The Fundamentals of Modern Vehicle Transmissions

Course code: PD730419

Today’s vehicles apply the primary function of a transmission: to couple the engine to the driveline and provide torque ratios between the two. How is this achieved? This on-demand course will familiarize you with the operational theories and functional principles of modern vehicle transmission systems designed to achieve the most efficient engine operation.
Participants will learn about current designs, the components and sub-systems used, their functional modes, how they operate, and interrelationships. An explanation of ratios and how they function within the driveline by using a manual transmission display is provided, followed by a description of the concepts of automatic control and hydro-mechanic decision theory and implementation using automatic transmission design.

Various transmission models and components to supplement these theoretical concepts with practical, “hands-on” experience are demonstrated, and a discussion of mechatronics, toroidal transmission functions, and the future of the automatic transmission is included.

Finally, the course provides in-depth coverage of Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) systems. These systems represent a fundamental shift in the way power is transmitted from the primary source to the remainder of the driveline.

Based on the popular classroom seminar, the course is divided into nine modules, accompanied by a workbook.


By participating in this On Demand course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the development, operational aspects, and design principles of passenger vehicle and light truck transmission systems, their major components, and their sub-systems
  • Describe the operational parameters and interrelationships of each of the sub-systems
  • Apply basic design synthesis and analysis techniques for each of the major components and sub-systems
  • Compare and contrast “stepless” to “stepped” transmission technology
  • Identify and describe the function and operation of all major components and sub-systems
  • Recognize the limitations, technological trends, and potential new products under consideration
  • Summarize the direction of new passenger car transmission designs and systems
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1 216 EUR including VAT

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Course dates

Starting date: Upon request

Type: TOD

Course duration: 90 days

Language: en

Price without VAT: 1 005 EUR


Type Course
Language Price without VAT
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Course structure

Module 0: Course Overview and Materials
[Total Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes]

Module I: General Discussion of Transmissions [Total Run Time: 27 minutes]

  • Discuss the historical development of transmission technology
  • Clearly articulate the use and time period associated with each component in common transmission designs
  • Explain the functional improvements as transmission technology progressed

Module II: Powertrain Concepts
[Total Run Time: 46 minutes]

  • Perform a standard assessment of powertrain requirements
  • Correctly compare and contrast the benefits of any of the common transmission technologies

Module III: Driveline Analysis of a Passenger Vehicle [Total Run Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes]

  • Complete a basic analysis of powertrain ratio requirements and performance assessment
  • Apply the concepts of stepped transmission ratios and ratio selection techniques to any vehicle/prime mover performance requirements

Module IV: Stepped Transmission Technology/Manual
[Total Run Time: 30 minutes]

  • Correctly identify the major manual stepped transmission components
  • Adequately describe each of their functions
  • Deduce power flow through a manual/geared automotive transmission
  • Explain the phenomenon of shift synchronization and list the common problems that occur in common driving

Module V: Four-Wheel Drive Powertrain Layout
[Total Run Time: 30 minutes]

  • Describe the two types of transfer case classifications including their characteristics and applications
  • Compare and contrast AWD system types, including how they impact powertrain layout and their influence on vehicle dynamics
  • Summarize the influence of AWD systems on transfer case design, including how transfer case internals can differ based on application and functions
  • Compare and contrast how power transmits through transfer cases in various designs

Module VI: Stepped Transmission Technology/Automatic
[Total Run Time: 5 hours]

  • Accurately describe the difference between a hydrostatic coupling and a torque converter and why a torque converter is a better application to modern vehicle automatic transmission systems
  • Explain the fluid dynamic properties of energy transfer within a torque converter
  • Explain the principle of torque multiplication through the torque converter
  • Determine the need for use of a one-way clutch under the stator in a torque converter
  • Perform a torque converter match to application based on wheel geometry and performance data synthetic coefficient
  • Compare and contrast application and design considerations of all modern hydraulic charge pumps
  • Knowledgeably discuss the power flow through an epicyclical gear train
  • Explain each component in an epicyclical gear train
  • Correlate each holding element with the configuration it supports, as well as how it affects the power flow through the gear train
  • Read the holding element chart for any epicyclical gear train and define that gear train’s power flow

Module VII: PCU/TCU Transmission Communication
[Total Run Time: 14 minutes]

  • Define and explain the roles of the powertrain and transmission control units, including what and how they control and what is communicated to the electronic control unit (ECU)
  • Summarize improvements gained through the integration of ECUs and their influence on emerging powertrain designs
  • Describe the purpose of the Controller Area Network (CAN) and explain how it operates and manages communication within a vehicle

Module VIII: Step-Less Transmission Technology/CVT
[Total Run Time: 2 hours]

  • Explain the basic premise of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs)
  • Describe the performance benefits of CVTs over stepped transmission systems
  • List the common CVT layouts and the function of their basic components
  • Calculate the net reduction in accelerative times for a vehicle using a CVT as compared to any stepped transmission design
  • Describe in laymen’s terms the theory of operation of one of multiple types of CVT technologies
  • Explain the concept of “push-belt” versus “pull-belt” technologies
  • Summarize the major components within modern production ready push-belt CVT designs
  • List and describe the required components of one of a number of common push-belt style CVT designs

Module IX: AMT/CVT/Etc.
[Total Run Time: 48 minutes]

  • Comprehend the operation of new conceptual designs providing continuously variable power transmission
  • Clarify the convergence of CVT and dual-clutch transmission technologies
Materials Provided
  • 90 days of online single-user access (from date of purchase)  to the 16 hour presentation
  • Nine video modules (see Topics/Outline tab)
  • Integrated knowledge checks to reinforce key concepts
  • Online learning assessment (submit to SAE)
  • Course handbook (downloadable, .pdf’s)
  • Follow up to your content questions
  • 1.8 CEUs*/Certificate of Achievement (upon completion of all course content and a score of 70% or higher on the learning assessment)

*SAE International is authorized by IACET to offer CEUs for this course.


This course is intended for anyone not familiar with the operational theories or functional principles of modern vehicle transmission systems. Since the material is targeted at several design and engineering disciplines, attendees should have a minimum of two years’ design experience in the automotive powertrain field, or (preferably) a B.S. in engineering or related field.

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