Manual Transmissions

A manual transmission, also known as a standard transmission is a type of transmission used in motor vehicle applications. It generally uses a driver-operated clutch, typically operated by a foot pedal for regulating torque transfer from the internal combustion engine to the transmission, and a gear stick, operated by hand. A conventional manual transmission is frequently the base equipment in a car.


Cars need transmissions because of the physics of the gasoline engine. First, any engine has a redline — a maximum rpm value above which the engine cannot go without exploding. Second, if you have read How Horsepower Works, then you know that engines have narrow rpm ranges where horsepower and torque are at their maximum. For example, an engine might produce its maximum horsepower at 5,500 rpm. The transmission allows the gear ratio between the engine and the drive wheels to change as the car speeds up and slows down. You shift gears so the engine can stay below the redline and near the rpm band of its best performance.

Ideally, the transmission would be so flexible in its ratios that the engine could always run at its single, best-performance rpm value. That is the idea behind the continuously variable transmission (CVT).