Hydraulic System
The automatic transmission in your car has to do numerous tasks. You may not realize how many different ways it operates. For instance, here are some of the features of an automatic transmission:

You've probably seen something that looks like this before. It is really the brain of the automatic transmission, managing all of these functions and more. The passageways you can see route fluid to all the different components in the transmission. Passageways molded into the metal are an efficient way to route fluid; without them, many hoses would be needed to connect the various parts of the transmission. First, we'll discuss the key components of the hydraulic system; then we'll see how they work together.

The Pump
Automatic transmissions have a neat pump, called a gear pump. The pump is usually located in the cover of the transmission. It draws fluid from a sump in the bottom of the transmission and feeds it to the hydraulic system. It also feeds the transmission cooler and the torque converte.

Gear pump from an automatic transmission

The inner gear of the pump hooks up to the housing of the torque converter, so it spins at the same speed as the engine. The outer gear is turned by the inner gear, and as the gears rotate, fluid is drawn up from the sump on one side of the crescent and forced out into the hydraulic system on the other side.

The Governor
The governor is a clever valve that tells the transmission how fast the car is going. It is connected to the output, so the faster the car moves, the faster the governor spins. Inside the governor is a spring-loaded valve that opens in proportion to how fast the governor is spinning -- the faster the governor spins, the more the valve opens. Fluid from the pump is fed to the governor through the output shaft.

The faster the car goes, the more the governor valve opens and the higher the pressure of the fluid it lets through.

The governor

Throttle Valve or Modulator
To shift properly, the automatic transmission has to know how hard the engine is working. There are two different ways that this is done. Some cars have a simple cable linkage connected to a throttle valve in the transmission. The further the gas pedal is pressed, the more pressure is put on the throttle valve. Other cars use a vacuum modulator to apply pressure to the throttle valve. The modulator senses the manifold pressure, which drops when the engine is under a greater load.

Manual Valve
The manual valve is what the shift lever hooks up to. Depending on which gear is selected, the manual valve feeds hydraulic circuits that inhibit certain gears. For instance, if the shift lever is in third gear, it feeds a circuit that prevents overdrive from engaging.

Shift Valves
Shift valves supply hydraulic pressure to the clutches and bands to engage each gear. The valve body of the transmission contains several shift valves. The shift valve determines when to shift from one gear to the next. For instance, the 1 to 2 shift valve determines when to shift from first to second gear. The shift valve is pressurized with fluid from the governor on one side, and the throttle valve on the other. They are supplied with fluid by the pump, and they route that fluid to one of two circuits to control which gear the car runs in.

The shift circuit

The shift valve will delay a shift if the car is accelerating quickly. If the car accelerates gently, the shift will occur at a lower speed. Let's discuss what happens when the car accelerates gently.

As car speed increases, the pressure from the governor builds. This forces the shift valve over until the first gear circuit is closed, and the second gear circuit opens. Since the car is accelerating at light throttle, the throttle valve does not apply much pressure against the shift valve.

When the car accelerates quickly, the throttle valve applies more pressure against the shift valve. This means that the pressure from the governor has to be higher (and therefore the vehicle speed has to be faster) before the shift valve moves over far enough to engage second gear.

Each shift valve responds to a particular pressure range; so when the car is going faster, the 2-to-3 shift valve will take over, because the pressure from the governor is high enough to trigger that valve.





Introduction to Automatic Transmissions
Some Basics
Planetary Gearsets
Clutches & Bands
When You Put The Car In Park
Hydraulic System
Electronic Controls