Manual transmission driving tips

thttht
Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Ok, I've been driving a manual for most of my driving life, but I believe I do not know all the tricks to optimize my driving experience nor do I know everything there is to know about what can be done with a manual, even some of the more rudimentary ones.



Questions:



1. Can one take the transmission out of gear (from gear x to neutral) without disengaging the clutch (ie, stepping down on the clutch pedal)? What does it do to the transmission.

2. For making a turn (where one has to slow down first), how does one manage the gearing? Coast in neutral into the turn, then engage appropriate gear once the smallest radius of the turn has been passed?

3. I always use the brakes to slow down, and rarely downshift. Best practice for slowing down and stopping?

4. To optimize fuel efficiency, I always want to be in the highest gear possible in order to be at the lowest RPM?

5. 2 hands or 1 hand on the wheel? Or 1 hand on the shifter at all times?

6. Near redline shifting, who's good enough to it, and has there ever been an occasion where you did it?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 62
    Coming from a country where everyone drives manually, your post just makes me want to laugh so hard, I'd expel my colon. You've been driving manual all your life hey



    1) You can, but its very stupid, your transmission wont last a year. Why would you want to keep the engine power and gearbox connected when you change gears?



    2) LMAO. You should never coast in neutral. You'd learn this in your first lesson here! Its far easier to skid and lose control when not in gear. If you slow down enough to warrant a change of gear, make the change a fraction before you turn into the corner, and accelerate out. Change up when you're going straight again or near. Police are taught to enter a corner slower under control, hit the apex and accelerate out. The alternative is to enter locking the brakes, flinging the wheel, fluffing the change and losing control.



    3) Yes that what brakes are for, its possible to downshift to slow, but this just adds wear on the engine. Alot of older people still do this, but it isn't taught anymore. Brake pads are cheap, engines are not. You only need to change gear, if your revs would drop so low that your car would chug when applying throttle, again if your trying to drive like a wanker, you'd try to keep the revs high, so you'd change down a fraction before turning in.



    4) Yay!



    5) 2 hands on the wheel.



    6) whats difficult about it? sometimes I do it - when its safe to do so. It just involves changing up later than you normally do, keep it smooth and quick to try to keep the revs high, but you still have to lift the throttle, or else you'll do more than redline it when you release the clutch.
  • Reply 2 of 62
    ebbyebby Posts: 3,110member
    1) Use the clutch. Motorcycles can get away with it because the gears are so close together, but it puts stress on the transmission. Parts don't last as long.



    2) I always downshift for turns. When Racing, you want to be in the right gear when you EXIT the turn. Never coast in neutral. No, no, no! Hit the apex at the end of the turn if you're good enough.



    3) Use the breaks. That's what they're there for. Downshifting doesn't do much to slow the car down. (It's more for show)



    4) The best fuel efficiency man not be the lowest RPM. If your car is struggling in 5th gear, you need to step on the gas harder to get going. Every engine is different, so test it for the best gas/acceleration combo. Mine is around 2500 - 3000 RPM. (944 Porsche ) If I'm just coasting down the freeway, I'll be in 5th gear, but if I need to do anything (merge, pass, or if it gets crowded) I'll downshift to 4th. 5th gear in a porsche at such slow speeds as a freeway is like holding your underwear out the window of a sailboat. It don't do much.



    5) 2 HANDS ON THE WHEEL! What's more important, shifting to the next gear, of dodging that cow on the road.



    6) Yea. I was passing a car. Actually, my car red-lines at 6500 RPM, but peak horse power drops off at around 5500 RPM. Past peak horse power, you are just wasting time and gas. My car actually has a built-in shut off at 6500 RPM that will kill the ignition to prevent you from over-reving. I bought a "special" computer chip that boosted it to 6800 RPM. But yea, I do it all the time but only in low gears.
  • Reply 3 of 62
    shawnjshawnj Posts: 6,656member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by THT

    3. I always use the brakes to slow down, and rarely downshift. Best practice for slowing down and stopping?



    Quote:

    Originally posted by powermacG6 3) Yes that what brakes are for, its possible to downshift to slow, but this just adds wear on the engine. Alot of older people still do this, but it isn't taught anymore. Brake pads are cheap, engines are not. You only need to change gear, if your revs would drop so low that your car would chug when applying throttle, again if your trying to drive like a wanker, you'd try to keep the revs high, so you'd change down a fraction before turning in.





