Definition of Automatic Transmission
An automatic transmission (often informally shortened to auto, and abbreviated to AT) is a motor vehicle transmission that can automatically change gear ratios as the vehicle moves, freeing the driver from having to shift gears manually. Similar but larger devices are also used for heavy-duty commercial and industrial vehicles and equipment.
Most auto transmissions have a defined set of gear ranges, often with a parking pawl feature that locks the output shaft of the transmission. Continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), which are very different from conventional ATs, can change their 'ratios' over a wider 'stepless' range, rather than between a set of fixed gear ratios. CVTs have been used for decades in two-wheeled scooters, but have only seen use in a few automobile models. Recently, however, CVT technology has gained greater acceptance among manufacturers and customers, especially in Audi and Nissan automobiles, and gas-electric hybrid vehicles.
Some machines with limited speed ranges or fixed engine speeds, such as some forklift trucks and lawn mowers, only use a torque converter to provide a variable gearing of the engine to the wheels. The content of this article was obtained from Wikipedia.com, click here to see the full discussion on "ATs".
Hydraulic Automatic Transmission Parts
The predominant form of automatic transmission is hydraulically operated; using a fluid coupling or torque converter, and a set of planetary gearsets to provide a range of gear ratios.
A hydraulic automatic transmission consists of the following parts:
- Torque converter: A type of fluid coupling, hydraulically connecting the engine to the transmission. It takes the place of a mechanical clutch, allowing the transmission to stay 'in gear' and the engine to remain running whilst the vehicle is stationary, without stalling. A torque converter differs from a fluid coupling, in that it provides a variable amount of torque multiplication at low engine speeds, increasing "breakaway" acceleration. This is accomplished with a third member in the "coupling assembly" known as the stator, and by altering the shapes of the vanes inside the coupling in such a way as to curve the fluid's path into the stator. The stator captures the kinetic energy of the transmission fluid, in effect using the leftover force of it to enhance torque multiplication.
- Planetary gearset: A compound epicyclic planetary gearset, whose bands and clutches are actuated by hydraulic servos controlled by the valve body, providing two or more gear ratios.
- Clutches and bands: to effect gear changes, one of two types of clutches or bands are used to hold a particular member of the planetary gearset motionless, while allowing another member to rotate, thereby transmitting torque and producing gear reductions or overdrive ratios. These clutches are actuated by the valve body (see below), their sequence controlled by the transmission's internal programming. Principally, a type of device known as a sprag or roller clutch is used for routine upshifts/downshifts. Operating much as a ratchet, it transmits torque only in one direction, free-wheeling or "overrunning" in the other. The advantage of this type of clutch is that it eliminates the sensitivity of timing a simultaneous clutch release/apply on two planetaries, simply "taking up" the drivetrain load when actuated, and releasing automatically when the next gear's sprag clutch assumes the torque transfer. The bands come into play for manually selected gears, such as low range or reverse, and operate on the planetary drum's circumference. Bands are not applied when drive/overdrive range is selected, the torque being transmitted by the sprag clutches instead. Bands are used for braking; the GM Turbo-Hydramatics incorporated this.
- Valve body: hydraulic control center that receives pressurized fluid from a main pump operated by the fluid coupling/torque converter. The pressure coming from this pump is regulated and used to run a network of spring-loaded valves, check balls and servo pistons. The valves use the pump pressure and the pressure from a centrifugal governor on the output side (as well as hydraulic signals from the range selector valves and the throttle valve or modulator) to control which ratio is selected on the gearset; as the vehicle and engine change speed, the difference between the pressures changes, causing different sets of valves to open and close. The hydraulic pressure controlled by these valves drives the various clutch and brake band actuators, thereby controlling the operation of the planetary gearset to select the optimum gear ratio for the current operating conditions. However, in many modern ATs, the valves are controlled by electro-mechanical servos which are controlled by the electronic engine control unit (ECU) or a separate transmission control unit (TCU). (See Automatic Transmission Parts Online History and improvements.)
