Sticking Up For The Stick Shift

It seems that stick shift has become a sticking point, at least for American car buyers. Throughout 2019, less than 2% of all the cars sold in the US had a manual transmission. This sad picture includes everything from cute two-seater commuters to — surprisingly enough —  multi-million dollar super cars built for ultimate performance.

But aside from enthusiasts like myself, it seems no one cares too much about this shift away from manual transmissions. According to this video report by CNBC (embedded below), the fact that demand is in free-fall suggests that Americans on the whole just don’t enjoy driving stick anymore. And it stands to reason that as more and more people live their lives without learning to drive them, there would be a decline in the number of teachers and proponents. It’s a supply and demand problem starring the chicken and the egg.

But giving up the stick is one more example of giving up control over the vehicle. It’s not something everyone cares about, but those that do care a lot. Let’s grind through the ebb and flow of the manual transmission — more lovingly called the stick shift.

Automotive Nirvana

Sure, it’s tough to grind your way through the process of learning to drive a manual. The curve is steep, and in a way, the reward is a lifetime of extra work to operate the car. But I don’t see it that way. Yes, the manual transmission requires constant effort and attention, especially in stop-and-go traffic, but the instincts and physical motions that move the car quickly become second nature. It sounds a bit touchy-feely, but you really are one with the car when you drive a manual. Plus, the limb interdependence you gain from developing this coordination can make you feel like { insert: whomever you think is the best drummer of all time } as you’re shifting and drifting.

The way I see it, the advantages of increased control far outweigh the disadvantages of inconvenience. I don’t think we should lull ourselves into a false sense of security where cars are concerned and keep giving up control little by little. We are strapping ourselves and our children into two-thousand pound death machines here — we should want as much control as possible.

It’s ultimately my car and my safety that are at stake, and having such control over the car gives me peace of mind. I’m not out there racing or going off-road or anything, but I live in a place that gets a wide variety of winter weather, and I want a car that’s good in the clutch. With a stick, I can downshift to slow the car down instead of just hitting the anti-lock brakes and hoping for the best. Plus, if the battery dies in the middle of nowhere, chances are good that I can roll-start the car given a sufficient hill.

Automatic for the People

There’s more to the technological shift than the convenience versus control debate. The automatic transmission appeared around 1940 and was a total luxury item at first, kind of like cars that parallel park themselves today.

Image via Car From Japan

For the first several decades of of their existence, automatics were seen as mechanically inferior compared to the precision of manual transmission cars. But people kept buying automatics, and automatic transmission technology kept driving forward, fueled by the average consumer’s interest in the undeniable convenience. Now, automatic transmissions are largely computer-controlled, and it’s impossible to argue that a human can shift faster.

As the video points out, there are some cars that straddle the line between manual and automatic in an attempt to balance the power between man and machine. Some of them are semi-automatic, meaning you have a little more control than just downshifting from D to L on a hill, but there’s only one clutch. My husband’s Acura RSX is a semi-manual — an automatic with a manual mode that lets you flick the gear shifter up and down (the wrong way!) to change gears. It has two clutches, but both are computer controlled, so it’s pretty fake feeling compared to total mechanical control of a true manual.

A Tale of Two Continents

The decline of the stick shift seems to be a strictly American phenomenon, which is somewhat ironic given the history of American car culture. The stick still has a firm stake in European car markets, though.

Given that hills and stop-and-go traffic exist there, too, I figure the downshift in American sales of manuals must be a matter of taste, or come down to lifestyle differences.

In the UK, automatics are still a sort of luxury. If you learn on an automatic, your license reflects that — and you’re simply not allowed to drive a manual. It’s difficult to imagine the opposite — as in, needing a special license to drive a stick in the States, but if it came to that, I would obtain it quickly and carry it proudly.

301 thoughts on “Sticking Up For The Stick Shift

  1. In North America it’s a good theft deterrent too. Usually the local hoodlums never learned how to drive stick so they won’t even attempt it. Getting carjacked could turn into a humorous adventure too :)

    1. This. I’ve also been in awkward situations where someone was asking to borrow my car, and only gave up when they realized they couldn’t drive it.

      1. You may be getting what you pay for. With your car being abused by some one doesn’t know how to operate it, oe some who does, try to get the most fun for the brief time thay are in the drivers seat. But what, do I know? I’m a hick so far in the sticks, that I have yet to patronize a business, that has valet parking..

    2. As someone who has had his manual Honda Accord stolen and then had a manual Nissan Altima stolen at gunpoint I can say it’s apparently not much of theft deterrent….at least not in NYC

      1. Just set up the fuel pump to a switch and watch the thief backfire and stall 10 yards down the road while you are calling the police. (or it just not start for modern cars)

    3. If you really want a thief proof car hunt down an old Citroen 2CV or Dyane assuming you can find one. Definitely not your standard H gate shift, undriveable unless you have spent hours practicing the shift changes. And of course all real men learn to drive in a long wheelbase Land Rover with no sync on 1st.

      1. I drive a Trabant 601 (made in East-Germany). They use a dash-mounted shift lever for manual shifting which completely confuses most people I try to teach driving the car. In addition, if you were to steal the car, you would first have to find the choke, which is quite hidden undeneath the dashboard and the manual fuel tap in the footwell of the passenger side. Long story short, I don’t even lock my car anymore most of the time ^^

        1. On my ’72 MGB GT, the transmission dipstick is in the cockpit, under the dash, behind the radio, under the carpet, under a big rubber grommet. Good luck finding it.

          1. I once looked at buying a Mitsubishi mini-van (this was in the early ’90s).
            I was totally turned off when I found out I’d need to remove the driver’s seat to check the oil.

      2. sync gears are for the meek… using the clutch to shift, also for the meek. :-p

        When racing first started the clutch was so fragile you really only used it to get going.

  2. As is so often the case, it’s a situation full of subtitles and nuance.
    I bought a new car a few months ago. Would have happily considered a manual transmission, but several dealers didn’t have any in stock.

    It’s also related to “packages.” At least here in the US, for many vehicles, once you get above the lowest tier trim package automatic transmissions are “standard.” That lowest trim level is low indeed, crank windows and no air conditioning.

    My previous car purchase (15 years ago), I specifically asked for a stick because I was looking for best fuel economy as I had a long commute at the time. I later found out that the same car with the automatic transmission claimed about 2 mpg better on the highway.

    1. I’d be curious how they measure economy between the two transmission types, I guess its something i’ve never considered since all my vehicles are second hand anyway. I can totally see the manufacturer claiming (and finding a way to fudge results) that the more popular transmission style is also the better economy choice. I just know i’ve had a lot better luck hypermiling my manuals than my automatics.

      1. It doesn’t make a real difference on the highway since the automatic just locks to overdrive. The difference may be that the automatic has a slightly different top gear ratio.

        (The term “maximum overdrive” is ironic, because it properly means throwing the transmission into high gear such that the engine is running at the lowest RPM and widest throttle for maximum efficiency. It means the engine can’t produce any more power even if you floor it.)

        1. Modern consumers seem to think there’s something “wrong” with a car if they can’t put it in 5th at city traffic speeds, so they’ve all got really short final drives and close ratios on manuals, which doesn’t make for good highway mpg.

          I remember when you could break national speed limits in 2nd gear and had to be going at least 50 before you even thought of shifting to 5th or putting it in overdrive.

          Though a lot of 3 spd autos are geared like older manuals and have 2nd 3rd and 5th.

          The motoring press have to take some of the blame for useless for economy 5th gears because they’d whine if drag limited top speed was higher in 4th than 5th.

          1. Prior to synchromesh transmissions, many cars were sold with ad copy that prominently mentioned just how flexible third gear was, which meant that if you could get it in third you could do all your driving there and not have to shift at all. It’s not just modern consumers.

          2. Modern cars are so highly optimized that you’d snap the driveshaft or something in the transmission if the 5th gear was too long – torque vibrations cause metal fatigue. On the other hand smaller displacement engines run faster anyways, so you don’t need to go that far up from 1:1 for the overdrive.

          3. In more modern sports cars, its actually pretty common to have top speed not come in top gear. These days that means top speed is reached in 5th, while 6th gear is just for fuel economy. Any Chevrolet Corvette or Camaro with a stick built in the last couple of decades will have a 6th gear with a theoretical top speed of around 260 mph (at redline) which of course the car could never reach.

            Even non-general motors built cars usually have their top gear reserved essentially for cruising these days. My last car and my current car both have 6-speeds and in both cars, the electronic limiter is set at 155 mph, achievable in either 5th or 6th gear.

          4. Right? I remember my old 240Z could hit 70 MPH in second, 110 in 3rd and 4th would get you to the drag limited top speed (about 135 for that particular car). The only time I ever needed 5th (it had a 5spd from a 280Z in it) was when cruising on the freeway.

            More modern cars are geared to hit 60 right around the top of second gear to get those important 0-60 numbers, which really aren’t that important.

          5. It’s more of an import vs domestic thing in my experience. When I had a 6-speed Miata I’d often skip-shift 1st to 3rd in the space of crossing an intersection. When I replaced it with my Camaro, I found that the gearing was much taller, even in the base model with a relatively puny turbo-4 engine. It cruises on the highway a full 1000 RPM lower than the Miata, which could become uncomfortably buzzy on long road trips. If I had to guess, the ratio of surface road to highway miles driven in the US vs Japan was probably a big factor in how each company’s engineers selected gear ratios for their products.

          6. Maybe manual cars sold in the US have short ratios, because they’re only bought by “real drivers”, who want something that is fun and engaging to drive? If you’ve got short gear ratios, then you’ll be changing more often, and you’ll feel good about buying that manual.
            Personally I find automatics difficult to drive, I keep stamping on the brake because I’m going for the non-existent clutch.

          7. “These days that means top speed is reached in 5th, while 6th gear is just for fuel economy. Any Chevrolet Corvette or Camaro with a stick built in the last couple of decades will have a 6th gear with a theoretical top speed of around 260 mph (at redline) which of course the car could never reach.”

            I don’t doubt it! I have a manual C5, and I think it does 65mph at 1600 to 1700 RPM in 6th gear. On the highway, you can easily average 38+ MPG. Not great compared to a econo-box, but pretty damn impressive for a 350 HP sports car.

            I’m torn on the inevitable demise of the manual. I love driving them and have bought them in any (new) car I’ve owned. But with everything being computerized, and all the benefits that brings, it’s going to happen regardless of how much a minority might like to hold onto their manuals.

