4 Speed Transmission – Everything You Need To Know

4 Speed Transmission – Everything You Need To Know

Are you interested in purchasing a 4 speed transmission car and do you want to learn more about the benefits that this type of transmission offers and the popular types of 4-speed transmissions? If this is the case, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this.

Performing proper research before you jump out there on the market and purchase a car is key if you want to avoid getting yourself a lemon or a car that has a transmission that is poorly made and doesn’t deliver a good performance.

There are also a few types of transmissions that you can purchase. Namely, manuals and automatics and you should really consider purchasing the right one for your car. If you are the type of driver who wants to enjoy their car more, you probably want a manual. Or if you are one of those guys who want to enjoy their ride and never struggle to shift gears then an automatic transmission is the right for you. Still, it has to be a 4-speed manual transmission. Since this article is all about this.

First, we are going to cover what is a transmission and then we will learn the types of transmissions that are out there. Then we will learn how the transmission works in a car and what type of fluid it uses. Later on, we will cover the maintenance and what the number of speeds means for you. After we will learn the difference between 4-speed and 5-speed transmissions and we will give our thoughts on which is better. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is A Car Transmission?

Now before we cover the 4 speed transmission and learn more about these types of transmissions. Let’s first start from the basics and that is what is a car transmission in general terms. Many people out there that are reading this are not familiar with these components and a good introduction will be extra useful for the newcomers when it comes to cars. If you feel that you know more about this topic, you can jump to one of the following chapters. If not, keep up with us.

So, what is a car transmission in general terms? Well, a car transmission is a mechanical device that is installed in your car. This device has gears inside and these gears are helping your car to move. They are basically converting the rotational energy from the crankshaft into torque.

4 Speed Transmission

This conversion is essential because you cannot just transfer the power from the crankshaft to the wheels. As you know, the crankshaft spins at 800 RPM minimum. If you try to connect a driveshaft directly to the crankshaft, it will snap in pieces in a matter of seconds.

That’s why engineers had to make something to deliver this power from the engine in the right manner. And this is how the drivetrain was created. The drivetrain is the whole assembly from the engine, transmission, driveshaft, differential, and axles. This system drives the car forward. It is that essential. And the components haven’t changed much.

Except for the transmissions that became more and more refined throughout the years. They started small with 3 speeds. Then the 4 speed transmission was invented and the 5,6,7.. followed. Now you even have 10-speed transmissions. But more on that later.

Types Of Transmission

Now as we familiarized ourselves and learned the basics of car transmission, let’s now learn the different types. As you probably know, there are different types of 4 speed transmission. In fact, there are two types. One of them is a manual transmission, while the other is automatic.

A manual transmission was the first transmission that was invented. This is a really simple transmission design. But what makes it complex is the skill that it requires to be properly used. Meaning that this transmission requires you to know how to use the clutch.

Manual transmission still is one of the most popular choices in many parts of the world. Even though they are not that popular in the US. But are still the number one choice for car enthusiasts who want to enjoy their cars to the fullest. And trust me, there isn’t anything out there that can replace a manual and the feedback that you get from the car while driving one. It is a whole another level in comparison to the automatic.

4 Speed Transmission

The automatic on the other hand, even though it is relatively simple to use and you can select from a few modes. Under the hood, it is actually quite a complex piece of machinery and this complexity increases the maintenance price as well as the longevity of this device.

Automatic transmissions usually last less than manual transmissions and also, until recently, they weren’t able to handle a lot of torque. Meaning that powerful engines and automatic transmissions were a bad combo. But fortunately, this has changed and automatics improved immensely in the last two decades.

In the past 4 speed transmission was the standard. Now there are even 10-speed transmissions. But how do they work under the hood? Let’s see.

How A Car Transmission Works?

We learned that there are different types of 4 speed transmission. Now let’s learn how a transmission works in a car? We will not focus on the engineering side but simply on the things that are essential for you as an owner. We will cover both manual and automatic transmissions.

Manual transmissions are simple in design. The earliest models came in 3 speeds, then there was the 4 speed transmission and now we have 6-speed manual transmissions.

These transmissions are manual. Meaning that you press the clutch pedal to engage and disengage the transmission. When you press the clutch, the transmission disengages and you select a gear. Whether you want to go up or down. Then you release the clutch and the clutch comes in contact with the flexplate and the power is distributed into the desired gear. Very simple process. But it has a learning curve and many people do not like it because it is quite demanding.

Automatics on the other hand are dead easy to drive. You have the PRND pattern and you go in Drive to go forward, Reverse to go backward, and Park if you want to park the car. N stands for neutral when the car is not in gear and is not parked.