- Hydraulic & lubricating oil: called automatic transmission fluid (ATF), this component of the transmission provides lubrication, corrosion prevention, and a hydraulic medium to convey mechanical power (for the operation of the transmission). Primarily made from refined petroleum, and processed to provide properties that promote smooth power transmission and increase service life, the ATF is one of the few parts of the AT that needs routine service as the vehicle ages.
The multitude of parts, along with the complex design of the valve body, originally made hydraulic ATs much more complicated (and expensive) to build and repair than manual transmissions. In most cars (except US family, luxury, sport-utility vehicle, and minivan models) they have usually been extra-cost options for this reason. Mass manufacturing and decades of improvement have reduced this cost gap.
Hydraulic ATs are almost always less energy efficient than manual transmissions due mainly to viscous and pumping losses; both in the torque converter and the hydraulic actuators. A relatively small amount of energy is required to pressurize the hydraulic control system, which uses fluid pressure to determine the correct shifting patterns and operate the various automatic clutch mechanisms.
Manual transmissions use a mechanical clutch to transmit torque, rather than a torque converter, thus avoiding the primary source of loss in an AT. Manual transmissions also avoid the power requirement of the hydraulic control system, by relying on the human muscle power of the vehicle operator to disengage the clutch and actuate the gear levers, and the mental power of the operator to make appropriate gear ratio selections. Thus the manual transmission requires very little engine power to function, with the main power consumption due to drag from the gear train being immersed in the lubricating oil of the gearbox.
The energy efficiency of ATs has increased with the introduction of the torque converter lock-up clutch, which practically eliminates fluid losses when engaged. Modern ATs also minimize energy usage and complexity, by minimizing the amount of shifting logic that is done hydraulically. Typically, control of the transmission has been transferred to computerized control systems which do not use fluid pressure for shift logic or actuation of clutching mechanisms.
The on road acceleration of an AT can occasionally exceed that of an otherwise identical vehicle equipped with a manual transmission in turbocharged diesel applications. Turbo-boost is normally lost between gear changes in a manual whereas in an automatic the accelerator pedal can remain fully depressed. This however is still largely dependent upon the number and optimal spacing of gear ratios for each unit, and whether or not the elimination of spooldown/accelerator lift off represent a significant enough gain to counter the slightly higher power consumption of the AT itself.
History and Improvements
Modern automatic transmissions can trace their origins to an early "horseless carriage" gearbox that was developed in 1904 by the Sturtevant brothers of Boston, Massachusetts. This unit had two forward speeds, the ratio change being brought about by flyweights that were driven by the engine. At higher engine speeds, high gear was engaged. As the vehicle slowed down and engine RPM decreased, the gearbox would shift back to low. Unfortunately, the metallurgy of the time wasn't up to the task, and owing to the abruptness of the gear change, the transmission would often fail without warning.
The next significant phase in the AT's development occurred in 1908 with the introduction of Henry Ford's remarkable Model T. The Model T, in addition to being cheap and reliable by the standards of the day, featured a simple, two speed plus reverse planetary transmission whose operation was manually controlled by the driver using foot pedals. The pedals actuated the transmission's friction elements (bands and clutches) to select the desired gear. In some respects, this type of transmission was less demanding of the driver's skills than the contemporary, unsynchronized manual transmission, but still required that the driver know when to make a shift, as well as how to get the car off to a smooth start.
In 1934, both REO and General Motors developed semi-automatic transmissions that were less difficult to operate than a fully manual unit. These designs, however, continued to use a clutch to engage the engine with the transmission. The General Motors unit, dubbed the "Automatic Safety Transmission," was notable in that it employed a power-shifting planetary gearbox that was hydraulically controlled and was sensitive to road speed, anticipating future development.
Parallel to the development in the 1930s of an automatically-shifting gearbox was Chrysler's work on adapting the fluid coupling to automotive use. Invented early in the 20th century, the fluid coupling was the answer to the question of how to avoid stalling the engine when the vehicle was stopped with the transmission in gear. Ironically, Chrysler itself never used the fluid coupling with any of its ATs, but did use it in conjunction with a hybrid manual transmission called "Fluid Drive" (the similar Hy-Drive used a torque converter). These developments in automatic gearbox and fluid coupling technology eventually culminated in the introduction in 1939 of the General Motors Hydra-Matic, the world's first mass-produced AT.
