Driving a car with a manual transmission? Stop these bad habits now before they bite you in the wallet
Habits are hard to break, but what if they’re costing us money and inconvenience? Would a little change in behaviour be worth it? Here are a few examples of how we can unknowingly mistreat our vehicles and what the end results can be.
When it comes to manual transmissions there are more than a few that believe you shouldn’t get your driver’s licence unless you know how to change your own gears. This might be a moot point as the spread between vehicles purchased with automatic gearboxes versus stick-shifts seems to grow larger every year. But if you have a manual gearbox attached to your engine, here are a few bad habits to put on your resolution list to avoid.
Using down-shifts to stop: Yes it’s fun driving like Mario Andretti, but using a manual transmission to stop can be expensive. The clutch that connects the engine to the transmission has a disk covered in the same material as your vehicle’s brake pads/shoes. Every time you shift, this clutch wears ever so slightly. No matter what the vehicle, it’s always more expensive to replace a worn clutch compared to the brake pads. As well, extreme downshifting can also stress engine and transmission mounts. Do yourself and your wallet a big favour; use the brakes and never downshift past 2nd gear when coming to a stop.
It’s a gear shift not a hand-rest: Yes, carmakers put very comfy and handily-placed gear shifts in their products, but don’t use them as a hand-rest. That shifter is connected to metal forks inside the transmission that move spinning collars to select different gears. The forks usually have nylon or similar material on their tines to smooth the shift and lower the noise level. Resting your hand on the shifter puts these forks in constant contact with the moving collars, leading to some expensive wear.
Neutral is the only gear for stops: Yes, neutral really isn’t a gear, but it’s the only correct selection when stopped at a light or other temporary pauses during your drive. And more importantly, when stopped with the transmission in neutral, keep your foot off the clutch pedal. When you depress this pedal, you are engaging the clutch’s release bearing which causes it to come into contact with its pressure plate. Just like resting your hand on the shifter, this constant wear can shorten the lifespan of this critical component.
Holding the hill? Hold onto your wallet: No doubt about it, taking off on an upward incline is one of the more challenging skills to master with a standard transmission. That’s why many newer cars have a hill-holder feature built in to engage the brakes to keep you moving forward on take-off. Using the clutch to keep you from sliding back is akin to constantly riding the brakes, meaning accelerated wear on the clutch disc. Instead, use the parking brake to keep you from rolling back and release it at the same time as you release the clutch pedal.
Avoid the clutch when you can: Once you’re moving, and with some practice, you can upshift almost any manual transmission without using the clutch at all. It requires matching the engine speed to the transmission’s velocity with some precision. This can bring more than one benefit. First it saves wear and tear on the clutch, second it will keep you from lugging the engine (accelerating from too low an rpm) and finally it can save you from a fatigued left leg.