            Funny story, I learned to drive manual but took my driving test in an automatic. I was so accustomed to just easing off the clutch and feathering the gas, I forgot to put the car in drive, let off the brake and started revving the engine. The woman from the DMV looked at me with bewilderment and said “You might want to put it in gear first”. She probably feared what a ride with someone who didn’t even know to put the car in drive would be like!

        2. Even with a locking torque converter and overdrive transmission gearing, the auto transmission is still going to have efficiency losses due to the hydraulic pump required to drive everything.

          I have heard that on average they auto trans may be more efficient for most drivers since the manufacturer can optimize it’s behavior as opposed to manual transmission shift behavior being entirely dependent on the driver.

          1. It’s rather that they can optimize it for the EPA test cycle – which is precisely known. For real driving, the variability is too great to meaningfully claim a 2 mpg difference. Even the fuel itself can make a 5% difference easily.

          2. With modern trans the computer control pump pressures and shift solenoids with pwm, and can be controlled so effectively that its parasitic draw is minimal at ‘cruise’.

            lots of them use this to give the soft shift feel when paired with some engine computer tuning to time things like throttle and spark/valve timing to when the computers determine its time to shift gears.

            If you figure in the engine TQ AT pump’s parasitic draw is really trivial for MPG.

            For Dyno graphs, sure its more noticeable. but not in your standard driving.

            hyper-mile techniques dont count…

      2. Automatic (AT) vehicles can usually have a longer/taller final drive (lower number:1 ratio) etc giving them a higher MPH vs the RPM of the motor.

        With a Torque converter you can still manage to accelerate well with a taller final drive, and when the converter locks up in the highest gear of the automatic, its effectively as good as any manual at transferring TQ, then it just comes down to gearing and VVTI/engine tuning to get the best TQ out of the motor for the highway speeds.

        Some manual(MT) vehicles with 6 speeds have really tall 6th gears. with 4th being 1:1, 5th being something like .8:1, and 6th being as low as .50:1 which can help MPG, but as soon as you tick the performance options, the final drive will be shorter (bigger number:1 ratio) which means you are gonna get really bad MPG in traffic, and might be lucky to keep up with some AT’s in highway MPG.

        Good AT’s with good converters, and good software on their computers are the way for a lot of cars, CVT’s are good if not better for smaller cars, but electric is most definitely the future.

      3. You got it right with “finding a way to fudge the results.” They are way more concerned with fraudulently pumping up their automatic mileage numbers, since that’s the vast majority of sales. Basically all auto manufacturers outright lie about mileage.

        1. This. It’s all a lie, many people want to drive shift and have for years, but manufacturers wanted to still more expensive cars and it’s easier to do so when you have a more complicated transmission. So they use the excuse that Americans aren’t interested. My 2012 Camaro will be the last stick I’ll own, and I’ll keep it running until I die.

          1. Agreed, though I think there is a bit of math involved due to under powered engines getting a vehicle moving through close ratio gearing requiring constant “rowing”. My ’78 Z28 was a dream to drive and while later nissan pickup was tedious to drive in the city and with half the engine and an extra gear only got 2 to 3 mpg more…. and no burning rubber or skipping gears possible.

          2. LOL. Do you actually believe, the manufacturers need an excuse, to jack up the price on a high demand product? ;) Even if a manual was the only transmission offered, the prices would still rise.

      4. It’s hard to tell the mpg’s between the 2 transmission s unless they run 2 identical cars at the same time ,same speed for let’s say 1 tank full of gas.

  3. yes it is sad, I am dreading looking for a manual transmission car when my current auto becomes un-repairable. But at least Europe is keeping them alive. And yes, in the winter you get better control when driving and the benefit of longer lasting brakes

    1. My race car driving cousin points out that brakes are MUCH cheaper to replace than clutches, so when you’re decelerating into a turn, stand on the (ABS) brakes rather than downshifting. Sure, driving in a middle gear on traction limited surfaces is a good idea, but most automatics (in the last 20-30 years) support this too, for the same reason. It’s been a long time since PRNDL was the only choice.

      1. Yup. We downshift on corner entry as well so that you’re in the right gear when it is time to accelerate out of the apex, but the deceleration is all done with the brakes. One of my instructors taught me to “stand on the brake pedal like you’re trying to break it off”. Best advice I ever got for racing with ABS. Next race car had no ABS and we learned threshold braking, a much more delicate skill, especially in the wet. We made octagons out of a lot of tires.

        On the street, the notion of downshifting to “conserve brakes” is silly. Clutches are way way more expensive than brakes both in parts and labor.

        1. It’s different than racing. You’ve got to change gear anyway, so you rev match and use the clutch, then when the clutch is fully in, you engine brake. Planning a 200m longer braking distance doesn’t lose you the race. If your clutch is slipping when you’re doing that, it’s already gone, oiled, or out of adjustment. I can’t say exactly how long a clutch lasts like that because the longest I had one was ~100,000 miles on top of 30,000 when I bought it, still seemed fine when I sold it. Also a junker I got for couch change “needs a clutch” I put 15,000 on without it getting worse and when it was too rusty took it to wrecker/scrapyard and got twice what I paid for it.

        2. How do you downshift my I ask?

          If you keep your foot on the clutch and let it slide, then yes it will wear. And as it gets hotter, it will wear faster. (and if it gets sufficiently hot, it will very quickly break.) All forms of “riding the clutch” isn’t recommended if one wants it to last.

          Now a clutch doesn’t get all that much wear from just changing gear. (Depending on how many gears one jumps over though. going from 5th to 4th isn’t an issue, but 5th to 1st is. (But there, it is mostly the engine that will hate it.))

          The main part of downshifting as a form of “breaking”, is that the idling engine is absorbing that energy. Since the fuel injection system will ease off if it notices that the engine rotates faster than desired, not to mention that en engine has both friction losses, and also driving things like AC compressors, alternators, fans, cooling pumps, etc. So there is a lot of places for this energy to go.

          In short, it isn’t the clutch that is breaking.
          And if one worries about shifting gear that much, then I better not tell you that going from standstill to moving wears on the clutch far more, especially if one wants to do it fast.

        3. Also we should mention that it’s safer to downshift to brake on the road, because many cars still have vacuum servo assisted brakes, so having the engine pulling vacuum means you get maximum power braking assistance should you need it. In some situations, as when the engine hasn’t warmed up yet, it may still be in high idle mode and not drop below 1200 RPM or so, and when you are in a higher gear and try to brake, you’ve got hardly any vacuum assist and the engine is still pushing (As compared to the fuel cut it gets when decelerating above 1200)

        4. When I was learning to drive my dad told me “you’re full on the gas, full on the brake, or losing the race.” Noted, Dad, now let’s talk about driving in traffic… and now I’m into ice racing, where, at least in my class, the whole race is spent in the bottom fourth of the throttle range, never touch the brakes at all, and wowie is having a manual helpful for controlling the traction.

      2. I swap the disc pads in 10 minutes per wheel. It takes me two hours to do a clutch, and that’s on an extremely accessible car. With that said, I live somewhere with a lot of very large hills, and when I’m going to be descending a 6% grade for the next five miles, engine braking is totally worth it.

        1. It’s a bit easier in a SAAB 99 or 900. That’s about an hour for a home mechanic .

          your right Though brake pads are cheaper and easier than a clutch to change.

          But if your changing a clutch regularly your either flogging it or need to learn how to drive.

          1. As having driven manuals for 28 years i never worn out a clutch, worn out plenty of discs and breakpads in that time. If you wear out your clutch engine breaking, you are doing it wrong.

      3. If you’re letting your clutch slip you’re doing it wrong. “Engine braking” has its own problems with getting vacuum above the piston and sucking/burning oil, but the clutch has not much to do with it.

        1. “vacuum above the piston and sucking/burning oil”
          This is a design or maintenance failure of the engine..

          and is still nothing to worry about unless ignored and left to build up to extreme levels.

        2. Exactly .. I have driven stick shifts for nearly 50 years . For trouble free operation the clutch should be in only 2 positions .. in or out !! No twiners , No riding it on an incline to hold said vehicle’s (brakes for) just fully engaged or fully disengage!! Last very long

          1. I bought my current car in 2006 and the first time I drove it I thought “damn, this is going to need a new clutch soon”. It still needs that new clutch after 14 years of downshifting, but it still works.

          2. I’m curious about the variety of cars you have driven. My first car was a Nissan 200sx, followed by BMWs and my favorite a 1991Nissan 300 which I sold when my first child was born and have been longing for ever since.

      4. But, on the street, downshifting is important. It’s the way that you get the engine to make that THRAGGAAAAHHH noise. If you’re running a carb, it also can suck enough gas into the exhaust to make some crakles and pops at the same time – it’s a mechanical symphony!

        1. The three cars I’ve worked on the most, all have a dashpot attached to the manifold vacuum and the throttle pivot, so when the vacuum is really high it cuts fuel, purely to avoid drawing gas through the engine when it’s not needed. I suspect this may be an aftermarket carburetor thing, or an older car whose carb hose lines have started leaking thing.

          1. Most, if not all, carbs operate entirely on vacuum to pull fuel through from the bowls, even if you pinched the fuel line at the carb, most setups would still run at idle for more than a few seconds before the vacuum drained the bowls.

            The fuel pumps only responsibility is to keep the bowls full of fuel.

            Inside the bowls there are floats that are supposed to restrict the fuel flow into the bowls to keep the bowls mostly, but not 100% full. Since they are vented at the top of the carb, if you put too much fuel PSI into a carb, it will actually over power those floats and spray fuel straight up out of the top of the carb.

            Conversely if you have a blow through boost application, you need to boost reference your fuel regulator to compensate for the ‘atmosphere’ that the carb sees or you will run lean.

      5. Wouldn’t pushing on the brakes make them a point of failure (even if cheap)?
        I mean, in design for failure, what’s worst having no brakes or having no clutch?

      6. When you downshift correctly, you don’t even need the clutch – but in modern cars it’s more difficult because you can’t hear the engine. In any case, if you brake (or accelerate) with the clutch instead of the engine, you’re doing stick shifting wrong.

      7. Engine breaking only requires a very quick clutch action to shift down, then you leave it in gear and there’s no wear on that part. You can do it a second or two ahead of time before it’s even a stressful shift to perform. No different than shifting in any other condition.

        On the other hand, braking down a long hill requires continuous wear on the brakes for the entire duration. Also, remember it’s perfectly possible to balance both. I have engine braked properly for decades and I’ve never had to swap a clutch (except in one vehicle where I did an engine swap, which necessitated a larger clutch to be installed at the same time).

