A transmission or gearbox provides speed and torque conversions from a rotating power source to another device using gear ratios. In British English the term transmission refers to the whole drive train, including gearbox, clutch, prop shaft (for rear-wheel drive), differential and final drive shafts. The most common use is in motor vehicles, where the transmission adapts the output of the internal combustion engine to the drive wheels. Such engines need to operate at a relatively high rotational speed, which is inappropriate for starting, stopping, and slower travel. The transmission reduces the higher engine speed to the slower wheel speed, increasing torque in the process. Transmissions are also used on pedal bicycles, fixed machines, and anywhere else rotational speed and torque needs to be adapted.
Often, a transmission will have multiple gear ratios (or simply "gears"), with the ability to switch between them as speed varies. This switching may be done manually (by the operator), or automatically. Directional (forward and reverse) control may also be provided. Single-ratio transmissions also exist, which simply change the speed and torque (and sometimes direction) of motor output.
In motor vehicle applications, the transmission will generally be connected to the crankshaft of the engine. The output of the transmission is transmitted via driveshaft to one or more differentials, which in turn drive the wheels. While a differential may also provide gear reduction, its primary purpose is to change the direction of rotation.
Conventional gear/belt transmissions are not the only mechanism for speed/torque adaptation. Alternative mechanisms include torque converters and power transformation (e.g., diesel-electric transmission, hydraulic drive system, etc.). Hybrid configurations also exist. Read more.
Source - Wikipedia