Home » This Remarkably Complex Lego 5-Speed Transmission Video Is A Great Way To Learn Transmission Basics

This Remarkably Complex Lego 5-Speed Transmission Video Is A Great Way To Learn Transmission Basics


I know generally people don’t like the idea of “gateway drugs” for children, but if instead of a high the result was visceral engineering knowledge and if instead of drugs we were talking about Legos, then I think we’d all be happy to supply our kids with drugs. Which, remember, in this analogy, are Legos. Are we all clear here? A fantastic example of why I’m saying this is this video, made by Brick Technology, of a five-speed manual gearbox, made entirely out of Legos (well, mostly using pieces from the more engineering-focused Technik line). If you’ve ever had trouble visualizing how a manual transmission works (don’t be ashamed, there’s a lot going on in there) then I suspect you’ll find this helpful.

As you watch this, there’s a lot worth noting here: First, I appreciate the minimal presentation and the clever, almost rhythmic editing. Second, this transmission is built accurately, but laying on its side compared to how most automotive transmissions are. c

But, really, that barely matters, because this provides such a fantastic visualization of what exactly is going on inside a manual transmission. Also, the person in this video builds a whole dyno setup!

I feel like Lego is one of those toys that has a special place in the automotive world, partially because of videos like this, and Lego’s unique ability to emulate these sorts of complex mechanical systems on a kitchen table and without coating everything in a layer of grease.

Here, look how handy this video is for visualizing the path of rotational motion through the geartrain for each gear:


This video even offers a great visual demonstration of how reverse works, and I think seeing how the shift linkage itself works is really helpful for understanding why the motions of that gearshift feel the way they do.

Plus, this is all just strangely soothing to sit and watch. So, that’s what I suggest you do: Just take a moment and lose yourself in the clicks and sniks and snaps and whirring of gears. I bet it’s therapeutic, somehow.


(via BoingBoing!)

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28 Responses

  1. I had the sound off, so my brain just added the “How it’s made” music. Seemed fitting.

    Not pictured: 40 hours of careful disassembly and sorting the parts back out after project completion.

    (I may be projecting, as I am in a frantic race to sort my accumulated Lego before my older kid proves himself responsible enough to play with them.)

    1. There’s not that many different kind of parts, and he probably has everything sorted already.

      But I can feel the pain of sorting Lego. I’ve mainly finished sorting mine a few month ago and it took me quite a lot of time.

    1. In British English we always call it “some Lego”, or “Lego bricks”. “Legos” just sounds so wrong (and is marked as misspelled by my browser, set to en-gb).

  2. I can also verify assembling a Lego rear differential with my then 7 year old son was what finally allowed me to fully understand how differentials work.

    Later that year, in a real live tech training class (when I was working for Chrysler), I was bluntly asked by the instructor how I knew all the answers in our pre-test. “I made one out of Lego” was not the answer he expected.

  3. The Defender Lego set has functioning front and rear differentials, sequential gear box and a two speed transfer case. It was neat to see how it works first hand. It would be fun to figure out how to install lockers in the differentials.

    1. you could “Lincoln Lock” it. usually that’s a Lincoln welder, but glue might be better here. I don’t know how Legos hold up to 100Amps, but I don’t think its very good.

  4. Fun fact: Alfa used this very transmission in the Spider for years.

    Also, if you have priced out Legos recently you may find it cheaper to build a real transmission.

    1. Probably True.

      Some sets, after they have been sold out for some time ( said time vary, in some case it’s months in other it’s years ) can be resold for more than their weight in gold if they are in an unopened box.

    1. I had an advanced Erector Set given me for Christmas 1956. Man, the fun that I had with that thing. Mine was all metal. Some of the later sets used some plastic in their things that go roundy round. For my birthday that year I got a pack of extra screws, etcetera.

      1. Of course. The spanstaic pressure from the turbo encabulator causes a flyback loop in the ulteriomastic thermal barrier of the flywheel and causes the electromagnetic field to the left side of a transmission (with respect to the input side) to disintegrate, which is usually the passenger side floorpan.

        If that doesn’t make any sense, just google turbo encabulator and watch the first YouTube video that pops up.

        1. Can I say how happy I am that I’m finding out about this?

          It’s like the reversed-polarity version of Winnebago Man!

          It was the lack of wonderful commentary like yours that led me to stop posting on the, er, other site and to come here. So glad I did!

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