        I’m usually very wary of folk wisdom from car or motorbike guys. Just try to find an alternate source and verify. There’s a lot of incredibly dumb but somehow very reasonable-sounding mechanical advice in the world. And don’t ask a motorbike guy what brand of engine oil to use. Ever.

      8. In general, torque converter automatics behave like a manual car with pushed in clutch, when you are not on the gas pedal.
        In a manual, if you let go of the throttle, you’ll have a considerable amount of engine braking. You don’t necessarily have to shift back for that, although downshifting does increase the available engine braking effect.
        Downshifting also does not wear out your clutch if you properly rev match.

        Anyway, clutches routinely last for 200.000km in europe so clutch replacement is not really an issue for a lot of people.

  4. Very much a horses for courses – I was at a talk on designing user interfaces (for software and hardware) some years (>20) ago and the speaker asked “Raise your hands, those of you with manual transmissions”. About half the crowd, maybe even 2/3rds. And then he said “You probably should not be designing user interfaces, because you want detailed control of all aspects, and most users do not need this – they should naturally be led to do the right thing at a given time, and there should be one and only one way to accomplish a given task, not given 6 options at every turn”

    I would imagine that some day, vehicles with manual transmissions driven by internal combustion engines are curiosities used as hobbies – Much like Model As, or horse drawn vehicles are today. You’ll take your specialty vehicle out to a road course and play.

      1. Yeah. This philosophy is one of the greatest design travesties. People live up to expectations. We shouldn’t be designing a world that makes people dumber. The sheer patronizing arrogance of trying to guide all your users around your interface to the “one and only way” to accomplish whatever it is you want to dark-pattern them into doing. It’s gross and it’s eaten up the world. A/B testing designers who think they’re being “evidence-driven” need to get a different career, it’s super frustrating.

        1. While I prefer (being a terminal/cmd or GNU-Linux guy) many sane/logical ways to do something. I don’t mind if there is only one way to do it especially with a GUI. As long as its logical, obviously and clearly labeled and stays that way! Windoze in particular has been making functions that used to be one level down in control panel (- the one stop shop for all settings editing (that doesn’t require playing withe the registry)) move all over the place exclusively – And accessed from different locations in different versions! Which is just stupid!! If it isn’t broken there is no need to ‘fix’ it, and when you do then go add alternative sometimes rather odd routes to find a particular setting there is no reason to take away the old workhorse (assuming the system worked – which in XP and earlier windows it pretty much did).

    1. Yeah, I’ve heard that story too. What it misses is that the manual transmission is (or at least was) already a well known and understood interface, and it fits with many users’ preferences… same as command-line vs IDE for programming. Whereas in software, you’re supposedly designing the optimum interface for some new functionality… though how many different reg form systems do we still encounter daily (facepalm)?

      Learning to drive standard was a teenage goal, and most of our vehicles since have been standards. Notable exception – it’s easier to tow and launch boats with an automatic transmission.

  5. “In the UK, automatics are still a sort of luxury. If you learn on an automatic, your license reflects that — and you’re simply not allowed to drive a manual. It’s difficult to imagine the opposite — as in, needing a special license to drive a stick in the States, but if it came to that, I would obtain it quickly and carry it proudly.”

    *wavers back to my days of stick and clutch*

    1. When I got my first license in 1971, Massachusetts still had an “automatic only” license class. So, I took my test on a stick. At some point they dropped it.

      Wife has a Jeep Wrangler (stick) and I have a RAV4 (automatic). She’s been talking about wanting a Mazda Miata, and I told her it must have a stick. She agrees.

  6. Unfortunately the hybrid wipes out all the arguments. My Prius, at 138,000 miles, is still on its first set of brake pads. On a stick I’d have had to replace the brakes twice and the clutch once.

    I’ll pit your best snow driving skills against traction control any time. When I go snowboarding, at the end of the day I walk out to the parking lot, get in the car, floor it out of the parking spot and let the traction control handle everything.

    And bump starting? how often have you actually needed to bump start your car?

    And I’m speaking as a guy who grew up with 3 on the tree. However, there is once place where there is no substitute for a 5 speed – the small convertible. I would never get a Miata or a Fiat 124 in automatic.

    So the only valid argument is fun. And with that I cannot argue.

    1. As far as bump starting goes it depends on if you can afford to replace a bad starter or if your battery has died. I used to regularly bump start my old truck just because it was more fun than twisting the key to start i still teach the skill to kids who couldn’t afford a vehicle and bought a stickshift car and were stuck cause the battery had died. And I’ll take the ability to squeal the tires any day over traction control

      1. Versatility and antifragility are the last advantage of manuals.

        For months I bump started my 94 accord by either pushing it backwards while in reverse and lifting the clutch or just parking it on an incline.

        When my clutch took a dump and locked up I limped it home using the starter to get it moving then clutchless shifred through the gears.

          1. It means things that gain from disorder. Although people using the word don’t take the full system into account.

            It’s the old “Skateboard and get tough and you’ll be able to keep playing when you get hurt”, ignoring the fact that people who do less extreme excercise are getting hurt less in the first place.

            Antifragile people seem to not think it’s even possible to prevent any kind of problem, and that you shouldn’t want to anyway, which is why I’m not the biggest fan. But I haven’t actually read the book, just a lot of internet people referencing it.

    2. Your point on driving skill versus traction control is invalid. Cars with manual transmissions come with full traction control as well. In general you should consider traction control systems cutting in as a mark against your driving skill, not because you couldn’t distribute the power at the point it cut in, but because you got into the situation that required the traction control to cut in at all. It’s much the same as the use of brakes on a highway/motorway, if you’re driving well in steady traffic you shouldn’t need to touch them.

      1. Reliance on safety systems just for the act of driving isn’t what the systems are there for.
        One should drive responsibly at all times. The safety systems are only there if one makes a mistake, and sometimes they can’t actually fix one’s mistake.

        Reliance on them is just planting the seeds for recklessness driving.

        And honestly, it would be rather wonderful ful a car kept track of how often these systems kicks in, and eventually just informs the authorities about one’s misuse if it gets too frequent. Would remove a ton of bad drivers from the road, and greatly minimize the amount of accidents.

        1. Would empty the streets in winter here.

          Difference being that the traction control kicks in for situations where there is no other option but to slip and slide. In those situations you actually want to turn it off, so it would let you spin the wheels a little.

        2. “And honestly, it would be rather wonderful ful[sic] a car kept track of how often these systems kicks in, and eventually just informs the authorities about one’s misuse…”

          You have pretty much described the “SnapShot” tool Progressive uses to rate how much to charge a potential customer for auto insurance.

          I am opposed to such monitors, not because I am a lousy driver (I used to be, I am now quite cautious), but because the threshold that defines a “lousy driver” is subjective. At what point will just one ABS activation, or swerve be enough to cancel your coverage? I was going to write “ABS activation or swerve in a month”, but at some point, a greedy insurance company will consider the first (ever) incident as actionable.

          1. That is why I said “authorities” not “insurance company”.
            It is up to the authorities to judge. And preferably the information shouldn’t be used to set an individual’s insurance rates. (Though, how to set insurance rates is another large can of worms in itself…)

            After all, the goal weren’t to monitor how often people use a given safety system, but rather make people more responsible as drivers. It isn’t the car’s job to make on a good driver, one should drive as if the safety systems didn’t even exist. (Now it is hard for most people to actually do this, a sense of security will make people do things they normally wouldn’t.)

            The current weather during the event should likely also be taken into consideration. And the gathered information can also be indicative of road quality, and with gathered knowledge of where weather related issues are more frequent, then we can aid road maintenance.

            Not to mention that the action taken against the individual can also be proportional to how poorly they drive compared to for an example the median driver. Though, here I would honestly first chop of the best 25-30% of drivers, and take the median of what is left, and only start considering the driving as worth while doing something about if it is statistically significant compared to the whole scale. Like being 20-25% worse than the aforementioned median. And “doing something about it” can be as little as giving a warning.

            (For an example, if we have a pool of drivers that on average have a safety system activate 20 times a month, the best 30% has it only happen about 1 a month, and the median of what is left is 28, then theoretically, our worst driver could have it happen 28 times a month. And we would only start giving someone a warning if they pass 35 activations a month. (28 x 1.25 = 35) This is though unlikely in reality, since that means that 70% of drivers have the exact same amount of activations per month.

            But the system does create a breathing room that theoretically everyone can be underneath. The main reason I deduct the best 30% of drivers is to artificially increase the size of that breathing room.

            I should also point out that we should likely not look at “times activated per month” but rather times activated during the effective time driving, but just replace “per month” with “per X hours driven”.)

            Also, weather, other drivers and road conditions in the area should be taken into consideration before giving someone a fine, since one shouldn’t be reprehended for things outside one’s own control.

          2. I use the ABS a lot at low speeds on icy/snowy roads, in order to have an idea how slippery the road is, so I can drive more safely depending on the surface. Anything like this could suspend my driving license in a couple of hours.

          3. man-x86

            As stated, the goal isn’t to punish competent drivers, but rather those that can’t even drive if it weren’t for the safety systems doing their job.

            Though, at the same time, slippery road surfaces can hide in the least expected places, so a check in one area tells nearly nothing about another, even if the two areas are literally just meters apart. So in general, the break check can give a false sense of security if done in an area that were better than average.

            So instead, consider that everything is likely slippery as all hell. (Though, “slippery as all hell” even black ice gives more grip then people give it credit for, and that is the worst case.) It is generally sufficient to just break a bit more cautiously and about 2-3 times earlier. (Not to mention lower one’s speed in areas with less visibility.)

            So in this case, no you shouldn’t check, if you find yourself ever needing the ABS, then increase your expected stopping distance, it were obviously too short. (The ABS is still allowed to kick in and do its job, but that isn’t to tell you, “yup, this is your limit.”)

            One’s shortest stopping distance isn’t important, since one can’t rely on having it.
            It is one’s longest stopping distance that is important.

            And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to floor the break, then do it. It doesn’t matter how long your stopping distance is, just do what you can. If one ends up at a stand still 20 meters away from the obstacle/person, then good. But 20 meters the other way then its another picture.

          4. Alexander Wikström:

            The reason I usually do this is when I have doubts there might be ice under a layer of fresh snow. One other trick is to pay attention to the sound the tires make while rolling on the surface. It can often help to tell the difference between a thin layer of rainwater or a thin layer of ice (even though they look similar).

