For many drivers, nothing can compare to the feeling of driving a car with a manual transmission. Although manuals are fairly straightforward to drive once you’ve spent some time practicing, it’s easy to pick up some bad habits that can prematurely damage your transmission. As described in a recent video by YouTube channel “Engineering Explained,” here are five of the worst things that you can do to your manual transmission.
Leaving the Car in Gear at Red Lights
One of the most common errors that drivers commit is leaving their cars in gear while stopped at a light. Whether for convenience or out of a desire to retain control, many drivers commit this fallacy on a daily basis. Keeping the car in gear while stopped at a light can damage your transmission and may force you to replace parts of transmission earlier than you might want.
When you press the clutch pedal, as you must to keep the car in gear while stopped at a light, you put wear on the components of your clutch. Specifically, you force the throwout bearing to engage with the diaphragm springs on the pressure plate of your clutch. This bearing is designed to perform its function thousands of times over the course of its lifetime, but it’s only designed to be used for the brief period it takes you to shift gears before it returns to its normal resting position. When you keep the clutch pressed in at a stop light, you force the throwout bearing to remain in contact with the pressure plate in excess of its intended design, causing it to wear out much faster than normal.
Instead of keeping the car in gear at a light, you should shift into neutral when you must stop for an extended period of time. While in neutral, you don’t need to engage your clutch, saving the throwout bearing and other components from wear. Keeping your foot on your brake while you’re stopped at the light will prevent you from drifting and protect you from being pushed into traffic if you get rear-ended.
Resting Your Hand on the Shifter
Many drivers rest their hands on the shift lever, either because they want to be ready to shift at a moment’s notice or because it’s just a convenient location. However, resting your hand on your shifter while driving can prematurely wear out your transmission.
When you use the shifter to select your gear, you move the selector fork, a static object, up against the shift collar, a rotating object. This causes some amount of friction before the fork engages with the collar and changes the gear of your car; under normal use, however, this action happens very quickly and your transmission components do not experience much wear.
When you rest your hand on the shifter, however, you can sometimes put pressure on it, which attempts to engage the selector fork with the collar. If you do not shift gears, however, then the selector fork can remain in contact with the collar, wearing it down prematurely. It may not seem like much, but over time, this premature wear can add up. If you’re not about to shift gears, keep both hands on the steering wheel. It’s better for your transmission, and it’s how you should be driving anyhow!
Riding the Clutch
The clutch is the lynchpin of your transmission system; it allows you to connect and disconnect the engine from your transmission. Without this ability, you wouldn’t be able to switch gears. However, you can also use the clutch to keep your car moving at very slow speeds by riding the clutch, or to keep your car in the same spot while being uphill.
When you ride the clutch, you keep the clutch at the edge of engaging with the engine; some of the engine’s power is transferred through to the transmission, but most of it bleeds off as lost friction energy. This puts significant pressure on the components of your clutch, especially the friction material on your clutch disk, and can lead to early clutch failure.
Many drivers ride the clutch to stay at one spot while facing uphill in order to avoid a full stop of the vehicle. It can be a bit tricky to get your car moving while facing uphill with a manual transmission, but avoiding this by riding the clutch (and damaging it) isn’t necessary in most modern vehicles.
Most modern vehicles have an automatic brake hold system, so you don’t even need to do anything special. While facing uphill, hold your car in place by holding the brakes. When you wish to start moving the car, push in the clutch, shift into gear, remove your foot from the brake and apply the throttle; your brake hold system will keep you in place until you start moving.
If your car doesn’t have brake hold, you can use your hand brake for the same purpose. After you come to a stop, apply the hand brake. You can put the car in neutral and disengage the clutch. When it’s time to move again, push the clutch, put the car into gear and start to apply throttle to your car and slowly ease off the clutch until you feel the engine start to engage. Once you feel the engine bite, release the hand brake and you’ll start moving. This does take some time to get right, so make sure to practice this maneuver before you need to do it with another car behind you.
Accelerating Hard at Low Engine RPM
When your engine RPM is low, resist the urge to floor the throttle, especially if you’re in a higher gear. Attempting to accelerate hard while your car is in an unfavorable gear setting can cause your engine to work harder than it’s actually capable of working. This is known as lugging your engine, and it can cause significant damage to your entire engine, not just your transmission. Lugging your engine can cause overheating, disrupt your engine timing, or even crack your cylinder walls.
If you need to accelerate, but you’re in a high gear at low RPM, downshift before you start accelerating. Your engine will perform better, and more importantly, you won’t damage your engine.
Resting Your Foot on the Clutch Pedal
Out of habit, many drivers rest their foot on the clutch pedal, turning it into a very expensive footrest. When you rest your foot on the clutch, you may inadvertently put pressure on it, causing your throwout bearing to engage with your diaphragm springs slightly. Over time, this repeated pressure can cause your throwout bearing to wear out prematurely. In addition, this slight pressure can cause your clutch to slip slightly, robbing you of some performance and causing you to burn more gas than necessary. Instead, you should rest your foot on the floor of the cabin; only move to the clutch when you need to shift.
Understanding how your transmission works can help you avoid unnecessary damage and extend the lifespan of your vehicle. Be especially mindful of riding the clutch and lugging your engine; these are two of the easiest bad habits to pick up, and they can also be the most damaging to your transmission and your engine.