The need for a transmission in an automobile is a consequence of the characteristics of the internal combustion engine. Engines typically operate over a range of 600 to about 7000 rpm (though this varies, and is typically less for diesel engines), while the car’s wheels rotate between 0 rpm and around 1800 rpm.
Furthermore, the engine provides its highest torque and power outputs unevenly across the rev range resulting in a torque band and a power band. Often the greatest torque is required when the vehicle is moving from rest or traveling slowly, while maximum power is needed at high speed. Therefore, a system is required that transforms the engine’s output so that it can supply high torque at low speeds, but also operate at highway speeds with the motor still operating within its limits. Transmissions perform this transformation.
The dynamics of a car vary with speed: at low speeds, acceleration is limited by the inertia of vehicular gross mass; while at cruising or maximum speeds wind resistance is the dominant barrier.
Many transmissions and gears used in automotive and truck applications are contained in a cast iron case, though more frequently aluminium is used for lower weight especially in cars. There are usually three shafts: a mainshaft, a countershaft, and an idler shaft.
The mainshaft extends outside the case in both directions: the input shaft towards the engine, and the output shaft towards the rear axle (on rear wheel drive cars. Front wheel drives generally have the engine and transmission mounted transversely, the differential being part of the transmission assembly.) The shaft is suspended by the main bearings, and is split towards the input end. At the point of the split, a pilot bearing holds the shafts together. The gears and clutches ride on the mainshaft, the gears being free to turn relative to the mainshaft except when engaged by the clutches.
Types of automobile transmissions include manual, automatic or semi-automatic transmission.