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How do Manual Transmissions Work?

gear shift with hand on it

At Killian Auto Pros in Mauldin, we know that transmissions are one of the greatest technological marvels of the automotive world. How does a standard shift transmission work? Why should you care? Our expert technicians here at Killian Auto Pros in Mauldin have the answers.

We believe that the best way to properly maintain your transmission is to have a basic understanding of how it works. Fortunately, the best thing about a manual transmission, is that it isn’t as complicated as an automatic. In this article, we get to set aside the wizardry of planetary gears and hydraulics and focus solely on a tenured classic.

If you’ve never seen the inside of a manual transmission, its inner workings may not make much sense to you, even if you know the concepts must be relatively simple. Essentially, there are two (or maybe more) shafts, each one equipped with an assortment of bearings, synchronizers, and different sized gears. The bearings allow the gears to spin at high RPM, and provide a cushion of gear oil between all metal parts.

Synchronizers set the gear speeds to matching RPM, to accommodate smooth and effortless shifting. The gears themselves are different sizes so that when they mesh together, different ratios can be achieved. By sliding the gears forward or backward (forward meaning towards the belts and pulleys on the engine) on either shaft, matching them to their partner for each input from the shifter, several different ratios, or “gears”, can be produced. But how do slight movements of the shifter position the gears correctly?

The shifter is attached, in some form or fashion, to a rod or lever that is connected to a fork inside the transmission. This fork is able to move into two positions forward or backward, and 2-4 positions left and right (depending on if you drive a 3 speed or an 8 speed.) As a result, small inputs from the shifter move the fork into positions where it engages the movement of the appropriate gears forward and backward along the shaft while skipping over the other gears.

When you’re in first gear, the first shaft is engaged with the other shaft by the appropriate gear - when you shift into second, the first gear disengages as you pass into neutral, and the second gear inside the transmission is moved into place as you shift into second on the shifter, engaging the second shaft once again with a different ratio. With some precision engineering, the recipe is right for a functioning manual gearbox.

If you’re having issues with your manual transmission, or simply want to prevent them from happening, the professional technicians at Killian Auto Pros have you covered. For all your transmission repair and maintenance needs, and for the best transmission service shop in Mauldin, call or stop by Killian Auto Pros today. No matter what type of car, truck, or SUV you drive, we’ve got you covered.


Thank you for visiting Killian Auto Pros in Mauldin, SC. Count on our automotive repair technicians to keep your car, truck, suv, or van on the roads longer and safer.

Schedule your appointment today (864) 281-9000 or REQUEST APPOINTMENT HERE.

Tags: Automotive Repair, Transmission, Vehicle Maintenance


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Killian Auto Pros

451 N Main St
Mauldin, SC 29662

location small (864) 281-9000
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