            The idea is to find the right balance between being too careful and risking to be rear-ended or being not careful enough and ending in the ditch, and leave a decent margin on top of that.

            I’ve also realized that it is more effective to brake as hard as possible on a sticky surface, the ABS does a good job at stopping, but I can beat the ABS on snow/ice by braking just below its threshold, especially when the surface is not even on the right/left side of the car.
            The results vary a lot from car to car, mine has an ABS that has been designed in the late 90’s and no ESC/TC, so that may explain why you have to drive instead of being driven by the car.

            As you wrote, the key is the stopping distance, and adding buffer can’t hurt (BTW, tires help as well).

      2. Shannon are you confusing traction control with stability control? I totally agree that if you’re using stability control a lot then you are outside the bounds of safe driving, but I live on a hill, and on a snowy day the best way to get up the hill is to roll up to it at speed and then just floor it and let the car figure it out. The car puts the correct amount of power at the correct wheel with a refresh rate far better than any human could ever hope to achieve.

        1. I’ve been stuck in the snow, unable to get my car moving with traction control on. Turning it off allowed enough wheelspin to dig down through the couple mm of snow to get to the traction underneath.

      3. Well you might want to use the brakes to let people behind you know traffic is slowing. You might see its slowing and let off throttle, but the car behind you not. A tap on the brakes to light the brake light is making you safer and communicating to text and driving folks that traffic slowed!

    3. I’d take a sick shift over a prius auto in deep mucky snow any day of the week. I own both and am speaking from experience. The prius gets stuck in a heart beat because the computer nanny won’t let the wheels spin. Stop in deep snow and the prius is stuck. I can plow through a lot more with a stick shift PLUS its easier to control ground speed with engine braking. The prius is NOT my first choice in inclement weather.

      On clear roads there is no benefit to manual. Manual really sucks in bumper to bumper stop and go traffic. Thats where the prius shines.

      Most North Americans lack basic driving skills and probably shouldn’t be driving on roads. That’s why they sell more automatics. That’s why I believe that ALL motorists should be required to learn how to drive a manual motorcycle, a school bus, and a semi-truck BEFORE getting their permanent car licenses. Maybe those drivers would learn to respect the other vehicles on the road instead of playing with their cell phones, cutting off large commercial vehicles, ignoring basic traffic rules, and not paying any attention to the task at hand.

      1. Wait what??? You want everyone to pass a test on motor, and school bus (class B where I live), AND a semi (class A where I live)? Sorry, but that’s just cray-cray. I will never in my life have to use an air brake or a jake brake, but coffee break? Now I’m interested.

        It’s like saying fixed-wing pilots must also be qualified on helicopters and multi-engine jets.

      2. I’m the opposite I’ve had a prius in a blizzard and only got stuck when the snow was headlight height.

        My Subaru has 2 open diffs and easily spins probably doesn’t help it weighs as much as a bag of chips. My fiero prefers going backwards in the snow, and my Austin has pizza cutters for tires. (all manual)

        May also be the tires my dad got extra sticky world destroying non-eco tires for his prius. He got tired of it doing its little dance instead of accelerating.

      3. I agree that many north americans lack driving skills. Many don’t have the standard 30-40 hours of driver’s education in a car with dual controls, like people have in most other places.
        Its fucking ridiculous that you can practically hop in a car, drive around a parking lot of around the block once, and walk away with a valid permit or license…

        It is as dangerous to drive a car in the USA, as it is to drive a motorcycle in the Netherlands.

        I’d love to drive a large commercial vehicles but remember that each license can easily cost a few thousand euro so requiring multiple licenses is not an option.

    4. This is less an argument for manuals and more an argument for not buying used-to-death old cars, but I have one car with a consistently failing interlock switch so about three times a year it won’t start because it’s convinced that something’s wrong. (Usually it’s convinced the clutch isn’t depressed.) So I coast start it, and do that for a week at work and at home until I get around to replacing the switch. On my other car, which is also a frankenstein, the starter motor bolts are inadequately specified. If you torque the OEM bolts to the right specification, you will twist the head off the rear one, the hard-to-get-to one, and if you don’t, the starter will loosen and make a very horrible noise when you try to start, so, you coast start it. (Easier as the car only weighs 800kg.) I finally found a grade 8 bolt that fit and haven’t had that problem lately, but I was sure glad I could coast start. As a result, I always park on hills where available.

    5. >On a stick I’d have had to replace the brakes twice and the clutch once.

      I’ve owned a mid 1980’s Saab that went well over 180,000 miles before the clutch gave, and even then it wasn’t the discs but the clutch piston seals, because it’s hydraulic.

      If it’s still on the first set of brake pads after that long, I would be more worried about the condition of the brake calipers, pistons, and lines having never been serviced. Even if you have some pads left, everything else corrodes and gets full of gunk, while the rubber seals go hard and brittle and eventually break. Same thing goes for electric cars where people brag about how they never need the brakes – but eventually when you do need the mechanical brakes, you’ll wish you had used them more…

  7. Hey why stop there why not go back to a manual choke!

    I really don’t understand how a stick gives increased control over a vehicle. It gives less, as 50% of ones hands are occupied with a function easily automated.

    As for European take-up it’s a cost issue. A chargeable option in Europe that can add £2,500, to the price of a car. In addition fuel consumption is increased; something to figure in when paying $8 a gallon.

    1. Sticks definitely give increased ability to control. For example off road, recently I needed to build up momentum with a rocking motion, an easy task with s manual. You’d just start going and when traction was about to be lost, push the clutch to immediately start rolling backwards… When the momentum was used up you’d then let the clutch go to lurch forward… Enough of these cycles and you might eventually get out of the snowy ditch. But my nice new off road special model from factory was an automatic, thus useless. I was lucky someone came by on that road with a rope to pull me out, as it would have been a long cold walk to get to cell service, and normal tow trucks don’t go off pavement.

      1. It’s not just off-road. My car got snowed in the parking square so the wheels were stuck in depressions in the snow which froze around the wheels. Fancy coming to your car after a weekend of blizzard, thaw and freeze, and finding your wheels embedded in the ground just when you’re about to be late for work.

    2. Heh, I had to do that back in the day, go back to a manual choke, the auto one was screwed up. So it got a $20 quid manual conversion kit instead of $200 quid gold dust electrical parts hoping it would cure it. However, the funny thing was, that something else went wrong on that carb a couple of years later, and for 20 quid at a wrecker, I got a lovely low mileage carb off a car 3 or 4 years newer, with the auto choke on it. It turned out they had revised the servo design and the new one worked beautifully. The choke knob stayed in the dash “just in case” but never needed to be hooked up.

      1. I somewhat prefer the manual choke because on one of my cars, I have to remember to unbolt and rotate the cover over the automatic choke spring every few months as it has a winter and a summer setting and runs kinda lousy if it’s set to the wrong one.
        I’m not a fan of manual spark advance, however.

        1. I only remember something like that on Renaults, it was a lever on the air cleaner box though. I didn’t think it did anything with the choke, but changed from pulling air in near front of car to pulling warm air near exhaust manifold.

    3. Spoken like somebody who is unable to drive manual :) If you’re ignorant, just don’t comment. You don’t have to have an opinion on something you don’t understand.

    4. You are also forgetting maintenance. Even the modern sealed transmissions will need an oil change after some time and it needs periodic checking, or you risk having the car simply refusing to move one day. Auto transmission repairs are costly and many shops will not do rebuilds.
      And then there’s the fun with not being able to tow the car. There’s a considerable cost difference if you can just call a friend with his car or having to call the towing service with a flatbed truck.

      1. People who like automatics will probably eventually go to all electric, maybe with no transmission at all!

        I wonder if they will eventually do a tax on automatics. That seems like a good way to discourage gas cars, while still letting a lot of the real car enthusiasts keep doing their thing and not getting too angry.

    5. We had a Civic from new for 17 years. A new mechanic always said “yup. great car. just keep an eye on the transmission”. Then we’d say it was manual, and they’d reply – Fine . No worries then.

      It never needed clutch repair, and the brake components lasted a long time too. And a small car like that is way more fun to drive with a standard. We now have a Mazda 3, also stick… same thing. Zoom, zoom.

    6. Have you ever driven a manual transmission? Shifting takes a single second, if you take it easy. Maybe 1% of the time at worst. It is not something you do very conciously once you get used to it.

      Aside from that, a typical automatic does not allow you to shift the weight to the front, as a torque converter does not allow for much engine braking. It can do it with the gear selector by putting it in a lower range, but it’s just not as delicate as in a manual car.

      For normal driving, i prefer a manual. It just feels better.
      For stop and go traffic and traffic jams, i prefer a traditional torque converter automatic. Keeping your foot on the clutch is annoying and not good for the spinny bits. Though i much prefer my (manual) bike over any car in traffic.

  8. Eh, I don’t know. I prefer having an automatic in my daily driver. Not really looking for performance on my commute.
    My ‘fun’ vehicle has a pretty stiff clutch, and that adds to the frustration if I drive it in stop and go traffic. But weekends at the track – that’s when I want the manual transmission.

    1. Of course that raises the question… why do people suffer through years of daily stop’n’go traffic? I lost my tolerance for that years ago. Transit or bicycle for me, please.

    2. Good news for you: on all modern performance vehicles (mustang to ferrari), the performance (in terms of 0-60mph) of autos is better than the equivalent model vehicle using a manual. The fuel economy is better too. Everyone posting here talking about performance and fuel savings is working on old data, check the 0-60 times and EPA ratings for literally any 2020 model year “performance” vehicle and you will find this to be true.

      Manuals shift slower than a quality auto trans, and it negatively impacts the functionality. Anyone wishing for a manual in a performance vehicle is either out of touch with modern technology or just wants to hold a stick in their hand for personal reasons.

      1. I’m not looking for faster than automatic or better gas mileage. I’m looking for the experience (and control) of chosing when to shift and into which gear. One day, I might need to try a car with paddle shifters on the column to see how that feels.

  9. Infrastructure… majority of North American road and cityscape infrastructure punishes manual drivers, Europe rewards manual driving. Stop signs vs roundabouts.

    Driver behaviour is different also. In multilane highway congestion, if you see google traffic or active signage suggesting the average speed ahead is 25mph, then north americans are doing 0-50-0-50-0 every 30 seconds, while Europeans are chugging along at idle in 3rd gear @ 25mph.

        1. Sad thing is, I think they do. Well not sad for them. If even ‘rona doesn’t convince us to see the use of centralized single-payer healthcare, I have no hope for this place.