    Quote:

    Originally posted by Ebby 3) Use the breaks. That's what they're there for. Downshifting doesn't do much to slow the car down. (It's more for show).



    I always downshift to slow down (using my brakes as well). It just feels like I have more control over the car combining those two methods instead of just honking on the brakes all the time. By contrast-- the first thing I notice when driving automatics is how often I have to use the brakes. I always thought one of the chief virtues of a manual transmission was the level of control it affords. For instance, instead of free-wheeling down a hill in an automatic and applying the breaks, you can simply put a manual transmission into a lower gear to slow down. As long as the decline isn't too long and/or steep-- and as long as the engine isn't over-burdened-- and as long as you use your brakes occasionally to combat those problems-- why not?



    Stopping is a similar deal. If I'm on a fast, four lane boulevard and approaching a stop-light, I wouldn't just apply the brakes in 5th gear all the way until stopping. That's just *asking* for the car to automatically engage the ABS. I prefer the downshift-brake solution for far more gradual and controlled stops. Thoughts?









    (Black Beauty, huh? I've had it for about a year, and it's honestly a joy to drive.)
  • Reply 4 of 62
    re ShawnJ



    True, if youre stopping completely from 5th you probably need to downshift to 3rd at about 20-25mph. Id then pull the clutch in at about 5-10mph. I thought he was asking specifically about cornering. That depends on your intended driving style, If you're racing you'll probably want to keep the revs above 4000 at all the time, so you'll shift gears quite often, but normal driving, there just is no need if your car will pull away happily.



    Using the engine to assist braking only reduces the life of the engine as Ive already said, I use it to control speed down steep hills, but other than that, why knacker the engine or the clutch? Brake pads are cheap!





    The real answer depends on what driving style you are trying to achieve. IS THT asking about normal driving or racing?
  • Reply 5 of 62
    randycat99randycat99 Posts: 1,919member
    My guess is that the additional wear of engine braking would be negligible (as long as you aren't flogging the daylights out of it in downshifting it). It can't be any worse than hard accelerating using the engine (which it should be designed to withstand).



    The upside to engine braking is you get to circulate engine coolant (and cooling oil, to boot) through the engine more forcefully as you approach your stop- gets that water pump speed up. That plus the engine being in a low heat generation mode as you decelerate (assuming you are completely off the throttle), is a terrific way to assist the engine in blowing off latent, excess heat from the system. The benefits of this are apparent when you consider you could either "recycle" some of your kinetic energy (as you decelerate) to purge engine heat vs. letting your engine stew in that heat at idle while you sit at the stoplight.



    It's really a matter of personal taste either way, but I just wanted to express that there are actually good reasons on either side.
  • Reply 6 of 62
    thttht Posts: 3,212member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by powermacG6

    1) You can, but its very stupid, your transmission wont last a year. Why would you want to keep the engine power and gearbox connected when you change gears?



    Not change gears. It was a question about putting the transmission into neutral without using the clutch.



    Quote:

    2) LMAO. You should never coast in neutral.



    I do it here depending on the situation, if there is no one in front of me, I coast into the turn or stop and change into gear or apply the brakes at the moment I need to.



    Quote:

    5) 2 hands on the wheel.



    Heh, I've used my cell phone on my right hand, and driven and changed gears with the right before.



    Driving with both hands on the wheel will definitely take some time to form as a habit.



    Quote:

    6) whats difficult about it? sometimes I do it - when its safe to do so. It just involves changing up later than you normally do, keep it smooth and quick to try to keep the revs high, but you still have to lift the throttle, or else you'll do more than redline it when you release the clutch.



    I've never even come close to redlining my car yet. And haven't found the need to accelerate that hard yet.



