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What you need to know about dual-clutch transmissions

What you need to know about dual-clutch transmissions

What is Dual-clutch transmission?

Getting it from its name alone, dual transmission is semi-automatic that combines automatic and manual transmissions as an automated manual transmission that provides drivers the best of both driving experiences. Thus, a dual transmission is a sort of hybrid vehicle. Many car high performers or sport vehicles are of this type.

The DCT operates like an automatic, requiring no driver input to shift gears. It’s a type of multi-speed transmission system that employs two separate clutches “for odd and even gear sets.” One provides the odd-numbered speeds (first, third, fifth gears). And the other one provides even-numbered speeds (second, fourth, sixth gears). The twin transmissions are joined with two clutches and worked cooperatively. In the mechanical operation of the DCT, Autobytel presented that, “as each gear is engaged to drive the vehicle, the next higher numerical gear is pre-selected so that it can be engaged virtually instantaneously when the transmission’s automatic logic or the driver’s manual selection chooses it.” Volkswagen, the first producer of DCT in cars, assessed this transmission can shift gears without interrupting the torque supply to the wheels. The DCT uses clutch parts like manual transmissions rather than the torque converter in automatic.

“The clutch is a mechanical part that disconnects the engine from the transmission when shifting gears, so having two of them means that the system will automatically have the next gear ready to engage when shifting up or down the gears. The result is the smoothness and easiness of an automatic transmission and a shifting speed of a manual.”

According to Porsche.com, DCT design is often similar to two separate manual transmissions with their respective clutches contained within one housing, and working as one unit. The first-ever produced DCT came out in 1961 by Hillman Minx mid-size car, from there other tractors and manufacturers improved the previous model to become popular and have replaced hydraulic ATs in other car models.

How do DCT transmissions operate?

To understand how a DCT transmission functions, it’s imperative to know how manual operates. In a manual transmission, the driver oftentimes disengages the clutch to switch gears. The clutch operates by disengaging the engine’s drive from the driveline so the gears can switch effortlessly. The DCT functions by using dual clutches instead of one that is controlled by electronics and hydraulics, and no need to use a clutch pedal.

With that said, the DCT can switch gears faster than manual transmission without interrupting the power supply from the engine to the transmission. Commonly, they are computer-controlled manual transmissions without a clutch pedal but with a simplified PRNDL (park, reverse, neutral, drive, and low) gear selector. DCT transmissions can also be operated through paddle shifters that allow drivers to change gear manually if they like to.

Wet and Dry DCT clutches. Depending on the structure, there are two types of DCT-wet and dry. A dry transmission is efficient with a simpler structure and smaller in size but is known to easily wear and tear when exposed to constant traffic gridlock. It’s more useful in decreasing fuel consumption due to the lack of hydraulic structure. While a wet transmission is usually more desirable than the other since it doesn’t wear during its lifespan. It has durability for torque engines and it’s bathed in oil to provide cooling for the clutch surface.

Things to avoid while driving DCTs

The dual-clutch transmissions are a relatively newer technology in the car industry. But just like other types of car models, DCTs also have issues to confront in terms of performance and appear constant with other makes, but the promise of innovating their models to be more engaging with fewer troubles is there to assure owners the experience of a comfortable ride. Below are driving tips that you shouldn’t do while driving on a dual-clutch transmission.

  1. Don’t put the car in N during heavy traffic. The driver should switch to D mode. When you put the car in N mode, it’s simply putting more pressure on the brake pedal. DCT automatically disengages both clutches if you’ve come to stop or restart and doesn’t burn fuel.
  2. Use brake in an inclined position. Failure to do so, the transmission takes the entire load to make sure the car won’t slip on an inclined as this can overheat the internal parts and can damage the transmission.
  3. Don’t use the accelerator on a slope. This will burden or strain the gearbox. It will produce excessive heat and can prematurely wear the transmission. Using a brake pedal to halt the vehicle is recommended to extract power from the clutches.
  4. Avoid launching the car inappropriately. While DCTs can shift faster but can be vulnerable to wear and tear with improper launching. The engine will spin the clutch while the brake will do its work and in between both will get strained or pressured.
  5. Avoid N (neutral) on a downhill slope. Instead, put the car on a driving mode or D to have more control when moving. You won’t use the engine brake to slow down, which is a must but will ease the stress on the braking system.

