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What Is a Dual Clutch Transmission?

A dual clutch transmission shifter

Transmissions are so named because they take power created in the engine and transmit it to the wheels of a vehicle, allowing it to drive at different speeds and in different directions. The two types of transmissions in modern vehicles are manual and automatic, but several advances in technology are leading to improvements, such as the dual clutch transmission. What is a dual clutch transmission, and what makes it different from the others?

Do It Yourself

All transmissions use sets of gears and the principle of gear ratios to shift “up” and “down” gears, but manuals and automatics do it differently. Manual transmissions use a clutch to disengage from the engine and shift to a new set of gears providing a different torque. The transmission is defined as manual because it relies on direct driver input to select the desired gear as driving conditions change.

Many drivers prefer the control and feel of a manual transmission (although they can be clunkier), and they are arguably easier for mechanics to work on. However, they’re not as popular as automatic transmissions with most buyers and manufacturers, so you see fewer and fewer of them on the road.

Do It for Me

What is a Dual Clutch Transmission?Automatic transmissions require a driver to select a direction of travel. From there, the transmission selects the appropriate gear based on demand through a complex series of hydraulically actuated gear circuits and valves using pressure regulation and a torque converter in place of a clutch to disengage from the engine.

The automated process makes vehicles with automatic transmissions a breeze to operate and popular with consumers. They also require less maintenance than manuals.

Dual It for Me

So, then what is a dual clutch transmission? A dual clutch transmission (DTC) is technically an automatic transmission, but it could easily be mistaken as a hybrid by design. Also known as direct shift gearboxes, the gears are set up much like in a manual transmission, but there are two clutches: one for the even gears and one for the odd. The clutches are automated, which is why it’s considered automatic, although some manufacturers give the driver more control than others.

DTCs can preload a gear by way of computer automation, which means they shift quickly and seamlessly. They boast improved fuel economy and acceleration and a much smoother performance and shifting experience over manuals.

With a focus on tech in the auto industry, DTCs will likely continue to grow in popularity as well as efficiency. Keep an eye out for them when you’re on the road or searching for your next vehicle.

Check out all the transmission products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on dual clutch transmissions, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Blair Lampe View All

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

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