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The very first automatic transmission ever made dates back to the 1920s, and it wasn’t long before the automatic transmission was refined and integrated into automobiles. The first automatic transmission, patented by Alfred Horner Munro, used air pressure. However, two Brazilian engineers, Fernando Lehly Lemos and José Braz Araripe invented the automatic transmission which set the gold standard. These engineers invented the first hydraulic automatic transmission, which was soon purchased by General Motors and incorporated into the Hydra-Matic transmission in the 1940s.

In the 80 years since the production of the Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, the automatic transmission has become the standard transmission for many cars around the world. While the dated manual transmission has been on the way out for years now, typically only being placed in sports cars and fuel-efficient economy cars, there is another option for consumers looking to keep a little more control over their gear changes; a manual transmission mode. Here’s what you need to know about automatic transmissions with manual transmission modes.

What is an automatic transmission?

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An automatic transmission is a transmission that changes gears automatically, hence its name. The alternative to this transmission is the manual transmission, which is a transmission that requires the driver to operate a clutch and change gears for the car. Per car and driver, two types of automatic transmission are torque converter automatic transmissions and continuously variable transmissions, or CVTs.

Torque converter automatic transmissions use hydraulic fluid. This fluid, along with a torque converter that allows the engine to spin freely without the transmission at all times, uses fluid pressure to change gears. CVT transmissions use a belt and pulleys, which constantly change the gear ratio for optimum fuel economy and performance. While the fluid is used to help the CVT belt find friction, this fluid is different from the fluid used in typical torque converter transmissions.

CVTs have recently found their way into mainstream cars due to their ability to find optimum fuel economy and their ability to drive smoothly. Without physical gears, CVTs provide smooth driving experiences without noticeable gear changes.

How to drive an automatic car in manual mode

Many automatic transmission cars today have a “manual mode”, which is simply an automatic transmission that lets you stay in gears for as long as you want for peak performance, or for the feeling of total control over the vehicle offered by a manual transmission. Traditional automatic transmissions will often have a manual select feature on the gear lever or paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, which you click up or down to change gears.

Some CVT transmissions found in today’s vehicles also have a manual mode, but since these transmissions don’t have physical gears, manual mode simply gives you simulated gear changes when placed in manual mode.

Truth be told, almost every automatic car ever made technically has a “manual mode”. On classic automatics, it’s common to see “1,2,3” next to Drive on the shifter. Placing your vehicle in “2” ensures that your vehicle shifts between 1st and 2nd gear, without exceeding the gear you have selected.

Does an automatic car in manual mode save gas?

2010 Ford Taurus Gear Shift Paddles | Mark Elias/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Since cars with manual transmissions historically get better fuel economy than their automatic counterparts, many drivers seem to think that if they switch to manual mode on their automatic transmission, they’re bound to find the perfect gear changes for fuel economy. optimum fuel. Today, however, this is not true. Thanks to automatic transmission engineering and advances in technology, automatic transmissions, especially CVTs, offer better fuel economy than many cars with manual transmissions.

Manual modes on automatic transmissions are usually there for fun. With a manual mode, you can control the car to its full extent whenever you want, or switch back to regular automatic mode when you want to relax and take the hard work away from the driving experience.

The best of both worlds

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With today’s automatic transmissions offering better fuel economy than most manual transmissions, and with just about every automatic transmission offering a manual or sport mode, you can really get the handling and excitement of a manual transmission with the convenience of an automatic transmission at all times.

Most sports cars still offer manual transmissions in their lineups, but with many sports cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette dropping their manual offerings for advanced quick-change, dual-clutch automatic transmissions, there’s no not too much love and excitement wasted on these sports cars losing a traditional clutch pedal.

RELATED: Here’s Why The Myth That Manual Transmissions Are Faster And More Fuel Efficient Than Automatics Is False

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