although an automatic transmission will change the gears for you, when towing a large load, many drivers prefer to override the system and pick the gear they think is best by themselves. If they know what they are doing, then it's all fine, but inexperienced drivers often pick the wrong gear.


When looking at modern cars, what drive train is commonly used?

Over the years, cars have had many different engine positions and drivetrain configurations. Think of the muscle cars of the 1960s - people loved how they had massive engines located in the front of the car but that all that power was transferred to the rear wheels, allowing drivers to light up the tires and lay down some rubber. Most modern cars, however, are front engined, front-wheel drive cars.


How many gears do MOST modern automatic transmission vehicles have?

Notice that in this question, we did say MOST modern cars. Why? Well, it can vary. Although most modern automatic transmission cars have six gears available, some are different. Take the Chrysler 200, which is a 9-speed. In the past, many automatic transmission cars had a four-speed transmission.


In a nutshell, what does the transmission of a vehicle do?

Without a transmission system, be it manual or automatic, your car would simply not move, no matter how much power it generates. The transmission system on a car is tasked with turning the power created by the engine into a forward (or reverse) motion in the wheels.


True or false? 90% of the vehicles sold in the United States have automatic transmissions.

Why? Well, it just seems that Americans love their automatic transmission vehicles over their stick shift counterparts. The fact that pickups are very popular in the States (and most of these have automatic transmissions) must surely boost the figure somewhat as well.


What is another name for an automatic transmission?

We know it mainly as the automatic transmission but it also has many other names. Perhaps the second most popular is self-shifting transmission, but other names include auto-shifting transmission and 6-speed automatic (substitute the numeral for the number of gears the vehicle has).


Can you name the type of automatic transmission found in most vehicles?

Most automatic transmissions found on vehicles today are of a hydraulic nature. This means gear changes are achieved by using hydraulics to unlock and lock a system of gears, commonly known as planetary gears.


Which of these moves hydraulic fluid through the transmission system?

Often considered to be the heart of the transmission system, the automatic transmission pump moves hydraulic fluid through the gearing system to ensure it operates efficiently.


True or false? 90% of cars sold in Europe are manual transmission.

Unlike in America where the figure is the same but in the opposite direction, Europeans seem to love a manual transmission car over an automatic transmission one. Also, pickups are not as huge in Europe as in the States, so there is a large portion of automatic transmission vehicles that just aren't sold over the pond.


Which of these is another name given to a manual transmission gearbox in the United States?

You won't find many vehicle aficionados in the United States saying they bought a manual transmission car. To Americans, it simply is called a stick shift.


From the list below, select the transmission part that produces the various gear ratios.

A crucial part of the transmission, the planetary gear set helps to make all the various ratios that the gears in the transmission can produce. It consists of the sun, planetary and ring gears.


In what year was the automatic transmission invented?

Although motor vehicles as we know them had been around since 1885, those early cars and models up to the 1920s were all manual gearbox vehicles. The first automatic transmission was invented in 1921.


And who was responsible for the first automatic gearbox?

We have Alfred Horner Munro to thank for the invention of the first automatic gearbox. A resident of Regina in the Saskatchewan province of Canada, Munro came up with his design in 1921 and by 1923 had patented it.


Who is credited with inventing the first modern manual gearbox?

The first modern manual gearbox was invented by two Frenchmen, Louis-Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor. Their first unit was a three-speed manual transmission and many of their design ideas are still used today.


In what year was the manual gearbox first introduced by Panhard and Levassor?

Louis-Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor introduced their first manual transmission in 1894. It was a simple three-speed gearbox. It had no clutch and gears would carefully be selected when the motor was running at the correct speed for that gear.


The early manual gearboxes, where timing was required to slide the gear in at the right time according to the engine speed, were called ________?

Early manual transmission systems required excellent timing and a knowledge of how fast the engine was rotating to select the correct gear. Because no clutch was involved to disengage the engine, these types of manual transmissions were referred to as unsynchronized transmissions.


True or false? An automatic transmission has more than one clutch.

True, automatic transmissions certainly have more than one clutch. In fact, they can have several. These clutches are tasked with both engaging and disengaging a specific set of planetary gears assigned to them and related to the speed the vehicle is going and the correct gear it needs to be in based on that.