Nevertheless, although simple to drive, they are quite complex and expensive to maintain. Resulting in high repair bills. But how do they work under the hood?

Under the hood, the automatic transmission works with the aid of something that is known as ATF or automatic transmission fluid. The automatic transmission is a hydraulic system, that changes the gears based on the hydraulic pressure. This makes them very complex and makes the 3-speed transmission maintenance more expensive.

Car Transmission Maintenance

Now before we discuss the 4 speed transmission, let’s cover something about the maintenance of car transmissions in general. What do you need to know when it comes to this stuff and how to make your transmission last the longest?

The answer to this question depends much on the transmission you have. Either you have a manual or an automatic.

Manual transmissions are relatively low demanding when it comes to maintaining them. They last forever with the same oil that is inside them. This oil is thick and extra-durable stuff. Although, it is recommended to replace it on 100,000 to 150,000 miles just in case to remove some stuff that accumulated inside of the transmission like metal shavings, etc.

Automatic transmissions on the other hand are much more demanding and expensive to maintain. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 4 speed transmission or a 6-speed transmission. They are really expensive to maintain and their lifespan is also pretty limited to about 150,000 miles. But with proper maintenance, this limit can be pushed to over 200,000 with no problem. But what type of maintenance do they require?

Well, they require regular transmission fluid changes. You need to change the fluid in these transmissions very often. Every 30,000 miles on average. Some people would say every 50,000 or 60,000. But to be on the safe side, replacing the fluid more often will guarantee the longevity of your 4 speed transmission. In addition to this, you also have to replace the oil pan gasket as well as the transmission fluid filter.

But what does the number of speeds really mean to you (besides what’s required for a regular Ford transmission fluid change)? Let’s elaborate on that next.

What The Number Of Speeds Means For You?

We learned quite a lot about transmissions in general. How they work, how to maintain them, etc. But have you ever wondered what the number of speeds means for you? Will your car go faster if you replace your 4 speed transmission with a 5 speed? Well, sort of, let’s explain.

So, what do the speeds of a transmission mean? Transmission speeds are there to relieve your engine from the stress. This is the best explanation, to be honest.

They are designed in such a way that when the engine reaches a certain level of RPM to change gear and go a gear up. This drops the RPMs of the engine in the process but the car still goes even faster now. How does this magic happen?

Well, that’s the whole purpose of the transmission. To use all of the energy produced by the engine in the right manner and not to worry about over-revving your engine and totaling it.

As you probably know, every engine has a rev limiter. So, when you keep pushing the engine on the rev limit, you are basically getting closer and closer to total it. Engines are not designed to work at their limit all of the time.

So, having the right 4 speed transmission is essential if you want to keep your engine in the upcoming years. But have you asked yourself which is better when it comes to 4 speed transmission vs 5-speed transmission? Well, that’s what we are going to cover next.

4 Speed Transmission VS 5 Speed Transmission

So, what is the difference between a 4 speed transmission and a 5-speed transmission? Is there any difference in general between the two?

It doesn’t matter if it’s a manual or an automatic, there is a lot of difference when it comes to 4 vs 5 speeds. But where this difference is most pronounced?

The difference between the two transmissions is most pronounced at high speeds. In the past, cars drove very slow and they only needed a 4 speed transmission. But nowadays even 5 speeds are a relatively small number.

This difference is most pronounced on the open road and when you drive on the highway. With a 4 speed car, you will very likely be close to the rev limiter when you go with a speed of 75 miles per hour than when driving a 5 speed or 6-speed transmission.

The higher the RPM at the top speed, the more fuel the engine burns and the more inefficient the car becomes. This is why carmakers strive to add more speeds to their vehicles and make them more fuel-efficient. A strategy that works I must admit. The MPG ratings have greatly increased in the past years based on the upgrades in this department.

But if you are on the hunt for a 4 speed transmission you probably want to learn about some of the classic Ford and GM products that offered these types of transmissions. And that’s what we are going to cover in the next chapters.

Popular 4 Speed Transmissions GM, Ford & Chrysler

Since you want to learn more about 4 speed transmission, you probably are after some of the classic motors that were produced in the late 60s and the early 70s.

And those were the times, those were the times of power and high horsepower ratings. And the 4 speed transmission was the king back then. All big three GM, Ford, and Chrysler had a 4 speed that included in their lineup on products. And in the following chapters, we will cover all of them. So, follow along.

1. Muncie 4 Speed

When it comes to 4 speed transmission, the Muncie 4 speed is a real legend. This product was implemented in all high horsepower vehicles that GM made back in the day. Many of the brands used it. Namely, Chevy, Olds, Pontiac, and Buick.