      1. Around here (SE Minnesota) they have been putting in a lot of roundabouts in the past 10 years.
        My only gripe about them is _IF_ the roundabout replaced an intersection with road that didn’t have a stop sign, but intersected a road that did, The drivers on the road that didn’t have the stop sign think they don’t have to yield to someone entering from the road they previously had one. In other words, they don’t slow down (much) for the roundabout or look to see if someone on one of the former stop sign roads would be reaching or entering first. And if there is a line of cars on the old through road, those drivers could care less if another car on the old stop sign road has been sitting waiting for their chance to enter.

  10. It’s not that automatics are a luxury in the UK or Europe, it’s just that we believe you are not a real adult if you don’t drive a manual car (that’s written only partially tongue-in-cheek!)

    I’ve never driven an automatic, and indeed would probably have issues if I had to!

    But to be fair, automatics are far more responsive these days than they used to be, when they got a pretty poor reception over here – also they cost more and that wasn’t attractive for something that wasn’t even as good as the alternative.

    1. It probably took me 2 years to get comfortable with driving an automatic, 2 years to stabilise and stop swearing at it, and 2 years to actually learn how to /drive/ an automatic. Your ordinary driver probably doesn’t progress to third stage though. Anyway, you know how your clutch foot is way more sensitive, you’ve gotta develop that sensitivity/feedback-response in your right foot. You think you have it, but you don’t. When you actually have it, your auto transmission is now gesture controlled.

  11. > This sad picture includes everything from cute two-seater commuters to — surprisingly enough — multi-million dollar super cars built for ultimate performance.

    The super cars are designed in such a way that stick shift is actually worse.

    1. So the message is that supercars are made for people who don’t want to drive the car – instead they want to simply boast about track times and performance stats, and how much the whole thing cost.

      They’ve made “point-and-click” cars where everything is so pre-planned that the computer would become confused and mess things up if the driver had any more control than just pointing the steering wheel into the curve – but that makes it more like a roller coaster ride than racing or driving.

  12. Being from the UK, I had a manual car from 1989 (1973 VW Beetle) to 2006 (VW Golf Mk 2). So, during the 90s and early noughties I totally bought into the whole manual gears as giving greater control and therefore better. In the UK the vast majority of cars have manual gears.

    Then my Smart car in 2006 gave me a tip-tronic semi-automatic gear. It was really sluggish when changing gear (you flip the gear stick forwards to go up 1 gear and down to go down), but the ease of driving without a clutch pedal made it worthwhile. I bought the Smart car in order to reduce emissions: I was able to get up to 73MPG on … grief I’ve forgotten the petrol gradings (not the ’95 one, the ’97 one).

    The reason I’ve forgotten is that I now have an EV which inevitably is automatic. They’re the future; it’s as simple as that. There’s only one gear and so the continuous transmission gives you as much control as you want. All across Europe we’re switching to automatics and we won’t regret it :-) .

    1. EVs too would get better range if there was two gears instead of one, because the motor doesn’t run efficiently the whole way from zero to top speed – but the gearbox adds price to an already expensive platform that is struggling to become affordable as it is.

      1. I’ve read a bit about EV designs with 2 gears, for example, during the original Tesla roadster development . I’ve not heard price as the obstacle.

        A single gear EV has more than capable torque at pretty much any speed: efficiency is much higher at around 90% across an enormous RPM range. It might happen, but multiple gear EVs won’t appear soon, even when they become far cheaper than ICEs.

        1. At least in the case of the Roadster development, Tesla dropped the multigear transmission idea because they broke too often (due to excessive torque, if memory serves). Lord only knows what performance they could get out of their cars if a two speed was an option.

          1. The performance is limited by the battery. The full power output is only available when the voltage is high because they have to limit the current to not cook the battery cells. They’re not LiPo cells that can handle 50C discharge, but more like 5C maximum, since Tesla uses cells that are prone to thermal runaway (NCA).

            Every time they added more cells to the Model S, they shaved fractions off of the 0-60 time. This is why “Ludicurous mode” isn’t available all the time.

  13. I drove nothing but manuals from my teens into my 50’s, except for a couple throwaway cars (short-term junkers, like during repairs after hitting a deer) and some heavy equipment (Gotta love a 25ton machine with a Detroit and a 2-speed Allison).

    My last manual was a truck, and made near 300,000Km on the factory clutch. Brakes every 50000.

    I didn’t choose auto, but there was literally no option. No manual option at all. I honestly don’t miss manual, though I do periodically, even after several years, have the return of the shift reflex. Not so bad one side, as there is nothing where the clutch should be, but the “selector lever” is right where the gearshift belongs, and I have knocked it out of gear.

    1. It’s all good until you put it into Park on the highway….. most only make an ungodly amount of noise as the pawl hammers in and out, cures constipation in 90% of passengers!

        1. I found that out too – my Prius has a park button and one day I was absent-minded and pushed it while driving down the road – it just beeped a few times, put itself in neutral, displayed a message on the dash and kept rolling

          relieved I was.

        1. Even an elbow bump can do it on some, due to the placement of the mechanical lock button. They should ALL be to the side, or require a sideward movement from range to range. Too many, for styling reasons and cost, are straight pulls with the lock button on the front (drag from park all the way down because just shoving backwards releases the lock and moves the control) or, worse, on the back (palm position), so pushing the back of the stick will run it all of the way to park. My current truck has it in the front, so I periodically find it in range-lock position rather than drive. There is no feedback of mid-stop.

          (2.5MKm driven. Three totalled vehicles, one deer, one the other driver on the wrong side of the road while speeding, one tee-boned by a stolen car when I lived in the city. One speeding ticket, and an obstructed license plate ticket. That includes decades of 10KKm years on a bike)

        2. For me, it happened in 1976, I was driving an unfamiliar older car and the engine died when I was traveling downhill ~55 MPH. I attempted to restart the car the only way I knew, (from Park). For a brief moment the transmission gave out a BRRRRRRRT like the GAU-8 on an A-10. It restarted okay when I moved the lever to Neutral. (@#$@#*& Chrysler product)

          1. IIRC some of the older torqueflites had a rear pump, which engaged when you were in 2nd gear in 2 but not in D or something, so could be bump started.

    2. I hate to admit it, but more than once, I’ve been on a business trip and tried to push in the clutch on my (automatic) rental car, which means I’ve slammed on the brakes instead.

  14. As someone who grew up learning manual(In Aussieland) and over the last few years have driven an automatic, I can say that the big thing I miss about manual is the control. I don’t miss changing gears, but I do miss that direct control over the car, being able to select a gear where I can do all the control with the throttle/engine breaking and not have the ‘coasting’ effect that automatics have..
    However the more I play with an experience EVs with selectable regen, the more that is what I find the best.. You have the same direct feeling control between the road, motor and throttle as a manual, but without needing to change ranges with gear select.
    Same with riding the EV motorcycles, everything I love about being on two wheels would still be there just with a motor that has a single rev range from zero to top speed.

  15. I emigrated from the Netherlands to the USA about 20 years ago. It took a little getting used to, to drive an automatic (I remember my head almost hitting the steering wheel in a hotel parking lot on the first morning after I arrived when I instinctively tried to stamp the clutch that wasn’t there). And I owned a stick shift for a while after I emigrated because it was what I was used to.

    But now I drive a CVT and I think it’s the best thing ever. Stick shifts are a PITA in slow traffic, and automatics are a pain when you want to do basic things like accelerate quickly or spend less money on gasoline (the torque converter eats up way too much energy), or drive down a hill (when your engine disagrees about accelerating vs. decelerating). With a CVT, I feel like I have more power, more control and more efficiency.

    The only problem I have with my current car is that there’s always a delay between the gas pedal and the engine, because it has stupid servos instead of direct wire control. But that’s a whole different story.

    When I visit Europe it’s annoying that rental car companies usually don’t even offer automatics because only city buses and old grannies have them. But with more cars being hybrid or electric, that will probably slowly change. The stick shift (actually any gear box) is a compromise to make up for flaws of internal combustion engines. Nobody should have to deal with that rubbish anymore.

    === Jac

    1. I don’t remember if the Nissan I rented in England was auto or manual… as I am familiar with both, there were “other” differences (such as driving on the “wrong” side of the road B^)) to worry about.

      As I mention once before, when we reserved the rental we were told they didn’t supply GPS, wondered how we would get out of Manchester, moreso find our way to London.
      But, we were relieved when we found out it had “SatNav”!

      We _really_ are “two countries separated by a common language.”
      (Winston Churchill)

    2. (I remember my head almost hitting the steering wheel in a hotel parking lot on the first morning after I arrived when I instinctively tried to stamp the clutch that wasn’t there)

      We’ve all done it :-)

      1. Almost had me??? You never had your car! (Ok, that commend does come first, but I couldn’t remember the follow up comment re: handing it over to the mad scientist to fix it.)

      1. If you wanna try to relive it, try renting one of the large U-Hauls from an agent in the boonies. All the synchros will be worn out and the hydraulic clutch will have a leak, so it will only disengage for about a quarter second when you spike the pressure by stamping on it as hard as you can. Also the tires will probably be bald, so it will be a little skittish on anything but dry blacktop, preferably freshly laid or hella hot so it’s sticky.

  16. I think the writer brings up a great point about automatic. It brings into question an issue of safety. Yes an Auto makes the car easier to drive, but it also lowers the barrier of entry to drive, which means there are less capable drivers on the road who also have a free hand to use their phone.

  17. Given any choice, I will buy a car with a manual (“standard” ha ha) transmission. My Tacoma is manual, my Camry has an automatic. I go back and forth from one to another “seamlessly” (I hate that word, but I just found an opportunity to use it, ha ha ho ho). But I have been expecting to face replacing the Tacoma (2000 model) some fine day and will do my best to get another manual Tacoma – but expect a challenge.

    However, what I see happening is that it won’t be worth producing both manual and automatic transmissions. Why should they continue the tooling and production of a niche item that accounts for a few percent of their sales? That will be a sad day. The bright part of what I am learning here is that Europe provides the market for manual transmissions that will keep them available. I am glad that Europe is full of “real adults” so that the handful of real adults over here will be able to get the gear we need.

    1. That reminds me, during the Korean “Conflict”, the US Army “deucenhalf” (2.5 ton truck) had an automatic transmission, because they didn’t think the soldiers were smart enough to handle a stick, but by Viet Nam, they used stick shift in the deucenhalves, but now they are back to automatics…

  18. I used to drive an Audi TT convertible with a dual clutch direct shift gearbox. It’s like an automatic manual transmission. Shifts faster than you can shift manually, and shifting is perfectly smooth. There’s no reason to have a manual stick shift any more. The same gearbox is used in a lot of VWs and all Audis, I think.