Available as an option on 1940 Oldsmobiles and later Cadillacs, the Hydra-Matic combined a fluid coupling with three hydraulically-controlled planetary gearsets to produce four forward speeds plus reverse. The transmission was sensitive to engine throttle position and road speed, producing fully automatic up- and down-shifting that varied according to operating conditions.
The Hydra-Matic was subsequently adopted by Cadillac and Pontiac, and was sold to various other automakers, including Bentley, Hudson, Kaiser, Nash, and Rolls-Royce. It also found use during World War II in some military vehicles. From 1950-1954, Lincoln cars were also available with the Hydra-Matic. Mercedes-Benz subsequently devised a four-speed fluid coupling transmission that was similar in principle to the Hydra-Matic, but of a different design.
Interestingly, the original Hydra-Matic incorporated two features which are widely emulated in today's transmissions. The Hydra-Matic's ratio spread through the four gears produced excellent "step off" and acceleration in first, good spacing of intermediate gears, and the effect of an overdrive in fourth, by virtue of the low numerical rear axle ratio used in the vehicles of the time. In addition, in third and fourth gear, the fluid coupling only handled a portion of the engine's torque, resulting in a high degree of efficiency. In this respect, the transmission's behavior was similar to modern units incorporating a lock-up torque converter.
In 1956, GM introduced the "Jetaway" Hydra-Matic, which was different in design than the older model. Addressing the issue of shift quality, which was an ongoing problem with the original Hydra-Matic, the new transmission utilized two fluid couplings, the primary one that linked the transmission to the engine, and a secondary one that replaced the clutch assembly that controlled the forward gearset in the original. The result was much smoother shifting, especially from first to second gear, but with a loss in efficiency and an increase in complexity. Another "innovation" for this new style Hydra-Matic was the appearance of a "Park" position on the selector. The original Hydra-Matic, which continued in production until the mid-1960s, still used the "Reverse" position for parking pawl engagement.
The first torque converter automatic, Buick's Dynaflow, was introduced for the 1948 model year. It was followed by Packard's Ultramatic in mid-1949 and Chevrolet's Powerglide for the 1950 model year. Each of these transmissions had only two forward speeds, relying on the converter for additional torque multiplication. In the early 1950s, BorgWarner developed a series of three-speed torque converter automatics for American Motors, Ford Motor Company, Studebaker, and several other manufacturers in the US and other countries. Chrysler was late in developing its own true automatic, introducing the two-speed torque converter PowerFlite in 1953, and the three-speed TorqueFlite in 1956. The latter was the first to utilize the Simpson compound planetary gearset.
By the late 1960s, most of the fluid-coupling four-speeds and two-speed transmissions had disappeared in favor of three-speed units with torque converters. Also around this time, whale oil was removed from automatic transmission fluid. By the early 1980s, these were being supplemented and eventually replaced by overdrive-equipped transmissions providing four or more forward speeds. Many transmissions also adopted the lock-up torque converter (a mechanical clutch locking the torque converter pump and turbine together to eliminate slip at cruising speed) to improve fuel economy.
As computerised engine control units (ECUs) became more capable, much of the logic built into the transmission's valve body was offloaded to the ECU. (Some manufacturers use a separate computer dedicated to the transmission, but sharing information with the engine management computer.) In this case, solenoids turned on and off by the computer control shift patterns and gear ratios, rather than the spring-loaded valves in the valve body. This allows for more precise control of shift points, shift quality, lower shift times, and (on some newer cars) semi-automatic control, where the driver tells the computer when to shift. The result is an impressive combination of efficiency and smoothness. Some computers even identify the driver's style and adapt to best suit it.
ZF Friedrichshafen and BMW were responsible for introducing the first six-speed (the ZF 6HP26 in the 2002 BMW E65 7-Series). Mercedes-Benz's 7G-Tronic was the first seven-speed in 2003, with Toyota introducing an eight-speed in 2007 on the Lexus LS 460. Mercedes-Benz unveiled a conventional automatic transmission with the torque converter replaced with a lock-up clutch called the AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT. The content of this article was obtained from Wikipedia.com, click here to see the full discussion on "Autyomatic Transmissions".