What name is given to modern manual gearboxes where a clutch is involved in changing gears?

It's pretty complex and impossible to explain in a few sentences, but in essence, a clutch allows the right gear to be selected without having to worry about adjusting the speed of the engine to allow the gears to mesh. This is called a synchronized transmission.


Which vehicle was the first to have an automatic clutch in the United States?

The idea for the first hydraulic-based automatic transmissions was sold to General Motors by two Brazilian engineers, José Braz Araripe and Fernando Lehly Lemos. GM then introduced this new radical design for the first time in Oldsmobile models in 1940.


General Motors gave its new transmission system a fancy name. What did the company call it?

General Motors decided that a catchy name would be the best way to market its new automatic transmission system. The company called it the "Hydra-Matic" and you can even hear it mentioned in the classic song "Greased Lightning" from the hit movie, "Grease".


In manual transmission cars, what is the most common problem associated with a clutch?

Because a clutch is employed so often and drivers will sometimes "ride" it, particularly while standing still at a traffic light instead of engaging the brake and putting the car in neutral, it will wear out over time. A worn clutch will start to slip and not engage as it should, causing higher revving as you gear up.


In automatic transmission cars, what keeps the engine turning over when the car is at a standstill?

Found in cars with automatic transmissions, a torque converter fulfills the same role as a clutch in a manual transmission car. Essentially, it keeps the engine turning over when the vehicle comes to a halt.


In a manual transmission, which of these below connects the gears to the driveshaft?

The collar is a vital part in a manual transmission. It will shift left or right along the shaft to select and engage the gear as the driver chooses them using the gear shift.


A mass of whirling parts, an automatic transmission gets hot. How is it cooled down?

With so many moving parts and spinning gears, all moving and interlinking, it is natural that an automatic transmission system will overheat. Luckily, it is kept from overheating by using an existing cooling system found on the vehicle already: the engine cooling system.


Can you name the straps found in a transmission?

Made from steel, timing bands are straps that are found in the transmission on drums within it. These drums will rotate when the band is not pressed against it to grip it. Stopping their rotating means components within the transmission interact in different ways, depending on what the driver is doing in terms of gear selection.


When coming to a complete halt and leaving a car with an automatic transmission, what gear should you leave it in?

When stopping a car with an automatic transmission, the vehicle should be placed in the park gear. This locks the transmission's output shaft and means the vehicle cannot move forward or backward.


A gear ratio of 1-1 is produced by which gear in an atomic transmission?

In an automatic transmission, a ratio of 1-1 is achieved when the vehicle is shifted into third gear. It means the output shaft as well as the input shaft both turn at the same time and together.


Which of these track speed, the throttle position and other important information to decide on the best shift points in an automatic transmission?

In modern automatic transmission systems, sensors on the engine and within the transmission itself track speed, the position of the throttle, the speed of the engine and other factors to control shift points.


True or false? Some manual transmission vehicles make use of a finger shifter to select gears.

A finger shift allows a driver to change gear with the mere movement of their finger. An example of this is on buses in Japan where the system has been used on heavy-duty buses since 1983.


What does the "CVT" mean when it comes to transmissions?

In a continuously variable transmission, the gearbox is able to select from any number of gear ratios. In fact, the options are practically infinite. This allows it to select the most effective gear for any situation.


Which part of the automatic transmission directs hydraulic fluid to the valves?

In automatic transmissions, the valve body is vitally important. It helps direct hydraulic fluid to valves in the transmission that in turn engage the appropriate band servo or clutch pack needed at that time.


What is the name of the larger outer gear of the planetary gear system?

The ring gear is the large outer gear in the planetary gear system in the transmission. It is tasked with moving the torque from the secondary shaft through to the differential.


Do you know the name of the central gear in the planetary gear system?

The sun gear is the central gear in the planetary gear system in the transmission. It is tasked with spinning the other gears in the planetary gear system.


How is the tachometer important to a driver of a manual transmission car?

In a manual transmission vehicle, a tachometer is of massive importance, especially if you intend to rev the motor to the redline often. The tachometer is just a simple way for the driver to see when he should shift gears.


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