Taking care of your DCT

The DCT has created a popular interest after top car manufacturers such as Ferrari and Porsche had adopted the dual gearbox and many thought of buying one for them but you need to be knowledgeable on how the DCT transmission works so you can operate it with proper care. Aside from the don’ts discussed above, knowing to refrain from negative driving habits can increase the lifespan of your transmission. Here are some tips for caring for DCTs:

  1. Regular service maintenance. The proper way to keep the lifespan of DCT transmission is to give it periodic servicing from a professional car transmission specialist. DCT is very complex and proper care is recommended to keep it running efficiently. Follow the recommended service period as advised in the car manual, and never miss the visit to the shop. If used and maintained accordingly, the transmission can last 10 years without issue even in hard driving.
  2. Change fluid and filter. They must be replaced promptly. Use the appropriate oil for the DCT from authorized dealers to ensure the correct viscosity and is up to operating temperature before further driving. Not all transmission fluid fits all types of vehicles. The transmission oil provides not only power transfer but also heat dissipation. Air filters are necessary to be replaced regularly to prevent damage to the transmission. Recommended filter and fluid replacements can range from 40,000 kilometers to the lifetime of your car.
  3. Tune up the engine before driving. Always allow the engine and the transmission to heat up for a few minutes before you drive to avert unnecessary stress on the engine and the transmission. The mechanical parts will prevent the transmission to shift properly when they are cold, allowing the engine to heat up between shifts will facilitate fluids to flow and ensure that every part gets lubricated before driving.
  4. Be gentle when driving DCT. Good driving habit helps prevent premature wear and tear of the vehicle’s components while bad driving will surely strain the transmission and will stress the engine over time. Drive it with care as clutches wear out when accelerating away from a standstill. Avoid hard acceleration during stops and driving particularly when moving uphill.
  5. Buy original parts of DCT when needed. Non-standard parts like wheels and tires are not recommended because they’ll alter the behavior and performance of the dual-clutch transmission. Some dry-type of DCT clutches need to be replaced regularly but the wet-type clutches don’t need any replacement.
  6. Act and drive wisely during heavy traffic. Riding on an AT won’t give you the stress of engaging and disengaging the clutch manually. Dual transmission can give you that comfort but beware inching your way forward in DCT isn’t a good move. By having your foot on the brake, your first clutch isn’t fully engaged, which means more stress and tear on the gearbox. Wait for a large distance gap before you take off the brake to move as this allows the vehicle to switch to first gear minimizing the wear of the transmission.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dual Transmission

The DCT can take some getting used to. Most owners who’ve been accustomed to DCTs set-up find themselves comfortable driving as they give them the flexibility to operate the gear shifts manually or let the car move automatically. They’ve been around for quite a while in high-powered performance cars. These transmission vehicles offer less time to switch gears which significantly improves the mileage of a car. Also, DCTs are fair vehicles providing ease of operation, fuel efficiency plus eco-friendly vehicles.

But not every new model is perfect. In terms of reliability, most DCTs are fair to good in terms of lifespan and lack reports of major failures. But a common complaint is that they tend to be jerky, never smooth when changing gears. There is also some slowness in the selection of the next gear especially when trying to accelerate at lower speeds.

This type of vehicle can be expensive to buy and costly to repair. In truth, dual transmission is argued to be the worst modern-day car. Volkswagen had a fair success with DCTs but other makes like Ford had a marked failure in such production. In acknowledging past criticisms, Ford Company, for one, stressed:“ (They) are continually working to refine and improve the dual-clutch transmission, so that when it changes gears the sensation won’t be any different from a traditional hydraulic step-gear transmission.”

As of 2019, Ford failed to deliver and had faced a class lawsuit over the defective transmission. But the make of Volkswagen had made an upbeat for dual transmission when it reported in the same year that the VW’s DCT is one of the best transmissions in the business. According to the official report released by the maker: “To date, Volkswagen has sold over 3.5 million cars with their dual-clutch transmissions by combining the ease and convenience of an automatic transmission with the fun-to-drive element of a manual and because it doesn’t have an energy-sapping torque converter, it usually gets better gas mileage than a conventional automatic.” To improve the system, other makers or manufacturers of DCTs have continually developed improvements to their controllers’ software for a better driving experience.

The Future of DCTs

In the 1980s, the DCT re-emerged as the brilliant car in terms of speed. It became the choice of transmission vehicle for motor racers where excellent speed on the track of competition matters a lot. In the early 2000s, DCTs debuted with the Volkswagen Auto Group. Some auto manufacturers today use DCTs in midsize and sedan-type cars. This transmission type is typical in motor racing vehicles and an emerging design in large-scale production.

DCT transmissions are not ideal for heavy-duty pickups. They work best in all cars where fuel efficiency is the goal. If you’re up to driving a sportier feel but want the ease of automatic, the DCT transmission is a choice. This gearbox vehicle can be relatively more responsive than ATs or CVTs and can bring comparable fuel economy. The dual-clutch transmission offers the best of both worlds. When car shopping, choose the best make so you won’t experience the same dilemma with the DCT transmission other purchasers have had in the past. Wisely, it’s important to be informed about the car of your choice like the pros and cons, and it’s worth to road-test the unit for some time if you are comfortable with one before you buy.

At Automart.PH, we have a wide variety of cars you can choose from. Be it with a manual, automatic, CVT, or dual clutch, the choice is yours to make.