The Dual-Clutch Transmission Palmer AK

To help address the problem and reduce drag on the vehicle’s engine, manufacturers have begun to incorporate more sophisticated gearboxes, one of which is the dual-clutch transmission.

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The Dual-Clutch Transmission

The Dual-Clutch Transmission By Zach Bowman, DriverSide Contributing Editor


A typical automatic
transmission.
In the search for ever-better fuel economy and ease of use, carmakers are looking at every individual piece of their products to improve efficiency . One major component of the power/fuel economy puzzle is the vehicle’s transmission. Standard automatic and manual transmissions, along with the rest of the driveline components typically draw around 15 percent of the engine’s power. That’s gusto that never makes it to the ground and fuel that’s burnt for no reason. To help address the problem and reduce drag on the vehicle’s engine, manufacturers have begun to incorporate more sophisticated gearboxes, one of which is the dual-clutch transmission.



A manual transmission.



Audi's 7-speed dual-clutch
transmission.
Before we go diving into the nitty-gritty of how various transmissions function, we should start with what one does. Your car’s engine can only spin so fast, so engineers have come up with a variety of gear ratios to allow the engine’s work to be multiplied. Multiplying the work means rolling along at higher speeds. A modern transmission typically houses anywhere from four to six forward gears and a single reverse gear, selected either mechanically (a manual), hydraulically (an automatic) or electronically (dual-clutch).

To really understand how a dual-clutch transmission works, it’s necessary to get a basic grasp of the mechanisms at play in the other two most common variants. First up is the manual transmission. Hands down, this is the oldest type of gearbox out there – thought to have been invented sometime in the late 1800’s. This system is made up of a clutch and a gear selector, both of which are operated by the driver.

For illustration purposes, we’ll look at a two-speed transmission. In this type of gearbox there are three shafts: an input shaft coming from the engine, an output shaft going to the rest of the drivetrain and a layshaft connecting the other two via gears to the side. In our model, the output shaft is the one with our forward gears on it, though they sit on bearings so they can spin freely regardless of how fast the output shaft and wheels move. Still with me?

That means that all of your gears are constantly moving, they’re just not positively connected to the output shaft. That happens thanks to something called a dog gear that spins at the same speed as the output shaft. When you put our model transmission in gear, the dog gear connects with one of our gears spinning around the output shaft and a positive connection is made. Just like that, you’re moving down the road. Changing gears simply disengages the dog gear from one forward gear and connects it with another.

An automatic transmission selects all of your gears for you. If you thought the manual transmission was complicated, get ready for some head...

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