Over the years, manual transmissions have gradually decreased in demand as more drivers turned to the luxuries of automatic transmissions. Though only 2% of today’s vehicles are sold with manual transmissions, the car is not yet obsolete. Below, we explain why the manual transmission remains the transmission of choice among driving enthusiasts and is found in many models of sports cars.
Manual Transmission Basics
When utilizing a manual transmission, also known as “stick-shift,” the driver physically uses a stick to shift gears. This explains why the “stick” is referred to as the shifter. Commonly found in modern vehicles, the shifter is positioned in the center console. However, in rare cases, there are toggle “gear” switches on steering wheels for certain performance cars. In addition to the stick-shift, vehicles with manual transmissions include a third pedal, mounted to the left of the break. This pedal functions as a release for the clutch disk between the engine and transmission. Once the clutch is released, the shifter must be manually switched into the desired gear. Then, the clutch can be engaged again. Manual transmissions range from four to seven gears; however, the greater number of gears is typically found in classy sports cars.
To the average consumer, manual transmissions are often accompanied by the idea of the vehicle stalling out. Stalling occurs when the clutch is engaged too quickly from a standstill. On the other hand, engaging the clutch too slowly degrades the disk. As a note to automatic transmission drivers, please understand that learning how to drive a manual vehicle takes time and practice.
The Transmission of Choice
Despite the loss of favor manual transmissions have received, manual vehicles offer benefits automatic transmissions can’t provide. As a result, driving enthusiasts and sports car manufactures often opt for manual transmissions. Below are four main reasons why manual transmission vehicles will never become entirely obsolete.
Improved Vehicle Control and Engagement
A manual transmission allows you to use the momentum of the car’s engine to slow the vehicle. By simply downshifting, manual transmissions can slow without utilizing brakes as often as automatic transmissions, ultimately causing less wear and tear if used correctly. As a result, an experienced driver can have better control of the vehicle with a manual transmission.
Better Fuel Economy
Automatic transmissions have notably grown more fuel-efficient over the years. However, in many cases, a stick-shift gearbox can still improve fuel economy by an additional 3-5 miles per gallon over automatic transmissions. This is due to the driver having complete control of engine RPMs. Automatic transmissions shift based on preprogrammed stimuli that are either electrical, hydraulic, or both. The driver does not provide feedback to the vehicle on the conditions that should impact the optimal gear to maximize fuel economy. Numerous factors such as load, road incline/decline and weather should impact the optimal gear ratio, however an automatic transmission has to guess this based on sensors. A manual transmission has the better of a driver taking all the conditions into account and determining the right shift times.
A manual transmission has a less complex structure than an automatic. This often translates into easier maintenance and fewer repair expenses. Because complicated repairs often cost more, manual transmissions can be a cost-effective option. The key maintenance activity with manual transmissions is replacing the clutch disc periodically (see image). This requires a complete removal of the transmission, smoothing out the flywheel (similar to rotors on brakes), replacement of the clutch disc, replacement of the pilot and throw out bearing, and finally re-installation of the transmission. A clutch disc can typically last 100,000 miles before a replacement is required. Obviously, an aggressive driver can burn out a clutch much quicker!
Cars with manual gearboxes are usually more affordable than those with automatic transmissions. This is especially true among budget-priced cars as it can make a huge difference for cash-strapped shoppers. The savings largely stems from an automatic transmission being more complicated and therefore more expensive to produce compared to its manual counterparts.
Though no car is guaranteed safe from theft, manual transmissions have an additional hurdle for those would-be criminals: thieves often do not know how to drive stick-shift vehicles.
Maintain Transmission Upkeep at Advanced Transmission Center
Regardless of whether you find yourself loyal to either manual vehicles or automatic, you need to remember that regular transmission maintenance is just as critical as an oil change. At Advanced Transmission Center, we want to make sure your transmission will function for the long haul with proper maintenance and repair. If you are interested in accurately diagnosing your vehicle without paying for unnecessary repairs, our free TrueTest Inspection pinpoints specific issues before any work is done. We take pride in being the most trusted local transmission shops in Colorado after 5 decades of countless successful manual transmission repairs.
If you have any questions regarding our services, call our Westminster (Northwest Denver) location at (303) 421-4140, our Lakewood (Southwest Denver) location at (303) 922-4102 or contact us online today!