What Transmission is in My Truck?

If you’re like most truck owners, then you’ve heard of the “transmission” before, perhaps from your mechanic while she performs your annual maintenance. But most truck drivers don’t know much more about their transmission other than the fact that it is essential for their truck’s proper operation. That lack of knowledge can become quite an issue if your truck shows symptoms of a problem that cannot be traced to any other source.

At that point, you might begin to suspect that your truck’s transmission is facing some sort of problem. But before you can get that problem diagnosed, you’ll need to know about what kind of transmission is installed in your truck. This guide will take you through the process of figuring that out, as well as the different types of transmissions on the market today. In all, this guide should provide you with a more firm understanding of your transmission’s essential function within your truck.

Different Transmission Types 

As you may have already guessed, not every type of car and truck on the market today is equipped with the same transmission. In fact, there are four different transmission types installed in most consumer vehicles today. These include the manual, automatic, automated manual, and continuously-variable transmissions. Chances are, your truck will feature one of those four, so be sure to read up on each below:

Manual Transmission

First up is the manual transmission, which many truck drivers will know better as a “stick shift.” That’s because a manual transmission vehicle’s gear shift is operated through a movable gear selector that itself is typically stick-like in design. Also, a manual transmission features a driver-operated clutch pedal, which is positioned on the floor beside the gas and brake pedals.

For many years, a manual transmission was simply known as a “standard” transmission because they were the most common form of transmission found in consumer cars and trucks. However, they are almost exclusively found in certain trucks and luxury cars today given the extra work needed to operate them. Consequently, most drivers know that they drive a stick shift without being told so.

Automatic Transmission

The vast majority of consumer cars and trucks today utilize an automatic transmission. As their name implies, these transmissions can automatically translate the planetary motion of their engine to precipitate gear changing. From a driver’s perspective, this is accomplished by pulling a level-like stick gear shift into one of several positions without needing to compress any kind of gear clutch.

One of the easiest ways of identifying an automatic transmission vehicle is by noting its use of lateral gearshift which includes positions labeled “P,” “R,” “N,” and “D.” These stand for the most common functional gear positions of park, reverse, neutral, and drive. These transmissions are considered fairly easy to use such that most folks learn to drive in an automatic transmission vehicle today.

Automated Manual Transmission

As its name implies, an automated manual transmission truck is a unique hybrid of the automatic and manual transmission systems. Specifically, these trucks lack the need for a clutch pedal and instead accomplish the shifting action through an electronic, pneumatic, or hydraulic control system. In turn, this allows a driver to shift gears through a straight gear shift or specialized paddles on the steering wheel.

All things considered, automated manual transmission vehicles are not all that common on the roads today. This is primarily because the technology behind it is still evolving, meaning that they aren’t yet as efficient as possible. In any case, much like a normal automatic transmission, these transmission units can require some serious work to repair due to their complexity.

Continuously-Variable Transmission (CVT)

A continuously-variable transmission is among the most cutting edge available in any consumer vehicle today. That’s because these transmissions don’t even feature any gears. Instead, these units utilize a specialized belt and pulley system that automatically adjusts itself via a vehicle’s onboard computer. This, in turn, makes these vehicles hyper-efficient when it comes to fuel economy.

Also, as a result of this construction, a CVT lacks any type of gear-shifting device. Instead, these units perform all shifts as you accelerate or encounter inclines. This results in a smoother overall driving experience, but not one that those who prefer the ability to manually adjust their transmission will appreciate it.

Ways You Can Find Out What Transmission You Have 

There are a couple of different ways to check what kind of transmission is in your truck. First and foremost, check your owner’s manual. The “transmission” section of that book should clearly highlight what kind of transmission came pre-installed in that make and model. Alternatively, you can also check the white tab inside your driver’s side door. Here, you can find a lot of basic info about your truck, transmission type included. 

If both of these options are not effective for you, your best bet is to visit a trusted mechanic. They have access to vehicle make and model info that can review your truck’s transmission type in short order. They can also check into your transmission’s health and make recommendations based upon your specific transmission type.

Why it’s Important to Know What Kind of Transmission You Have in Your Vehicle 

At its core, the transmission serves the purpose of shifting gears within your truck’s engine. These shifts allow your truck to drive more smoothly in certain environments based upon the types of strain and force placed on the engine in those environments.

With this in mind, it’s important to know your truck’s transmission type so that you can fully understand what kind of environments it can drive in. At the same time, transmission differences can make a certain truck type inoperable to an inexperienced driver. This is particularly true of manual transmission trucks, which most new drivers do not learn to operate through standard driver’s education.

Also, your precise transmission type may have some effect on the overall cost and difficulty of its repair. Automatic transmissions are notably more expensive than manual transmissions when it comes to repairs, for example. This may have an impact on which truck you choose to buy based upon its long-term cost of operation.

The Bottom Line

By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of what type of transmission is in your truck. If not, then you now possess the knowledge needed to track down that information before taking your truck in for a repair. Be sure to keep your truck’s transmission type in mind in the future, too. After all, you may eventually find yourself needing to diagnose certain operational problems based upon that very transmission type.