What is Shiftable Automatic?

A shiftable automatic is a transmission that utilizes bands or clutches, a torque converter, and a planetary gearset to shift through the forward gears of a vehicle automatically. Some shiftable automatics also allow you to manually control your vehicle, but only for limited movements. Other names for a shiftable automatic are “autostick” and “Tiptronic.”

While the older types of transmissions have worked well in the past, the shiftable automatic is the first type of transmission that offers you a choice. 

To make vehicles with shiftable automatic transmissions suitable for beginner drivers, the system comes with safeguards in place specifically when you drive using manual shifting. Once this feature gets activated, you have to turn it on to the manual mode again.

What makes a shiftable automatic transmission unique?

A lot of people get confused when trying to understand the working mechanism of a shiftable automatic. It’s unique because it utilizes the techniques of manual and automatic transmission types. Therefore, it has 2 different modes too – manual shifting and automatic transmission. Let’s take a closer look at these:


This mode allows you to take control of gear shifts on your vehicle. There is a gear knob or steering-mounted pedals for you to switch between modes. When you use the manual mode, the transmission actuators within, change the gear either to the downshift or upshift position.


The ECU of a vehicle with a shiftable automatic transmission controls the whole system. For this mode, all you have to do is to control the accelerator and brake. The automatic mode is ideal for amateur drivers or when you drive in easy terrains. It allows you to navigate without hassles as you drive.

The advantages of shiftable automatic transmissions

A shiftable automatic gearbox allows you to handle downshift and upshift nuances manually. To do this, override the automatic mode and set it to manual shifting. This allows you to make shifting decisions, thus, you can improve braking output by downshifting deliberately. 

You can also increase acceleration using upshift. Apart from these manual options, you also enjoy the traditional features of automatic transmissions. Here are the unique advantages of shiftable automatic transmissions:

  • Both you and the ECU (the computer system of your car) can control the gears. This makes it suitable for amateur and seasoned drivers.
  • The manual downshift and upshift navigation allows you more control over gear-shifting.
  • It comes with a built-in safeguard that reverts back to automatic control when you somehow overlook the RPM redline.
  • Just as you would navigate a regular automatic transmission, navigating a shiftable automatic doesn’t take much skill. That’s why it’s also recommended for beginners.

How does shiftable automatic differ from regular automatic?

A regular automatic transmission allows you to drive your vehicle without having to shift from one gear to another. This means that when you’re driving, the car does the shifting for you automatically.

As aforementioned, a shiftable automatic transmission is a unique kind of manual that permits you to select whether you want to control the shifting of your vehicle. This allows you to drive such a car even with basic driving skills.

All shiftable automatic vehicles have an override feature that protects the transmission. This gives it an advantage over a regular manual transmission as you don’t have to use a clutch.

The other types of transmissions

Apart from shiftable automatic and manual automatic transmissions, there are other types of transmissions you can have in your vehicle. Knowing all of these different types helps you make a more informed decision when choosing your vehicle. Now that you know more about shiftable and regular automatic, consider these other transmission types too:

Automated manual transmission

This type of transmission uses a mechanical clutch. But unlike a manual transmission where you control the clutch using the clutch pedal, it comes with an automated clutch using hydraulic, pneumatic or electronic controls. For this transmission, you can perform forward shifts which are fully automatic or manual shifts using the gear selector.

Manual transmission

This type of transmission allows you to manually choose all of the gears using a driver-operated clutch and a movable selector. This is the oldest type of transmission and it’s also known as a standard transmission.

Continuously variable transmission

This type of transmission comes with a continuously variable drive ratio. It utilizes sensors, belts, and pulleys instead of gears so that you can maintain a steady curve of accelerations without pausing to change gears. This means that a CVT transmission can maintain the engine’s optimum power range, thus, increasing gas mileage and efficiency.


A shiftable automatic transmission is a special kind of transmission that allows you to switch between manual and automatic modes. Here, you control manual shifting using buttons. It’s similar to what a lot of sports cars use. With this type of transmission, you can decide whether you want to drive manually and change gears yourself or automatically where the ECU does the shifting for you.

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