    7) How do people drive in stop-and-go traffic with their manuals?
  • Reply 7 of 62
    thttht Posts: 3,212member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Ebby

    2) I always downshift for turns. When Racing, you want to be in the right gear when you EXIT the turn. Never coast in neutral. No, no, no! Hit the apex at the end of the turn if you're good enough.



    I'll try this for awhile. And I'm not talking about racing. Just everyday normal driving in the big city.



    Quote:

    4) The best fuel efficiency man not be the lowest RPM. If your car is struggling in 5th gear, you need to step on the gas harder to get going. Every engine is different, so test it for the best gas/acceleration combo.



    Yeah, I'll need to do some testing. Actually, I can probably figure it out if I can find detailed torque and power curves for my car.



    Quote:

    5) 2 HANDS ON THE WHEEL! What's more important, shifting to the next gear, of dodging that cow on the road.



    Even when you go from zero to highway speed in the shortest amount of time?



    8. What happens when you leave the car in gear, foot off the accelerator and let it slow down?
  • Reply 8 of 62
    1 revisited) Dont do it. Always disengage the clutch before moving the stick, even if its just to neutral, if you care about your transmission. But we've generally agreed you shouldn't be in neutral anyway. Sometime i do this however if I forget to disengage the gear after Ive turned the car off. Try not to leave it in gear, because when you start up again you might get a shock, especially if youve parked next to a wall! However, its good to leave it in a low gear, if youve parked on a steep slope.



    7) This can be a real pain. Something I somtimes do is accelerate, pop it in neutral and coast along, dont worry about losing control at speeds less than 15mph in a straight line. Something else, get it in 2nd pretty quick, foot off the throttle, let the car drive itself under tickover, my car does this fine, some might not. This is good when you dont need to stop, but just crawl along. What you dont want to be doing is accelerating to 30mph in 1st gear and braking over and over. This will get your engine hot, and it near impossible to do smoothly.



    I do dispair at people who use thier cell phones in their car. People die this way, especially the innocent ones. Dont watch TV, jerk off or try to read a map.
  • Reply 9 of 62
    randycat99randycat99 Posts: 1,919member
    Probably the best way to evaluate what gear you should be in for the speed you are targeting with best fuel economy is to simply take note of your gas pedal position. Essentially, more throttle will lead to more consumption (not too many other ways around that ). The right gear will be the one where you are using the least amount of throttle to maintain your speed. Too low a gear, and you will be pressing the throttle to keep the engine speed up so you don't slow down. Too high a gear, and you will be using more throttle then normal to keep your speed up or you will be lugging the engine altogether (a marked increase in roughness in the engine).



    I think the specific fuel consumption min usually corresponds to the rpm of torque max. In most engines (specifically gasoline style), you still wouldn't want to hang the rpms there (usually in the 3000-5000 range) while cruising. If you can achieve the same speed with a taller gear and less throttle setting, that will still be the point of min fuel consumption. The torque peak thing really only suggests where the engine will be strongest for a given unit of fuel, and furthermore does not account for engine windage losses of holding an elevated rpm. If your goal is to cruise with minimal throttle use, the windage losses at elevated rpms is enough to really throw stuff off, torque peak or not.
  • Reply 10 of 62
    tmptmp Posts: 601member
    I'll add my 2 cents:



    For the most part, I use the brakes to slow the car and not the engine. I only engine brake on the freeway to slowly bleed off speed. Normally when I step on the brakes in city driving, I step on the clutch. A lot of the time I end up going over steep canyon roads, and brake pads are a lot cheaper than a new clutch.



    As for coasting in neutral, I do it a lot- in very proscribed situations. I just did it on my way home this evening; traffic was backed up on Laurel Canyon, and the street is steep enough that in stop-and-go traffic, I didn't bother to engage a gear until I hit Sunset Boulevard.



    Powermac, expel your colon? What an image!



