Convos With My 2 Year Old Season 2 Episode 1 Overdrive Transmissions – The Top 5 Advantages

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Overdrive Transmissions – The Top 5 Advantages

Before the 1980s, most domestic cars and light trucks had transmissions with a 1:1 ratio in high gear, which means that the car’s drive shaft will turn at the same speed as the engine. This 1:1 ratio has served us well for fifty years or more. As oil prices rose and the country as a whole became increasingly concerned about the amount of air pollution coming from our vehicles, automakers began looking to overdrive transmissions as part of the solution.

With an overdrive transmission, the top gear is less than a 1:1 ratio, meaning the drive shaft will turn faster than the engine. For example, if you have a car without an overdrive and a 1:1 top gear ratio, a 3.08 axle ratio, and a 26″ tall tire, your engine speed at 70 MPH is about 2750 RPM. The typical overdrive in a domestic car is about a 0.70:1 ratio, which means that in top gear the drive shaft will turn 42.9% faster than engine speed (1 divided by 0.70 = 1.429). In the same car with overdrive and 0.70:1 top gear, engine speed at 70 MPH is reduced to 1925 RPM!That’s 825 RPM less, a reduction of almost one third.

This reduction in engine speed has several advantages:

1.) Lower fuel consumption – on the highway, your engine will use about one-third less fuel.

2.) Lower emissions – on the highway, your engine will emit about one-third less pollution.

3.) Longer engine life – all other things being equal, your engine theoretically has a life that consists of a certain number of revolutions. You go the same distance as before, but use fewer of those revolutions to get there.

4.) Longer accessory life – your water pump, alternator, power steering pump, A/C compressor and fog pump (if equipped) all spin at a lower RPM and should last longer.

5) Less cabin noise – an engine running at a lower RPM will be quieter, making the journey less stressful. It’s easier to have a conversation, and you can actually hear the radio!

However, there are some small trade-offs. The engine will have less power for passing and going up hills when the transmission is in high gear, so a downshift will be necessary at times. Most overdrive transmissions are also slightly heavier than their non-overdrive counterparts, but this difference is negligible in most cases.

All in all, overdrive transmissions have been one of the biggest improvements made to domestic cars in the last thirty years. They made a bigger difference in highway fuel economy than fuel injection and computerized engine controls. There are some companies like Keisler Engineering that have made a good business out of providing overdrives to retrofit classic musclecars and street rods! Given the benefits of overdrive transmissions, my biggest question is why the car manufacturers didn’t offer them sooner!

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