    1. “There’s no reason to have a manual stick shift any more. ”

      Especially if you LOVE complex mechanisms that require Factory Trained Specialists to troubleshoot and repair!

      1. yea my wife’s ford focus has been in the shop twice for mechanical recalls and one software update thanks to a dry dual clutch setup and it sometimes shifts like a 15 year old on their first drive just out of nowhere.

        I have 2 manual transmission cars and the most I have had the fluid changed

        1. I had the fluid changed on my CR-V auto transmission a few months ago.
          It was in the shop for something else, and after 190000 miles figured it could use a change.
          I was surprised to find out that the auto transmission does not have filter to change out.
          (Probably because it is a sealed transmission, ergo, no dipstick.)

          1. I assure you it has a filter, but it’s above the transmission oil pan, you have to drain the oil, remove a bunch of bolts, muscle the pan off (goop-on sealant), replace the filter, clean the mating surfaces of the oil pan, put sealant on, bolt it back on, refill oil…they probably didn’t want to do that.

  19. Sometimes i’ve got a automatic car for the time mine were in the yearly service inspection. I would never buy such one when there is an alternative to a shifting type. All of these often change the gear to early or to late and sometimes to often because they could not predict the traffic early enough. Gliding in traffic is easyer with a shifter. (in my opinion)

  20. simple fact is, here in the UK, if you pass your test in a Manual (Stick Shift) you can drive both Stick and Auto.

    if you test in an Auto, you have to retest – and pay again (£62 for each Practical test, plus the Theory Test, £23 but you only have to take that once) – to get your Manual licence.. so everyone opt’s to take the cheaper route and go Stick.

  21. Sorry to be a downer, but this is not the best article I’ve read in a while – it certainly belongs here, but it’s… kind of missing the forest for the trees.

    For a start, manual transmissions are steadily being phased out in Europe as well, and as others have said – it’s because Hybrid and Electric cars don’t have manual gearboxes. The trend is slower here, but that’s because we started from a much lower automatic-manual ratio in the beginning. My first car was manual because that’s what we learn on, but after that – I’ll likely never own another.

    A lot of companies are taking advantage of the tax breaks that accompany hybrid cars, even if not going full electric. This speeds up their adoption in the used market, because these cars are usually sold on by the time they need their first MOT – and things like the Leaf and the Zoë are rapidly gaining traction here as well, through direct sales to consumers. With the mass availability of the Model 3, the release of the Mini, and even Ford going all-in on Hybrid cars – Manual transmissions are going to see a rapid phase-out in Europe. But it has nothing to do with any of the benefits or flaws outlined in the article, and everything to do with the change in how we power our vehicles.

    1. Worth clarifying, there is still a large market for Diesel cars in Europe, and most of these are sold with manual gearboxes. However the emissions-cheating scandal, citywide emissions control zones and legally enforced phase-outs are going to put an end to those sooner than later.

        1. On the other hand, areas with high Nitrous Oxide and particulate emissions are strongly correlated with dramatically increased deaths from SARS-CoV-2; and well correlated with poorer long-term health outcomes.

          So Diesels can go die in a fire, and if manual transmissions go with them? Whoop die fucken’ doo.

          1. If you want to get rid of diesel, get rid of the ridiculous fuel taxes on gasoline. That’s the only reason why 50% of the cars in the EU are diesels.

          2. Alas, in countries with vast driving distances, hybrids and gasoline cars do not make any sense if you pay the fuel from your own pockets. That leaves diesel power as the only realistic alternative.

    2. Yes, electric cars don’t really need anything more fancy then a fixed ratio on their transmission. (Electric motors tends to have high torque at low RPMs, and also have the ability to reach fairly stupendous RPMs at the high end. So kinda perfect for driving a car together with a fixed ratio gear set.)

      Hybrids largely aren’t sold as manual transmissions. Though, theoretically it shouldn’t be too hard.
      There is advantages with manual transmissions, primarily that the driver knows what they intend on doing next, and can see the situation up ahead, unlike an automatic transmission that aims for what is best at current.

      Though, a manual transmission could be something as simple as a pair of buttons to inform the automatic transmission if it should step up or down one gear. (But that is typically sold as “fancy” “sports transmission”.)

      1. Electric motors have poor efficiency below 20% of their rated nominal speed under VFD or BLDC type drives (most types). This is necessarily so because the motor efficiency at 0 RPM is exactly 0% – it’s not spinning so it doesn’t do any work – just static torque.

        Once the motor picks up speed, it gradually climbs to 97-98% at the top before it starts to lose power due to winding impedance. The trick is that you have to gear the motor so that you don’t lose power at the top end, and you don’t run below 20% at city limits. Usually if your top speed is geared to 120 mph, your efficiency becomes poor below 25 mph and your city mileage suffers. It’s just not so readily apparent in comparison to regular case because EVs do not “idle” (except AC, fans, pumps, lights…)

        If you had a second gear for lower speeds, you could add up to a third more to your range. Tesla tried to with the original Roadster, but they ran into problems with the massive torque requirements because they wanted the acceleration all the way from zero RPM.

        1. Yes, efficiency of electric motors is fairly poor at really low speeds. (And at 0 RPM they don’t actually do any physical work. (Ie, we don’t get any movement of energy, it is just static forces.) Also why electric motors are one of the worst parking break in the world…)

          The RPM/Efficiency curve will though likely vary rather greatly depending on power. Not to mention different motor designs. But yes, it will have efficiency loss at the “ends” of its operational range.

          But even 100 Mph is a speed most consumer cars logically have little to no reason to travel at. (since just air resistance itself at those speeds makes it a rather inefficient mode of transportation. Even going at 80 Mph is a speed that caters to “personal convenience” more than it caters to efficiency.)

          Though, peak efficiency for a given car varies greatly depending on many factors. (Would be interesting to see a table of efficiency/speed for various car models.)

          1. Don’t forget that the peak output power for the motor is at half the nominal top speed where the back-EMF equals the battery voltage and no more current can be put in.

            In order to reach 100 MPH, you have to gear it to go something like 160 MPH or even more to account for the falling battery voltage, because your power starts dropping after the half-way point and you hit drag limits. This is why EVs don’t boast with very high top speeds.

  22. I am glad to be part of the 2% that bought a manual car last year (Miata). Will the manual ever go away? I don’t think so. But it’s going to go the way of the horse. What was once a staple for transportation, slowly became transportation for those who couldn’t afford automobiles, and now horses are enjoyed by enthusiasts. The same thing is happening here.
    The Miata currently has a 76% and 52% take rate for manual on the soft and hard top models.
    The Subaru BRZ has a manual take rate of 78%.
    Other sports cars still have manuals too, like the BMW 2 and 4 series, Camaro, Challenger, Mustang, 911,

    There’s still some commuter cars that come with manuals as standard too, like Subaru’s Impreza and WRX lineup, and almost all of MINI’s lineup. And if you look hard enough, you can still find manual civics and corollas. But I see these drying up in the next few years.

    It seems that there’s still a market for light and nimble, cheap and cheerful cars that can be enjoyed at low speeds with 3 pedals. It’s just the rest of the manual commuter cars that are going to disappear.

    1. Somewhat incredibly, Honda Accords can still be purchased with manuals here in the US. That’s really quite uncommon for that market segment, but is probably a reflection of brand loyalty, and the types of transmissions the owners may have had in their previous cars.

  23. (Sarcasm What about Safety and the Environment! The robolords are smarter and more moral than you!

    The right to control your vehicle is going the way of right to repair it.

    I don”t mind a stick, but I’m not in stop and go traffic. My main vehicle is automatic, but I don”t know of any motorcycle that has an automatic, and even that is more subtle to control.

  24. In 40-odd years of motoring I only bought one auto car – a Rover P5 – because there was no manual V8. And I had to have the V8. But I drove the auto box in 1-2-D like it was a manual, and made it shift when _I_ wanted to.

  25. I’ve driven with manual transmissions since the 90’s, and they are great when you know how to use them (I saved my life once, braking with the gearbox, on my ’91 Chevrolet Monza when I lost brakes at 100km/h). But the current technology of the automatic gearboxes is so great now, that I wouldn’t change the ZF8 of my BMW 640i for a stick transmission… The sport+ mode of the ZF8 is like driving manual, but without the noise of my left knee pushing the clutch pedal.

  26. I love manual transmissions, as long as they’re in someone else’s car. Ever since automatic transmissions stopped being terrible, there is no reason for me to bother rowing my own.

  27. It wasn’t that long ago that most cars which could be had with either an auto or manual transmission, the manual would have the better acceleration and fuel efficiency ratings. Now a days, where its common to have automatics with 6 to 10 gear ratios, that’s just not the case anymore. As for the argument that superior performance can be attained due to being in the driver’s control, that’s simply thrown out the window when you consider that automation features common in family road cars isn’t all that different from what you find in the top levels of motorsport: ABS, computerized engine management, and yes, some automated gearbox functionality. Some race cars might have a clutch pedal, but generally only to get going from a dead stop (particularly when using dog boxes), but not really necessary in the other types of single and dual clutch automated manuals. You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that your trip to the grocery store requires more functions that are under the driver’s control than what’s required by a race car driver.

    I suspect the thing that keeps manuals alive and well in many parts of the world (though finding that automatics are becoming more common there too) is not only inertia, but the fact that demand for cheap compact cars is still strong. Manuals can still be built cheaper than automatics, but I suspect the difference in cost has never been smaller.

    I don’t disparage people from wanting a car with a manual – mine has one, but it hails from the era when automatics were still inferior in many ways. It’s just that my eyes will probably roll into the back of my head if you claim you need it because a superior driver needs infinite control.

    That said, I sort of wish manual CVTs were a thing. It would be interesting to play around with.

    1. ABS, traction control, and even computerized engine management is all fairly common on “manual” cars. (Both ABS and traction control are legally required on all new cars since over a decade back.)

      And most race cars fall into the term “manual”, because one manually selects what gear one desires to be in for both the current, but also upcoming situation.

      That is something Automatics lacks, they don’t know what is down the road, automatics only act on what is currently happening. And don’t prepare for what is about to happen.

      With a manual transmission, one can plan ahead and utilize the resources at hand more optimally.