    I'm actually glad that most Americans drive automatics. I'd hate to add actually shifting to the roster of things I see my fellow Angelenos doing while "driving": dialing the phone, reading the paper, applying make-up, juggling the latte.........
  • Reply 11 of 62
    randycat99randycat99 Posts: 1,919member
    Just getting your car moving from a standstill constitutes a lot more wear on the clutch than engaging mild engine braking (where everything is pretty much moving already). Nevermind all the wear that is induced if you happen to be powershifting and using jackrabbit starts... Suffice to say, wear via engine braking is going to be a minor effect in comparison to the duties that it is actually expected to handle.
  • Reply 12 of 62
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tmp

    dialing the phone, reading the paper, applying make-up, juggling the latte.........



    .......changing playlists........
  • Reply 13 of 62
    shawnjshawnj Posts: 6,656member
    Um, guys, ever miss a shift and hear that awful *CRUNCH* sound?
  • Reply 14 of 62
    bungebunge Posts: 7,329member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by ShawnJ

    Um, guys, ever miss a shift and hear that awful *CRUNCH* sound?



    Occasionally it reminds me that I'm driving....
  • Reply 15 of 62
    low-filow-fi Posts: 357member
    I'm passing on somethings i have learned from my uncle, who is a Police force driving instructor (i.e. a bit bloody good)



    1. Can one take the transmission out of gear (from gear x to neutral) without disengaging the clutch (ie, stepping down on the clutch pedal)? What does it do to the transmission.

    Yes - I do it quite often. The trick is to match the revs. If the revs are steady (not going down, or up), a gentle pull on the shift should take it out of gear. The same with putting it back into gear, but more risky.



    2. For making a turn (where one has to slow down first), how does one manage the gearing? Coast in neutral into the turn, then engage appropriate gear once the smallest radius of the turn has been passed?



    No - engage the appropriate gear before getting to teh turn. Assess this in advance.



    3. I always use the brakes to slow down, and rarely downshift. Best practice for slowing down and stopping?



    Yes, use the breaks this puts less stress on the engine. Most (All?) modern engines have engine breaking, these days, so in a sense, you can use both to the best efficiency.



    4. To optimize fuel efficiency, I always want to be in the highest gear possible in order to be at the lowest RPM?



    Yes, and no. If you are in too high a gear, and the engine doesn't have enough torque, then it will be burning more fuel in order to pull. You can only judge this yourself.



    5. 2 hands or 1 hand on the wheel? Or 1 hand on the shifter at all times?



    If you're not changing gear, both on the wheel
  • Reply 16 of 62
    Quote:

    Originally posted by THT



    1. Can one take the transmission out of gear (from gear x to neutral) without disengaging the clutch (ie, stepping down on the clutch pedal)? What does it do to the transmission.

    2. For making a turn (where one has to slow down first), how does one manage the gearing? Coast in neutral into the turn, then engage appropriate gear once the smallest radius of the turn has been passed?

    3. I always use the brakes to slow down, and rarely downshift. Best practice for slowing down and stopping?

    4. To optimize fuel efficiency, I always want to be in the highest gear possible in order to be at the lowest RPM?

    5. 2 hands or 1 hand on the wheel? Or 1 hand on the shifter at all times?

    6. Near redline shifting, who's good enough to it, and has there ever been an occasion where you did it?




    It appears that many of these questions have been answered already, but I'd like to point out one general misconception. When you mis-shift and you hear the grinding, you're not actually grinding the gear, but rather you're grinding the synchros. Still not a good thing, but synchros are easier to replace than gears. FWIW, synchros exist so that you don't have to double clutch. That is, to downshift, you don't have to clutch, neural, clutch, gear, all the while matching your RPMs.



    Near redline shifting: Get close to redline. stomp on the clutch at the same time as shifting, and watch your RPMs. If you do it right, you'll chirp the tires and get a burst of speed when shifting gears. It completely eliminates the lag you get when shifting in a manual. It takes a lot of practice and feel to get right.



