Why are some automatic transmission shift straight and some are zigzag?


Posted by: Juliet Onyeachonam

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Have you ever wondered why some automatic transmissions shift straight and some are zigzag?

There is no doubt that automatic transmission technology has come to virtually replace manual transmission systems. Everyone who drives a car must have noticed that some automatic transmission gearshifts are straight while others are zigzag in shape. You might have wondered why there are zigzag gearshifts too. Yeah?

In this article, we’ll explore why are some automatic transmissions shift straight while some are zigzag.

Straight gearshift Vs zigzag gearshift

While it is true that automatic transmissions are now more popular than their manual transmission counterparts, the choice between straight automatic transmission gearshift and the zigzag-type gearshifts is still greatly debated. On that note, it is important that you understand why the former or latter option is important and why you should choose one above the other.

1. Safety or control?

Straight and zigzag gearshifts both serve the same purpose which is to change gear levels in automatic transmission cars. However, they differ in their modus operandi when it comes to the amount of safety they offer or the control they allow.


Linear gearshifts usually have a safety lock button on the gear lever

With a linear gearshift, it is a lot easier to shift into the wrong gears especially when shifting without looking. Imagine you are trying to drive off from a parking position and without looking, you have shifted your gear into “reverse” instead of the “drive” that you intended to. The scenario described above is a potentially hazardous situation you will agree.

On the other hand, the zigzag gearshift offers better control to inattentive drivers. Its zigzag path helps the driver to estimate, even without looking, where the gearshift is at any time.

If you are still wondering why are some automatic transmissions shift straight and some are zigzag, we think you should also be aware that linear or straight gearshift has its advantage over zigzag gearshifts. Straight gearshifts offer easy gearshift movement and better safety while driving. The straight gearshift usually has a security lock that clicks in place when its button located at the top of the gear lever is pressed. This prevents it from entering other gear levels especially when the car is at high speeds.

>>> Also check out: Does Automatic transmission accelerate faster than Manual car?

2. Cost difference

The safety mechanism deployed in the linear gearshift suggests that its cost will be higher than that of zigzag gearshifts.


A zigzag gearshift offers better control than the linear gearshift

Don't forget your transmission can develop a fault without warning so cost of replacement and/or repair is a factor. There are mostly two categories of buyers in the auto market place – those who are looking for better performance at low cost and those who wouldn’t mind the increased cost for better performance. Either way, a car with straight gearshift will most likely have a higher cost than its zigzag gearshift alternative.

3. Which is better?

There is no yes or no answer regarding which is better between a linear gearshift car and a zigzag gearshift car.

However, if you are looking for one that offers you easy gear movement and increased safety; go for a straight gearshift car. On the other hand, if what you desire is a car that offers better control of the gearshift, you should go with the zigzag alternative.


As we mentioned above, manual transmissions are slowly leaving the stage for auto systems. Of course, a Tiptronic transmission that offers the functionality of both manual and auto transmission is a valid choice. However, if you are sticking with the auto transmission shift, knowing why some automatic transmissions shift straight and some are zigzag should be a great help. Also, realize that the paramount thing is having a car with a gearshift that matches your needs and requirement. All in all, whether you choose a straight gearshift or zigzag gearshift car, it is only a matter of choice and necessity.

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Juliet Onyeachonam

Juliet Onyeachonam

Car maintenance

Juliet Onyeachonam is an enthusiastic car nut which is why she has turned that passion into a fantastic job by becoming a car blogger on NaijAuto.com. Juliet's blogs are a wealthy resource for information on car maintenance, driving tips and also how things pertaining to cars work.

Additionally, because of her passion for the entertainment industry, Juliet does not write only hardcore but also entertaining articles about cars.

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