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19 comments

Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

Posted May 08, 2008 12:01 AM by dstrohl

The early history of automatic transmissions involves a lot of half-steps and confusing engineering. Which, I suppose, leads one to either appreciate today's fully automatic transmissions or despise them altogether. But most people nowadays have nearly forgotten all about the Buick/Olds semi-automatic transmission of the late 1930s, a direct predecessor to the fully automatic Hydra-Matic transmission.

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#1

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 2:00 AM

Wouldn't you rather have a Porsche automatic transmission that in actuality is a real standard transmission that shifts automatically?

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 3:07 AM

No. I'd rather stir the soup myself. Otherwise, what's the fun. Everyone should be required to learn driving on an early VW. They would learn conservation of momentum. Plus, they could drive foot to the floor, shifting like an Andretti and no one on the street would notice.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 9:48 AM

No! They should learn to drive on my old Ford Ranger with a clutch that does not completely disengage so that they had to double clutch to shift!!!

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#7
In reply to #3

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 11:23 PM

What is double clutching, anyway! I've heard the term forever, but no one has ever given me a good explanation!

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 1:50 AM

Engage clutch momentarily (release pedal) between gears. Resulting in two clutch disengagements between start and end of shift. Follow?? Idea being, to "un-pedally" synchronize.

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#11
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 2:30 AM

Most cars today don't have synchro-mesh transmissions. Hence why I told a friend of mine that he only has to let the clutch out just for a second before he shifted into first gear. After he spent thousands at the dealer chasing down the non-existent problem!

I told him after said money was spent that if he couldn't get it into first, just let out on the clutch and then depress it again... Works every time. He was embarrassed about the amount of money he spent to fix nothing!!!

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#12
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 3:07 AM

His problem was that the clutch wasn't fully disengaging and the slight torque going into the transmission wasn't allowing the synchros to rotate just a bit to align using the pressure applied through the shifter. The synchro rings have teeth that are sort of triangular that allow them to "ramp" together and provide a rotation that allows the square cut "dogs" to engage. Any slight pre-load caused by a bad clutch prevents this. Letting out the clutch transmits more torque and causes the transmission gears to turn just enough to allow engagement.

By the way, most if not all modern cars DO have synchro-mesh transmissions (most by the early '50's). Many English cars thru to the '60's had all but first gear synchroed (Moss box). Down shifting into first shows ones talent.

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#17
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/11/2008 2:54 AM

That was very enlightening! Thanks!

My dad was a mechanic for 45 years, you think I would have known all this. Unfortunately, he was notorious for not explaining things!

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#18
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

08/30/2008 11:15 PM

To this day manufacturers of US built fire pumps do not build the pump transmissions with synchronizers. They use some over engineered combination of shifting forks, levers and gears to engage and disengage the fire pumps.

I took a maintenance class one year, and thought the young instructor was just pompous that I felt he needed a wake up call. So I asked him if he had ever herd of a synchronizer. After all, as crappy as Yugos were, as least they had syncros in all forward gears. By lunch this guy had lost a lot of students. Hooters had a few extra customers that day.

The F series trucks in 1985 had T18, and T19 transmissions in them. The T18 came in the gasoline engine trucks and had non synchro first gear. The diesels had the T19, with a synchro first gear.

Heavy duty trucks do not have synchronizers in them. They relay on a clutch brake. There is a small set of discs on the input transmission that try to slow the shaft to the speed of the case (0 rpm). These discs are activated when pushing on the very end of the clutch pedal travel. A driver learns to use his leg to push the clutch pedal down, and his tows to slow the input shaft to the speed of the next gear. On an up shift, the input shaft needs to speed up to match the gear speed. For that use, the double clutch method is used. This allows the driver to give the engine a little more speed when the clutch is engaged for that split second.

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 3:14 AM

Seems you had the "double clutch" concept down all along; and I gather you gathered, that, by "un-pedally," I meant engage clutch...to hasten clutch spin-down. Your friend might have been more embarrassed had you told him he should have stayed with automatic...stick shifting being something which, generally, if not learned early on, will seldom be well learned at all.