    Going around a turn: brake, turn, downshift, accelerate out of turn. You can do this in one motion, aka the "heel-toe." That means you hold the RPMs up with your heel, and brake with your toe. That way you get the most explosive acceleration out of the turn. For guys with big feet, this can be hard, and you might want to invest in some wider pedals so you can you the edges of your foot instead of the heel and toe.
  • Reply 17 of 62
    ebbyebby Posts: 3,110member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Splinemodel

    Going around a turn: brake, turn, downshift, accelerate out of turn. You can do this in one motion, aka the "heel-toe." That means you hold the RPMs up with your heel, and brake with your toe. That way you get the most explosive acceleration out of the turn. For guys with big feet, this can be hard, and you might want to invest in some wider pedals so you can you the edges of your foot instead of the heel and toe.



    Professional drivers never shift IN a turn. If you are racing, it can break the tires loose and put you in a spin. I downshift, break, turn, hit apex, then accelerate.
  • Reply 18 of 62
    wrong robotwrong robot Posts: 3,907member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by THT

    7) How do people drive in stop-and-go traffic with their manuals?





    I've only been driving manual for about 2 months, so I don't know if what I do is the best, but basically I'm in 1st most of the time, pressing in the clutch and holding it in while I do the brakes. that's for moderately bad traffic, if it's really stalled, then I will slip into neutral so that I don't need to be pressing down the clutch all the time.





    I'm a little surprised to hear some people's thoughts on neutral, I remember in drivers training on the test I think they said that neutral is illegal, yet, almost every manual driver I know takes advantage of it in some way or another.



    I know I utilize it quite a bit, but my car is slow and old, so it's probably less of a deal than if I was driving a top end BMW or something.
  • Reply 19 of 62
    gongon Posts: 2,437member
    I think of myself as a "new" driver (3 years, maybe 10000km/year). I've recently developed an interest in car technology, exactly this sort of questions, and racing techniques as well. I've sat down for a few hours reading about transmissions at http://www.howstuffworks.com . Another good place on the web is Autozine Technical School (google that).



    Engine braking:

    In *normal traffic* as THT asked, most of the time you should be engine braking. This because most modern cars have fuel injection, and they can cut all fuel under engine braking. This is a tremendous saving in gas, in urban traffic you can get +20% to your mpg. (This straight from driver's ed.) I don't mean you should do drastic downshifts to brake fast, I mean you should lift off the gas, and downshift only when the car has slowed to very low revs. If you do this, engine wear is negligible and there is no downside to engine braking. If you have to stop fast, you use the brakes. This also means that if you want to use the engine brake to the max, you have to look far in traffic, and anticipate the need for braking, so you have time and space to engine brake. In normal traffic, you are not any slower for this, because it's traffic lights and other cars who really set how fast you can go. You might actually be faster hanging back like this - consider traffic light that is red. If you rush to the lights and stop, you are not getting through any sooner. Now, if you instead start engine braking far as soon as you see the red light, you might still have substantial speed left when the light changes, and you get to go faster and save gas at the same time.
  • Reply 20 of 62
    ... here's a learning experience for you...



    While coasting in gear (letting the engine slow you down ... known as compression braking), put a little pressure on the stick towards neutral... it won't go with only a little pressure.

    Now gradually apply some throttle (still holding pressure on the stick).

    As your throttle input begins to match your engine/transmission RPM, the stick will push to neutral as easily as if the clutch pedal were depressed.



    (this will work in reverse too... while accelerating, you can pull the stick to neutral at some point as you let OFF the gas)



    If you are REALLY GOOD, you can re-engage the transmission without using the clutch by matching the engine RPM and the transmission input shaft RPM... this will take lots of practice The clutch was created to make shifting EASIER... not to make it POSSIBLE. well... it's needed to get started from a stationary condition, I suppose.



    And it doesn't create any undue stress on the transmission... In fact, if you don't use the clutch, you'll never need to replace the pressure plates or throw-out bearing ... parts that normally wear out.





    And compression braking won't harm an engine that is properly "tuned". And any recent computer controlled engine is always properly tuned.





    As for the "technique" questions ... are you driving to work or are you racing ???

    Go take one of the race-driving classes that are available ... not only is it TONS of fun, but you'll learn a LOT about performance driving techniques.
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