man(ual) in milwaukee (yes really) writes:
hey ho –
i’d like to learn how to drive a manual transmission, and i’d like to learn all the tricks. i hear you can roll it down a hill and pop the clutch to start it, i’ve heard you can shift gears without pushing in the clutch at a certain rpm – are these things true? what other cool things can you do with a manual transmission?
Damn son, I’ve never been called a “ho” before, but I’ll totally take it as a compliment. An ironic compliment, but enough about me and my insecurities…let’s focus on one’s need to have a stick in their hand for all means of motoring pleasure.
Yes you can “push start” a manual transmission car to get it running. You can also shift between gears without the clutch, but it takes a keen sense of when the transmission’s snychros and the engine are spinning at the right speed to make it work. I’d suggest practicing disengaging a gear without a clutch first, it’s done by feel with a little pressure on the gear stick as the RPMs fall down towards idle.
Other cool things:
- Heel and Toe Downshifting: a must for anyone who wants to kill it on a roadcourse. I still need to master this, it’s very important.
- Powershifting: Awesome, but only a bright idea if you have a gearbox that can handle it. Back in the day, I remember the LT-1/LS-1 Camaros where happier than a pig in poop when you’d powershift their T-56 gearboxes. Mustangs with T-5 and T-45 gearboxes? Not so much. Honda Tunerbois? Never.
- General Car Control: a manual gearbox (compared to a conventional automatic) gives much more control over a vehicle at the limit. You can feel how and where the car’s powertrain can get the tires to the point of losing grip, either in terms of understeer or oversteer.
- Better fuel economy and power: Manual gearboxes don’t use hydraulic fluid between elements of the powertrain, unlike the torque converter in an automatic. It’s more efficient (gear ratios being equal) and makes for more power put to the ground. The difference between an automatic and a manual in a smaller engined vehicle is where you really see the difference.
- Price: manual transmission cars are often cheaper. When I bought my 2011 Ranger, one salesperson questioned my manual-transmission resolve. Not because he cared, because he didn’t have any sticks on the lot. My reply to him? I avoided the discussion above, instead saying “no way I’m gonna pay $800 more for something I don’t want on a $14,000 truck!“
Off to you, dear gear jammin’ Best and Brightest.
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.