How does a sequential gearbox work?
Most of us are familiar with standard automatic or manual transmissions. With most automatics, you simply put the car into drive, and the transmission does the rest for you. Traditional manuals require you to move through the gears in an “H” pattern, starting with first gear at the top left and usually ending with either reverse or sixth gear on the bottom right.
However, there is another form of manual transmission known as a sequential gearbox. It is similar to a manual transmission in that you still need to move through the gears yourself, but rather than choosing a gear from the H layout, you simply hit a lever up or down to move through the gears.
Benefits of a sequential gearbox
Sequential gearboxes are faster and easier to use than normal manual gearboxes. There is no need to remember the position of each gear, as you only have to move the gear lever up or down in the direction you want to shift. This speed of use makes sequential transmissions common in high-performance vehicles and race cars. They are also used in motorbikes.
Another benefit of a sequential gearbox is that it is impossible to skip gears, which can damage your transmission or prematurely wear out your clutch if it is not done correctly. When racing, gear change errors at speed can cause lockups and engine failure due to over-revving.
Many race cars have sequential transmission paddles mounted on the steering wheel – left to downshift and right to upshift – enabling you to keep your hands on the wheel for greater steering control.
Disadvantages of a sequential gearbox
One major drawback of a sequential gearbox is the cost – they are much more expensive than a standard transmission. Because they tend to be clunky at low speeds and don’t allow you to skip gears, sequential gearboxes are not particularly practical for urban driving. Also, due to the way they are constructed, they tend to be loud compared to other transmissions and require more frequent maintenance.