      Also, in a race car, the requirements are very different. There we don’t need to smooth out the speed to increase fuel efficiency and lower overall wear on the car. In a race, the only thing of importance is to make the fastest possible lap. (It really isn’t comparable to everyday driving requirements.)

      And yes, a manually controlled CVT would be an interesting feature.

      1. >(Both ABS and traction control are legally required on all new cars since over a decade back.)

        Which is ironic, since both are required for safety, yet studies have shown that people with ABS and TCS drive more recklessly because their car behaves nicely even when driven at the limits of safety. Same effect as how 4WD makes people drive faster in the winter because it feels like you’ve got more grip… to the point that people say you don’t need winter tires if you have 4WD.

        1. Yes. People are very reckless in their mindset, without really knowing it.

          Though, those people tend to remove themselves from the equation over time as they get into serious accidents. But as other safety features exist too, they tend to survive and often without major injuries. Before going back into the same old reckless habits….

          One reason why I would prefer if cars kept track of how often safety features are used, and take note if they are used frequently enough to be considered abuse. (And at that point, one can just as well consider that the person is a reckless driver and suspend their driver’s license, since without the systems they would have been in numerous accidents due to their behavior.)

          I myself have only had the traction control kick in twice. (one time due to snow/ice, the other due to not yet being in tune with a car I hadn’t driven much.) ABS has also kicked in once or twice over the years, usually due to invisible ice or people/animals jumping out into the road…

          Unlike some people I have sat next to that have the traction control and ABS kicking in numerous times on a short drive without the person even reflecting on it….

          At least the air bags in a car are a bit less forgiving.

          1. Unless they’re Takata bags, in which case you might as well have a shotgun pointing at your face.

            Which goes back to the old adage that the best safety device for a car is a 12″ railroad spike in the middle of the steering wheel.

          2. Well, I would say that Takata’s airbags are “less forgiving” than most other safety features.

            Unlike ABS and traction control that mostly blinks a light, and makes the car act a bit funny for a bit as it handles the situation, and then when its done, it won’t bother you about it ever again, practically forgiving you of your mistake.

            The Takata airbag on the other hand might decide to end your life due to that mistake instead. Rather unforgiving of it.

          3. An airbag isn’t really a safety feature any more than a helmet is. It doesn’t keep you out of harm’s way – it just attempts to harm you less.

      2. The point I was making is that there’s a limit to the amount of control even race car drivers need, nevermind people just doing regular commutes. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car with manual transmission, or a carburetor, or whatever else, but I just don’t buy that those things make them inherently a more capable driver in any way that is of importance. Also, the gripes with automatics many people are commenting on for the most part aren’t some inherent shortcoming, but mostly software implementation. Many cars allow you to select the gear, and some will even hold them while you bounce off the rev limiter. The torque converter could also stay locked making it as direct as a manual. And traction control can (and does) cut the throttle on a manual just as it does in an automatic.

        I’d even argue that a transmission with enough gear ratios (to reduce unexpected jarring and upsetting the chassis) that allow immediate arbitrary gear selection (like a regular automatic, or the gearbox in the Koenigsegg Jesko), many if not most motorsports drivers would do fine with not having control of the gear selection. Just like they’ve been fine without having full control of the brakes due to ABS – in fact, performance has improved because of it.

        1. It’s not that manuals make driver more capable. It’s the opposite. The control gives you choices to act according to your skill, rather than driving just the way the gearbox was programmed to behave.

          There’s just this myth that you can only drive in one best way – choose gears in the same way in every situation, for every purpose – that you have to e.g. motor brake instead of coasting. The automatics try to give you “options” for sports or cruise with different programs, but that’s just not the same thing.

    2. “You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that your trip to the grocery store requires more functions that are under the driver’s control than what’s required by a race car driver.”

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If we’re using Formula 1 as an example, those drivers do not have to use the clutch to shift gears and are essentially driving automated manuals. So yes. They are not using a clutch, while I would be, were I to drive to the grocery store. However, that’s balanced with me NOT having control over any sort of drag reduction system, i’m also not in control of any ‘push to pass’ overboost function on the engine, nor am I having to deal with messing around wtih my brake biases or adjusting the differential on the fly etc. Take a look at a Formula 1 steering wheel, the idea that we have more to deal with than a race car driver just because we need to use the clutch while shifting gears is, i think flawed.

      That said, I do think you’re correct in that the manual is dying. I don’t even think they’re cheaper to manufacture anymore, thanks to economies of scale. And with the increased efficiency of many forms of modern automatics (i’m including DCTs and CVT’s here) there isn’t any argument to be made about fuel economy. Truth be told, THAT was the reason people bought manuals in Europe, which is why Europe will eventually eclipse America in terms of the number of automatics relative to manuals. Americans still prefer their performance cars with manual transmissions, while Europeans generally do not.

      A manual CVT would be interesting, cool and fun.

      1. Another big reason is that European cars are more expensive due to higher taxes in general, so people buy older cars, or just the standard trim options, and shy away from anything that would require expensive repairs down the line or de-value the resale price for the same reason. Americans would rather go to debt buying a new car instead.

  28. That’s why I take great care of my 96 Miata and 04 Forester XT. If you are in for the long haul manual transmissions are simple, fun, and will last forever.

    1. That used to be true, I’m not sure it generally is since the late 90s. While automatic tx are getting more reliable, more and more “last possible pennies” are shaved off the cost of manuals to keep them cheap as volume discount declines, and overheads have to be shared between less units. It was noticeable first in heavy tow vehicles, for max tow rating you needed a manual… until you didn’t… the automatics took over, the token manuals left maybe only have half the tow rating of the HD autos.

  29. I learned to drive stick but once I got my own car, well at least for my teens and twenties a stick would have gotten in the way too much during all those long drives with the girlfriend!

    After the first couple decades of driving an automatic I still can manage a stick when I need to but don’t have any real need for it.

  30. I live in northern Wisconsin where we get a lot of snow. I learned how to drive on a manual transmission when I was 12 (rurals do not care about drivers licenses as much, especially If you may need to drive your elderly grandparents to the emergency room). Until recently, I have always owned cars with manual transmissions. I always enjoyed driving. My last car with a manual transmission had 260,000 miles with the original clutch and second set of brakes when I sold it. I always engine brake. I put 140,000 miles on the first set of brakes. They were only half worn but one of the pads broke. The second set still looked great when I sold the car. Three years ago I bought my first automagic, a Honda CRV with all wheel drive. I still subconsciously reach for the shift lever and stomp on a nonexistent clutch. Also, I am on my second transmission, and I do not abuse my cars. Now driving feels like a chore. The CRV also has ABS. It is the first car I ever owned with ABS. I yanked the fuse for the ABS after the first snowstorm we got since I bought the car. I live on a steep hill with a busy hwy at the bottom of the hill. The stupid ABS would no let me stop. Never had a problem with normal brakes, never had a problem since I yanked the fuse.

    The next car I buy will have both all wheel drive and a real manual transmission. And a way to disable the ABS.

    1. Yes, ABS still sucks on loose surfaces, won’t let the tire plow up snow or gravel to dig in. All it’s done now in “refinement” is try harder to hide when it’s kicking in through noise or pedal feel.

      1. My 20 yo Nissan Quest can’t lose traction control. FWD. Even when I drove out onto a sheet of black ice, I stopped and then backed up, no problem. Gravel, mud, etc.

        I take it in the mountains mushroom hunting, and I go down roads usually only trucks can manage. Snow on top of loose pumice? No problem. Mud? No problem. Creek crosses the gravel road? No problem.

        8 inches of fresh snow, no problem, hills, no problem. Freezing rain leaving a sheet of ice under new snow? No problem. I’m the only one on the road in a two wheel drive with no chains, and it goes wherever I ask it. Slush? No problem. Frozen slush? No problem. Freeway onramps? No problem! The offramp with the stop light at the bottom? No problem.

        I’m just glad in the mountains that they only require us to carry chains, they only have to be actually put on at the top of the pass, because it sucks driving with them, I don’t have as good of traction.

  31. I do get the fun of manual transmission and I had many hours of joy because of it, but on the other hand I can’t wait to get an electric car under my ass. It’s just one less thing to worry about and more attention on the road. We should really move on here.

    1. “It’s just one less thing to worry about and more attention on the road.”

      But as near history has shown, most people will pay less attention to the road/vehicle/situation.

    2. Yep. The huge appeal to me is the mechanical simplicity. I’ve lost interest in all the various rocking and rolling and sliding bits that make up an internal combustion drivetrain. It’s a small miracle that they’re reliable at all. I long for fewer moving parts. Hopefully the undesirable aspects of batteries is reduced in the future.

  32. It’s misleading to say that nobody can shift a manual faster than an automatic controlled by a computer.

    The computer reacts, the person plans, so the automatic always shifts late. It’s just shifting late really rapidly…

      1. Of course you can tell the automatic to keep it in third, or change up/down, but it has no advantage for the speed when it’s done ahead of time. Only if you’re trying to shave milliseconds off of your 0-60 time.

        1. Or when shifting down a gear to use the engine as a break.
          Kinda useful when the traffic up ahead is a bit on the slow side.
          Smooths out the ride a bit, ensuring one doesn’t need to come to a full stop. (since getting back from such is going to wear more on the clutch than just switching gear to be fair.)

          Not to mention that the engine needs to work a lot less to get the same end result.

          1. Lifting the throttle does indeed fix the majority of the situations.
            Though, if I see traffic waiting for a red light up ahead, I usually shift down a gear or two.
            Usually slowing down sufficiently for the light to turn green and the cars to get up to speed.
            Then I don’t need to hassle about with breaking to a stop, and getting the car back up to speed again. (Though, sometimes the car behind gets annoyed and overtakes, only to then stand there at the red light like a fool…)

  33. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone mention what I feel to be the biggest issue with an auto, and it’s the ability to fix (or inexpensively have fixed) mechanical problems when they arise and the ability to modify. The automation of an auto isn’t a huge deal, there all controlled by cilinoids which can be replaced and controlled.

    For instance I’ve had two automatics in the past a 2001 accord and a 2005 HHR (dont ask, lol) and they both ended up junk in my eyes due to the torque converter, where as a manual would have been a few hour clutch job. I could be wrong but it’s my understanding that a torque converter can not be reliably replaced due to its unique wear on the bell housing, I know someone who did a replacement against advice with a pick and pull replacement torque converter on a Tahoe and had issues again after a few thousand miles. So basically if you burn out a TqConverter your looking at a few grand for a new tranny, vs a few hundred for a clutch. And if your automatic has a fixable mechanical issue with jets or gears you will paying close the price of a new tranny for someone to rebuild, unless your the transmission specialist.

