Why some automatic transmission switch directly, while others zigzag

Why do some automatic pen moves in a straight line, and other automatic transmission on a curve.

Why some automatic transmission switch directly, while others zigzag 

If you have ever paid attention to the shift knob of an automatic transmission, you probably noticed that they tend to fall into two main categories: some have a simple linear shift knob mode “PRNDL” (handle is similar to the switch, moving up and down), and the other of the handle switch modes confusing way travelling through a zigzag maze. Why in the world basically there are two different design and design shift knob for automatic transmission and method of switching box? Is there any mechanical difference between the two types of gear boxes? Is one kind of transmission is better than the other?


Why some automatic transmission switch directly, while others zigzagAutomatic transmission with linear shift handle for the transmission (also the similar view of the switch of the automatic transmission called “closed”) are more popular option in the global automotive industry. Nevertheless, a zig-zag switching are also quite often found in many vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions. So there is nothing unusual in such boxes there. Recall that a similar zigzag knob automatic transmission shift was popularized by such brands as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Subaru, Jaguar, who first started to equip some of its models is similar to the design of handles checkpoint. Including such box is using in their products the company General Motors.


So, is there any advantage in such a zigzag automatic transmissions? Agree, interesting question. It is not, in any case, there is a difference in the movement of the handle, which means that there are some differences in the mechanism of the automatic transmission. Of course, it is possible that there are also some pros or cons.

We decided to examine these two types of automatic transmissions. There may be some savings in the production of rectilinear boxes, or, on the contrary, the cost of boxes zigzag switching more profitable? Maybe one kind of boxes are more durable in comparison with other automatic transmission? In fact, we found no evidence that the method of stick shift knob automatic transmission makes the box more durable.


By the way, digging in archives, digital libraries, car magazines, we found that the first who began to apply in the car automatic transmission with zig-zag way of switching modes, is the Mercedes-Benz company, which in 1963, was equipped with such boxes of their legendary SL.

So, most likely, Mercedes was the founder of the use of boxes with non-linear regime-switching transmission.

Why some automatic transmission switch directly, while others zigzag 1963 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL

And apparently, such a box the engineers of the German brand are used not due to the fact that they wanted to reduce production costs. Probably, their motivation was related to something else.


To understand why Mercedes in 1963, is a classic automatic transmission with a simple lever that moves up and down, started to use the handle of the automatic transmission with nonlinear switching, it is necessary that you read the expert explanation Franco Cattani, who is an engineer for automatic transmissions produced for FCA (Fiat Chrysler auto).

Here is his detailed explanation on this account that we found online:


  • – What gearbox will be installed in the vehicle depends on two factors: the position of the spring retainer, transmission and customer preferences of a particular model. Of course, preferences are determined by the study, marketers who conduct surveys of potential customers around the world, figuring out which configuration gearshift knob they would like to see in new cars.


Let’s take for simple example a conventional linear shift knob automatic transmission. It should be noted that not all of these boxes have a retainer spring to toggle boxes in different modes. Those who do not have the lock, allow you to move the handle of the automatic transmission without having to press the button on the handle. Boxes spring retainer you will not be able to include another mode of the box until you click a special button on the handle.

Unfortunately, those boxes which do not have spring pins, very easy to accidentally switch to another mode by sliding a little knob forward or backward.

Why some automatic transmission switch directly, while others zigzag 

  • By the way, those boxes that are equipped with retainer spring, when you switch give the driver a real sense switch boxes, although, in contrast to mechanical transmissions, shift knobs when you actually do not directly control the transmission. Because the box is switched through the computer.


Some manufacturers of automatic transmissions handle automatic position “Drive” (D) to Neutral (N) switch very easily. And many automakers this design does not provide for the automatic transmission on the shift knob button/spring. In the end, to prevent accidental switching of the automatic transmission while the vehicle is in motion, some of the boxes get a nonlinear shift lever of the transmission.

  • Nevertheless, the ease of gear change or lack in the design of the automatic spring lock is not the main reason why many manufacturers now prefer instead of a linear shift lever automatic transmission to use the zigzag knob automatic transmission.
  • Most often, the marketers studying the preferences of potential customers and determine how to look like the handle of the automatic transmission.

Why some automatic transmission switch directly, while others zigzag 

As you can see, after this explanation of the engineer it can be concluded that there are no technical reasons why some boxes have direct levers of switching of the automatic transmission, whereas others have non-linear handles.


By and large, gearboxes with zigzag handles switching have only one advantage – it prevents accidental switching box to another mode. For example, with this box, you if you set the lever to mode “D” will never happen, barely touching, move to another mode.


Why some automatic transmission switch directly, while others zigzagWe also think that the box with nonlinear handle of the automatic transmission allows manufacturers to save money on the cost of transmission. Indeed, in most linear automatic transmission is used the handle with button/spring/latch that you have to press to turn on the desired mode automatic transmission. As we have said, the button protects drivers from accidental switching of modes of the box. In the case of nonlinear methods a / t shift knob transmission may not be equipped with a spring latch or button. Die-cast metal or plastic coil pen with a nonlinear shift of the automatic transmission cheaper and easier made than the whole button Assembly that is installed in the handle of the transmission.


So, let’s summarize. The reason why there are automatic transmissions with different types of switching modes of automatic transmission is to protect drivers from accidental movement of the gear lever in the case of using transmission with no spring lock, but also to the interior of the car looked more sporty (the majority of potential customers in a survey of marketers said that they would prefer that the new car had such a zig-zag shift lever).

Including nonlinear closed types gear allow to reduce the cost of the module to switch modes of transmission. Though this, of course, and a penny savings, but the scale of mass production it becomes significant.

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