This 4 speed was produced from 1963 when it was introduced with the Corvette and its production lasted up until 1974 when it was canceled.

The early models of this transmission were the M20 and M21. Then the M22 followed in the last years of production. There were a number of upgrades done throughout the years and mainly the difference was found in the gear ratios, spines, shafts, and grooves. Depending on the application that you want to use this transmission on, you should look for the right transmission.

The standard gear ratio for the M20 for 1963 was 2.56 and for the M22 in 1974 has fallen to 2.20. And this is a big difference. Especially if you are a muscle car guy who wants a good 4 speed transmission.

2. Ford Toploader

Now let’s cover Ford’s offering in the 4 speed transmission market. And Ford also offered a great transmission. Which was the Toploader. Produced from 1964 and up to 1973.

This transmission was included in Fords and Mercurys. Starting from 170cc engines and up to the 428cc. It was that versatile transmission that was included in almost anything and could handle anything that you threw at it. But this doesn’t mean that all of them are the same.

These transmissions differentiate when it comes to length and the input shaft and the output splines. The close gear ratio for the 4 speed transmission is 2.32.

What is different with this transmission is that it also came as a 3-speed transmission. The 3 speed had a 2.42 gear ratio.

What the Muncies is for the GM products, there’s the Toploader for the Mustang. You just got to have one of these 4 speed transmission if you run a classic Mustang (or the famous Gone in 60 Seconds car).

3. Chrysler A-833

And last but not least is Chrysler and their 4 speed transmission. Namely, the A-833. This transmission was included on all of the A, B, and C-bodies that were sold back in the day. What is different is that this transmission is one of the most popular conversion transmissions. Meaning that this is an automatic. But it can handle a manual conversion if you want it.

The Chrysler Torque Flite was king when it came to handling power. But the A-833 was the king in the aftermarket world because it delivered so much for a fraction of the price and Mopar guys love and cherish this transmission until this day. If you look for high torque and high horsepower numbers on the budget, this 4 speed transmission is it.

It first rolled from the production lines in 1964 and was produced up until 1975. It was used in Chrysler, Dodge, and even in GM trucks, it came in different gear ratios for the different applications. This tells you quite a lot about the versatility and durability of this transmission. So, if you are on the market for a transmission for your Mopar, this will be it. Now let’s discuss more on the last 4 speed transmission cars sold in the US, both manual and automatic transmission.

Last 4 Speed Automatic Transmission Sold In The US

Since we learned the most popular 4 speed transmission from the big three in the US that are really popular among the car guys. Now let’s learn what car was the last that was sold with a 4-speed automatic transmission. As we all know nowadays we have 6-speed transmissions as a standard and even 8 and 10-speed automatics. But what was the last car with a 4 speed automatic?

4 Speed Transmission

Well, the last car with an automatic here in the US was the Dodge Journey. But this wasn’t that long ago. The last Journey that rolled from the production line was two years ago in 2020. So, if you want, you can still get a relatively new 4 speed transmission, automatic of course here in the US. Now let’s see what was the last 4 speed manual.

Last 4 Speed Manual Transmission Sold In The US

We learned what was the last 4 speed transmission car that rolled from the production line that was using an automatic. Now let’s see what was the last manual 4 speed car that was sold in the US and let me tell you, it’s not the one that you think.

In fact, it was the Toyota Tercel that was the last manual transmission car with 4 speeds sold here in the US. This small car 4 speed was the last of its breed before it was replaced with the more fuel-efficient 5 speed and 6-speed transmissions. This generation of the Tercel ended up producing in 1998. And this is the year when the 4-speed manuals became obsolete and were replaced.

And that was for a reason. They are a lot more fuel-efficient when it comes to the gear ratios and the number of speeds they include. Resulting in a lower gas bill. Especially now when we live in some crazy times and gas prices get so high. Now let’s conclude our article on 4 speed transmission.

Conclusion To 4 Speed Transmission

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to 4 speed transmission. First, we learned the basics of car transmissions and we learned how they work. Then we focused more on the maintenance side and what does mean the number of speeds for you. For this purpose, we compared the 4 speed with 5-speed transmissions and gave our thoughts on this aspect.

Then we discussed the most popular 4 speed transmissions from the big three car producers in the US. These transmissions are produced from the early 60s and up to the 80s. They are still one of the most popular choices when it comes to using the car on the track.

Lastly, we covered the last cars that were sold with a 4 speed transmission in the US. Both manual and automatic. What is sad, is that you cannot purchase a new 4 speed.

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