How Can You Identify a Manual Transmission?


Quick Answer

Distinguish the basic type of a transmission from the configuration of a vehicle's shift lever assembly or lack thereof. Identification of the specific model of transmission in a given vehicle usually requires inspecting the transmission itself for an identifying code stamped on the transmission case. Information about the vehicle's make and model and the general shape of the transmission case can also help narrow down what specific transmission is installed in a given vehicle.

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Full Answer

Identifying the type of a manual transmission begins with careful examination of the shift lever in the vehicle. Many vehicles have a shift diagram printed on the top of the shift knob that shows the shift pattern and number of gears in the transmission. Sequential manual transmissions only shift forward and backwards through the gears rather than in an H-pattern, while automated manual transmissions such as the dual-clutch DSG transmission used in Volkswagen vehicles may have a shift lever more like that of an automatic transmission or may have no shift lever at all.

It is often possible to determine the most likely type of mechanical transmission installed on a given vehicle once the number of gears, shift pattern and make and model year of the vehicle are known. For example, all 2004 and later GMC Canyon pickups with manual transmissions used 5-speed MA5 transmissions. While determining transmission type this way is not definitive, it is usually accurate if there is no reason to suspect that the original transmission was replaced.

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