A car chase scene in a movie is always thrilling. The engines roar as the drivers push their vehicle to the limit. Many times, you even get a camera shot of the interior and you will see the driver aggressively shifting gears if they have a manual transmission. While it may be good for an action film, it can be catastrophic to the transmission. The things that happen on the big screen are usually things you should never do to your manual transmission.
1. Don’t down shift all the time
For many, a Sunday afternoon involves the sports channel and tuning into auto racing. The drivers are highly skilled but the real players are the cars. Highly tuned machines built specifically for racing. Once the green flag drops and you see the cars dive into the first corner, you hear the engine downshift quickly to help slow the car. While downshifting may be perfect for racing, it is anything but perfect for your vehicle. Many motorists tend to use the downshifting method when slowing down because it allows the engine rpms to act as a brake. This will slow the car down but it builds up tremendous pressure within the transmission. The higher rpms create more heat and friction than just using neutral and the brake pedal. The more pressure within the transmission, the shorter its lifespan will be. Shifting to neutral and pressing the brake pedal is much more friendly to the critical components.
2. Never rest your foot on the clutch pedal
While it may be comfortable to rest your foot on the clutch pedal when cruising down the interstate, it’s not comfortable to the clutch. While all clutches are not the same, they still feel the pressure from “riding the clutch”. Slight pressure may not sound too damaging but it can cause your clutch to wear out quicker. When the clutch is engaged, friction builds. This is normal. However, it is only normal because it is not designed to handle friction for prolonged periods. That will break down the clutch material, eventually causing failure. There are cheap repairs that can be done to a vehicle but a clutch replacement is not one of them. Stay off that clutch pedal!
3. Never leave your car in neutral when parked
Step into any vehicle with an automatic transmission and you will see that there is a “P” on the gear selector. Of course, we all know that is for parking. But what happens with a manual transmission? What you should NOT do is leave it in neutral. Sure, there’s a parking brake but by leaving the transmission in neutral, you are relying solely on that parking brake. Just like every vehicle component, the parking brake can fail even though it is rare. If a failure occurs when in neutral, there is nothing preventing the wheels from turning. The transmission relies on a running engine and an engaged clutch for proper operation. Because of this, it is very difficult for the vehicle to move when you are in a gear with the engine off as opposed to being in neutral. Park it in gear and have no fear!
4. Never leave your car in gear at a red light
Stopping is a part of driving. We all know what to do when we stop. Or do we? When operating a manual transmission, something you should never do is sit at a stop with the vehicle in gear and the clutch pedal pressed. This causes similar effects to riding the clutch. Clutches are designed for intermittent use. The bearings, springs and plates are capable of operating in short bursts but not prolonged use. When the clutch is used, heat and friction increases. We all know that too much friction causes too much heat and that leads to transmission failure. In order to prolong the life of the transmission, it is best to come to a stop and place the gearshift into neutral while using the foot brake.
5. It’s Called A Parking Brake For A Reason!
When you stop driving, you will exit your vehicle and walk away. But if you don’t use the parking brake, your car might go away too. As we discussed earlier, it’s good practice to place the car into a gear when parked. But that’s not all. Use that parking brake! The parking brake is not like the foot brake. Typically, foot brakes are hydraulically controlled and they rely on the engine to be running to be most effective. However, parking brakes are controlled by a cable. Because of this, there is less potential for failure because there is less parts involved. Even if you’re parking on a hill and the transmission fails, the parking brake will prevent roll-away that causes damage or injury.
6. Never use the clutch to hold your car on a hill
Contrary to the belief of some, the earth is not flat. Neither is every road you will drive on. Eventually, you will have to stop on a hill. While it is common to use the clutch to prevent rolling, it is not suggested. Many drivers use the “clutch biting point”. That means, they release the clutch pedal to the exact point that the engine slightly begins to transmit power to the wheels. This will keep the car from rolling but it also places strain on the clutch. Like many of the other things you should refrain from, using this method damages the clutch. Should your clutch fail completely, the next time you stop on a hill, you may roll into another vehicle. The ideal method is to come to a stop on the hill and use the parking brake to hold the vehicle stationary.
7. Don’t forget the tiny bit of maintenance that a modern clutch system needs
Modern day vehicles are equipped with extensive technology. From navigation to self-driving, and more. The modern day manual transmission clutch is no different. A lot has changed since the early days. One of those changes is the level of required maintenance. In modern times, the required maintenance is low. However, that maintenance is critical. While most clutches will adjust themselves, they will not change their own fluid. Like a foot brake, clutches are hydraulically controlled. Over time, the fluid will break down and not provide efficient operation. When the fluid gets to that point, the dirt inside it can shorten the life of critical seals and cause clutch failure. Always follow the vehicle manufacturer recommendations and you will extensively prolong the lifespan of your transmission.
8. Never release the clutch too soon
You may have heard the expression, “popping the clutch”. While it may show off the engine power, it is a terrible way to treat your transmission. Popping the clutch is done by revving the engine to high rpms then releasing the clutch suddenly. This action puts severe stress on the components. When you pop the clutch and burn the tires, you burn your transmission too.
9. Under any and all circumstances never coast in neutral
It may seem logical to coast in neutral while driving downhill. In theory, this saves fuel. This is not true. Due to electronic fuel injection, many engines will completely cut off the fuel supply to the engine when traveling downhill. This action will save more fuel than coasting. When the neutral gear is used, the connection between the engine and transmission is severed. This means that you will have to rely on the foot brake alone to keep the vehicle controlled. Using that foot brake will prematurely burn up your brakes because the engine is not helping. Using this neutral coasting method also slows down the lubrication process of the transmission. With insufficient lubrication, the transmission is destined to fail.
10. When replacing the Clutch, replace all the components as well
Regardless of how you treat your clutch, it will eventually fail. When this happens, a replacement is needed. But you shouldn’t just replace the clutch. It is recommended that you replace all of the clutch components. This also allows for the new clutch to operate with brand new components therefore extending its lifespan. All of the bearings, plates, and seals should be replaced.
A manual transmission may sound like a lot of work but some drivers prefer it. Regardless of what transmission you have, you should still take care of it. No one enjoys a surprise repair bill and if a transmission failure is the problem, that bill will be extremely expensive. Follow these guidelines and your transmission will be problem free for years to come.