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What is a Dual-Clutch Transmission?

Transmission Cross Section Close-Up

A dual-clutch transmission is a specific type of Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), one which uses two clutches to ‘preload’ the next gear before shifting. Dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs) were designed to combine the performance benefits associated with manual transmissions with the smooth transitions and ease-of-use that automatic transmissions are known for. 

If you’re still not sure how to answer the question, “What is a dual-clutch transmission?”, don’t worry. We’ve gone into detail about everything you’ll need to know.

How Does a Dual-Clutch Transmission Work?

You’ve got a sense of what dual-clutch transmissions were designed to do, but how does a dual-clutch transmission work? Let’s cover the basics, and then dig in deeper by comparing other transmissions you might be considering:

  • While some DCTs offer manual driving modes, most dual-clutch transmissions behave much like automatic transmissions–at least to the untrained hand. Under the hood, however, there’s a lot more going on.
  • However, a DCT isn’t really an automatic. It’s an Automated Manual Transmission. The difference between ATs and AMTs is fairly complex, but we’ll state it as plainly as possible: AMTs and DCTs use an electronically-controlled manual gearbox, while an AT uses planetary gearing.
  • Now, what differentiates a DCT from an AMT? Early AMTs attempted to coordinate automated shifts without preloading the next gear–and this led them to lurch around at low speeds. DCTs use two gearboxes instead of one, resulting in smoother shifts.

Dual-Clutch Transmission Benefits

Some of the advantages offered by dual-clutch transmissions should be fairly self-evident to Waukesha-area drivers, but comparing the various types of transmissions may help to make your next steps a little easier:

Manual Transmission Benefits

Manual transmissions provide an engaging driving experience, and since manual systems tend to be less wasteful than their mechanical or computer-controlled automatic counterparts, they’ve traditionally been more efficient than other options. When the clutch is pulled, the next gear moves into place.

Automatic Transmission Benefits 

Automatic transmissions aren’t as inefficient as they used to be, and today, they’re preferred by most drivers because they’re easy to use and harder to damage through misuse.

Dual-Clutch Transmission Benefits

  • DCTs tend to provide better fuel economy than automatic transmissions and smoother performance than manual transmissions and AMTs.
  • Because they shift smoothly and with a high-degree of precision, they’ve often been preferred in the arena of performance driving. 
  • Many fleet owners and operators prefer DCTs because they offer efficiency advantages that lead to major savings over time.
  • Are there any drawbacks associated with DCTs? Aside from their relative complexity, the only real downside to a DCT is that it takes up more space under the hood than other transmissions.

Are you interested in learning more about the different types of transmissions? Start by comparing the designs of Aisin and Allison transmissions, two of the most popular options on commercial vehicles.

How to Drive a Dual-Clutch Transmission

You probably already know how to drive a dual-clutch transmission–even if you don’t know it. That’s because most dual-clutch transmissions in the Chicago and Madison areas are fully-automated. The differences will only come up if and when maintenance is required.

However, some dual-clutch transmissions offer manual modes that let you enjoy a more engaging drive when the mood strikes. This is where these systems really shine. Since the clutch is engaged automatically and the next gear is preloaded into place, you can simply shift the gear when you hit the appropriate speed

Answer Your Transmission Questions with Badger Truck & Auto Group

Here at Badger Truck & Auto Group, we’re ready to answer any questions you have about heavy-duty trucks, commercial vehicles, and their associated components. If you’re searching for a new or pre-owned vehicle with a dual-clutch transmission, take advantage of our vehicle finder service and let us know exactly what you’re looking for.


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