You might also ask your friend about when his last gear box oil change...and what kind of oil he is using. Reason being...

While it might intuitively seem best that gearbox oil should provide superlative friction reduction, that is not actually the case. Instead, the oil should be such that it provides a good balance (trade-off-point), over operating (and non-operating) temperature ranges, between friction reduction and friction (how can I say...) enhancement; so that clutch spin down (when drive shaft is disengaged from crank shaft) is not overly prolonged. Assuming his vehicle has manufacturer-specified oil in its gear box, it is usually the case that the "friction balance property" of manual transmission gear oil is degraded with extended use--hence one reason for periodic tranny oil changes.

I would guess that if he drained and renewed his gear box oil using the oil specified for his vehicle he would see a great improvement in his ability to shift neutral-to-first or engage lower gears when down shifting—perhaps even be able to avoid double clutching in most, if not all, driving circumstances. Even better might be to change to a good synthetic gear oil like Redline MTF. I use it in my pickup and the improvement in downshifting facility was remarkable.

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#10
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 2:21 AM

You reasonably quickly,while under way, push in the clutch and move the shifter to neutral and then let out the clutch(or in the case of the Ranger, don't use the clutch). Then blip the gas just enough to raise the rpm to close to the rpm needed to make a smooth transition to the next gear. Then push in the clutch and move the shifter into the next gear before the rpm changes a lot, then let out the clutch (again with the Ranger, don't use the clutch). Starting from a stop is tricky without a clutch unless idle rpm is very low, like less than 400 for sure ("53 Chevy pick-ups are perfect for this). There will be some minor grinding but delicate pressure on the shifter can get you going in a pinch. Otherwise, put it in gear before you start the engine.

What you are doing is matching the transmission gear rotational speeds so they mesh together without grinding.

The above, is for a non-synchro-mesh transmission, where the gears themselves are moved to engage. In a synchro-mesh transmission the gears are always mated (constant mesh). You are matching the rotational speeds of the synchronizer assemblies as they are moved to engage a gear.

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#15
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 4:41 PM

Double clutching is used when gears are straight cut, sometimes 1st and or reverse are straight cut. Most auto tyranny's these days are built with helical cut gears and double clutching isn't needed.

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#14
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 4:37 PM

There three adjustments for use of clutch you may have disregarded the primary adjustment.

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#6
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 11:20 PM

Interesting. The automatic in a Porsche is .3 to .4 seconds faster going from 0 to anything than manual shifting!

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#4

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 11:42 AM

Dont remember these old trannys, but we had a 1954 Buick and later a 1958 Buick that had a Dynaflow transmission. Couldnt afford to run one of those nowadays as they really sucked up the gas because of poor efficiency.


Personally, the best transmission I ever ran was on my 1972 Datsun 240Z.

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#16
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/10/2008 4:46 PM

Weighing about 3500 lbs too...

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#5

Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 11:52 AM

Gerntlemen....back up a few years to the early/mid thirties and discover the HUDSON-TERAPLANE.

We had a NEW half ton pickup for door to door milk delivery with an "on the column" electric gear shift, a little bigger than your fist...good vehicle...good tranny...but I was too young to understand the system.

Later, with liscense...I drove this about thirty miles a day for the milk delivery.

Best I can recall...we never had any problem with the tranny.

Hudson did not survive the post war automotive period.

Post war Chrysler had an "on the dash" shifter control..between the column and the door/drivers side.

MR. GUY

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#8
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

05/09/2008 11:27 PM

Push-buttons and a Park lever!

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#19
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Re: Shifting Gears in Your Grandfather's Buick

08/30/2008 11:27 PM

Somewhere between the Hudson and the Chrysler with the push buttons there was the Chrysler semi automatic that could be left in third gear and started that way. Chevy had a vacuum assisted shifter somewhere before 1955. And last on my list of old useless trivia was the early seventies Powerglige that had no auto-shifting in it. I think it was only in the Vega. Maybe the Nova.

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