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How To Shift An 18 Speed Transmission

I’m sure there are plenty of out out there who have wondered bout the seemingly ridiculous transmissions in big rigs. I’m hardly an expert personally, but I grew up riding across the country with my parents in a Peterbilt, even spending some time standing (yes, I said standing) behind the shifter and changing gears while Pops manned the wheel.

However, I can certainly see from an outside perspective of having never driven or ridden in an eighteen wheeler why it may sound like overkill when you hear that there’s an eighteen speed transmission backing the big torqey engine. This video explains everything perfectly, and in terms I feel most anybody out there can understand. Plus, at the end, there’s a great demo for those who learn by watching instead of by listening.

An eighteen speed is basically a 9 speed transmission with a splitter, meaning each slot in the pattern actually houses two different gear ratios, actuated by a switch on the side of the shifter. Additionally, there’s a low-range and high-range set of ratios, basically meaning there are two separate transmissions built into one, one for low speed operation and one for higher speeds. Our host, YouTuber Sasnak, is an experienced over the road trucker who knows what he’s doing and does a great job of sharing his technique with those who would have no idea how to even crank an eighteen wheeler.

I also love that in addition to explaining the technical workings of the transmission and how to shift gears, he explains the way he actually shifts when he’s driving, which is a technique that suits his driving style as well as the load he is used to carrying. Those other gears are certainly necessary at times, but generally speaking, he only uses about half of them and manages to get the job done just fine.

Go ahead and hit that play button and get yourself a little truck driving education. Who knows, you just might find yourself in a position where you need to be able to move one of these things someday and this video could very well make that much easier.