Automatic or standard?

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Updated: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm Published: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm

One of the decisions you'll need to make when buying a car is choosing between an automatic or a standard transmission. The basic difference between the two is in the operation of the clutch. Every car has a clutch of some kind that connects and disconnects the engine from the transmission to allow you to select the proper gears for the speed of the car. In cars with a standard transmission, the clutch is mechanical, and you have to physically disengage it by stepping on a clutch pedal every time you stop the car or select a gear with the shifter. The clutch, gas pedal, and shifter have to be properly coordinated by the driver in order to obtain smooth and rapid shifts when accelerating. Automatic transmissions, on the other hand, have 'torque converters,' which automatically select the proper gears for the speed of the car. The torque converter performs what the clutch does in a standard transmission, but it does all the shifting work by itself. Both transmissions have their advantages. For many car enthusiasts, standard transmissions tend to be more fun to drive and cheaper to buy and maintain and offer better performance and fuel economy. Automatic transmissions, however, are easier to drive and can be extremely beneficial if you experience a lot of stop-and-go traffic. Furthermore, the installation rate of automatic transmissions is much higher in most cars, with the exception of sport cars and trucks. Sometimes, car models may only be offered with an automatic transmission.

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