    1. This. Not familiar with the unique wear thing, but generally ratio changing trannys have wear parts and auto boxes hide theirs in a jewel box of complexity. I suspect, admittedly without data, auto trans glitches take a lot of otherwise serviceable cars off the road when they’re not worth the entry cost of thinking about opening the tranny.

      Otoh, torque-split type hybrids with understressed engines and a single constantly engaged gear train could be a way to make cars that ~never eat their expensive parts.

      Anyone know why real sequential boxes aren’t a thing in production cars? My guess is because cars, being heavy and often stopped, need too much flywheel for ~instant crank rpm changes. But ???

      1. Some ultra high performance cars have single clutch automated manuals with the clutch controlled by the computer (most notably, Ferrari in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Lamborghini throughout the 2000’s and the 2003ish BMW M3) but I don’t think they were ‘true sequentials’ like what a motorcycle would have. They were just manual transmissions with a computer controlling the clutch.

        The only true sequential that I can think of is the BAC Mono, a super lightweight track special that’s only technically road legal. I think part of it is the flywheel, but also you’d be asking a transmission manufacturer to produce a bespoke transmission (because motorcycle units don’t have a reverse gear) which would have to be built in extremely small numbers, so profitability would be suspect. And the end result would lack the kind of refinement most people want in a car.

        1. Yes to all that. But high cost for a bespoke item is a result rather than cause for none in production. I’m sure a bespoke car-size 10sp auto would have cost Bond Villain money 10yrs ago.

          Is there a fundamental reason other than flywheel inertia why real sequential gearboxes haven’t happened in production cars? Especially since +/- shift controls becoming a “sporty” thing would seem to have prepared a market.

          I suppose the question could be: why was DSG easier to develop?

  34. I always find it interesting the opposite phenomenon happens with motorcycles (least in the USA). Cars went to become dominated by automatic transmissions. Motorcyclists are reluctant and fight advancements like Honda’s DCT transmissions. I want my next car to be automatic for resale reasons, but my next bike will certainly have a clutch lever.

    1. It’s a bit different. Automatic bikes suck. Hard. There’s a reason why there are so few. You’ll also notice they don’t have seatbelts, although there was a brief Mississippi law requiring bikers to buckle up which was hilariously frustrating. It’s just a separate situation in many ways. Using a sequential shifter is way easier and better than having a crapass gimmicky two-wheeler automatic, which in my experience have never really been done well. Many a brave engineer has tried, but none have really succeeded yet imho. Trikes are an exception, but those don’t really behave the same way. And they are very silly.

      1. That’s what makes me skeptical of the new Africa Twin. “This is a lot of money to spend on something I don’t trust when my money is just as green at KTM, Yamaha, Suzuki, etc”

  35. I actually prefer my stick shift in traffic. I can sit in second gear with the clutch engaged and modulate my speed for a wide range of traffic conditions. I don’t slam on my brakes when traffic slows ahead, and I don’t rush to accelerate.

    After driving automatics for several years, I got used to them (I learned in a manual, and my first 3 vehicles were manual beaters). But now I am back in a manual commuter hatch, and I love driving it. So much so, that even when I was thinking about selling it, I had a tough time accepting an auto. I ended up keeping it, cheaper to keeper (ironic, as I’m divorced). A track day refreshed the fun of having the car.

    The only justification I truly care about is I enjoy it more. You can’t change my mind on what I enjoy, that isn’t up to debate.

    1. “I actually prefer my stick shift in traffic. I can sit in second gear with the clutch engaged and modulate my speed for a wide range of traffic conditions.”

      If the average speed of traffic is “creep”, such as when there is highway construction or an accident up ahead, I prefer an automatic over having to tease a clutch when “idle in lowest gear” is still too fast.

  36. My reason for prefering a manual is simply because I like them. Sort of like a giant fidget toy, or like programming in assembly language. You do it because you can. I wouldn’t waste time arguing that one is better either way. I’ll be sad when I can no longer own and drive one, but there are lots of things that are no longer part of our world that I could shed tears over. I won’t. I’ll just move on and drive an automatic.

    1. +1 – well put. I have to admit having had an auto with 6-speed manual mode with ‘bump’? control on the shifter, it does have some decent tradeoffs. Even in stop-and-go traffic, I usually leave it in manual mode. Much less of a pain in traffic, still have much better control in the winter than auto, ‘I’ll shift when I want’, but not quite as fun without direct clutch control.

  37. Your scenario of push/roll starting the car in case of a dead (or nearly so) battery is no longer possible with newer cars, manual transmission or no. You have to have enough power to run the fuel pump and the computer for the engine to be able to start.

    1. No, your missing the point. A “dead” battery means: doesn’t have (or hold) enough energy to crank the motor. The starter is by (by far) the biggest electrical consumer and cranking a takes a lot of power (and not only that but also a as-high-as-possible voltage which a drained battery cannot provide); replacing the need for electrical energy by mechanical energy makes a hell lot of a difference.

    2. – There’s plenty of gray area between a good battery and completely dead battery where you’d have enough juice to fire up the computer and fuel pump, but couldn’t turn it over well enough to start, that it can still apply. I’ve done it on ECU/FI manual’s before.

  38. The more recent steel belt CVT automatics are a considerable advance over the older “slushboxes”. For instance, our 2018 Corolla does about 1600 RPM at 100k, whereas our 2009 Matrix with a similar engine and a conventional 4 speed did 2400.

    Also, the CVTs work very well with computers. With a bit of finesse, its possible to accelerate to highway speeds from a standing stop at a constant RPM; one can maintain the torque peak all of the way up.

    Of course, the CVT principle isn’t new. Snowmobiles had primitive versions of them in the 60s.

    One big downside to CVTs: The fancy units in cars and trucks are expensive to repair or replace.

    1. – If it wasn’t for marketing getting to push ‘shift’ patterns on them to appease people being used to how RPM’s play / drop, they seem like they could work well. Personally I can’t stand the algorithm/map on the CVT I use – standard mode runs RPM’s way low while accelerating, unless you really step on it, and then you’re accelerating more than wanted. And sport mode revs unnecessarily high even without much accelerator input. I do like the 6-speed simulation mode – and also great for winter snow/ice driving to have the ratio lock-in with the accelerator doing torque control. Can’t say I trust the multitronic transmission further than I could throw it for longevity though, especially compared to a plain old stick. Just so happened I got a great deal on it.

  39. As with most things this dichotomy in shifting can be blamed on Hitler, after WWII Europe and Japan, including the winners, were in poor shape economically, so cars had to be made as cheaply as possible, e.g. Fiat 500, Kei cars (and the Vespa), while in America (and through osmosis Canada) people had all the money in the world (literally, war material doesn’t come cheap!) and, after the depression they wanted all the bells and whistles, and from Detroit that included automatic transmission. With all that in mind, and considering that most of the Boomers in the States learned to drive on daddies auto Cadillac while in Europe they learned to drive on daddies stick Trabant this cemented driving habits to this day, Americans (and sadly Canadians) can’t drive stick, and since they always have driven stick Europeans just want to. But I’m sure this will change when we all get electric cars (or self driving cars, when future generations won’t be able to handle anything more than a bike.) And as for Motorcycles in America, well Harley never brought out an automatic and if you don’t drive a Harley you’re a giant f*cking p*ssy!

        1. Don’t worry. California will put some fuel efficiency or emissions, or noise regulation on them so you can’t actually drive them legally anymore – then people will be paying you to carry them away.

  40. Random Thoughts:
    When I started buying cars(1970’s) manual still had a significant gas mileage advantage over automatics, and running the air conditioning took a lot more gas than opening the window. In recent years both these advantages have disappeared.

    I am surprised that large pickups have moved away from manual trannys as this is the sort of driving(heavy loads, unpredictable driving surfaces) where I would think traction control would be paramount. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that the average pickup buyer is not a farmer or contractor but a suburban poser.

    Electric cars are the future, in 15 years there will just be a switch that says forward and reverse, and the whole argument will be pointless as your car will mostly drive itself.

    1. Will they drive themselves before or after they fly? Because we will never have flying cars, but ironically I think that’s the only way we’d get true autonomy in 15 years.

    2. Electric cars, maybe, but don’t hold your breath yet.

      The main reason is that batteries are still too heavy and expensive, but increasing the energy density to make them less so also makes them increasingly dangerous in a crash/fault. It’s due to the inherent nature of the chemical system. Gasoline in a tank is inert because its well separated from the oxygen that makes it burn; the electrode materials in a battery are not separate as much as they are only barely held apart by a microns thin plastic membrane. Building the battery with more energy capacity means increasing the reactivity and reducing the amount of other materials such as protective casings, to the point that it will inevitably start to resemble a pile of explosives.

      So by the time batteries get good enough for a working pickup truck, they become too dangerous to actually use for any purpose. You have to figure out a better way to make electricity on the go, but the laws regarding CO2 emissions are preventing the use of any sort of fuel cell that would operate on anything other than hydrogen, which is also too dangerous and useless for real cars.

      So, it’s going to take a decade or two for governments to keep pretending that the electric car is coming, until they finally have to admit that it never could because they were being too stupid about it.

  41. As long as I can get stick shifts I will take them over an automatic any time of the day. An automatic does not provide the needed control to drive efficiently, i.e. without constantly applying the brakes which is a huge waste of kinetic energy. In fact it encourages inefficient driving because you can’t beat the system anyway so there’s to incentive to even attempt proper foresighted driving. Sure, there’re now adaptive cruise control, satnav assisted shifting and the ability to manually downshift shift gears but all of the systems only work that good. ACC only cares about the one car in front of you (and not side traffic or signs) and if that driver is an idiot your car will repeat the same stupid driving with a delay. SAS only works so great, especially with the maps still lacking. And shifting paddles still rely on the mercy of the transmissions whether they will stick (pun intended!) with your gear choice or decide to shift back to their preferred gear after a few seconds. Easy tell: If you can’t drive downhill road for a mile without having to apply brakes once, you have the automatic disease.

  42. Manual transmissions seem to be going the way of the dodo here. A lot of newer “manual” cars are automatics with paddles for manual override.

    A lot of my family actually prefer manuals though, due to greater control over the vehicle.

    As for me: I tried getting a license in 2007… and after hitting road blocks with the written test, decided that learning to drive any kind of motor vehicle can wait.

    13 years later, I ride a manual bicycle… a much more sensible form of transport in my situation as I find above 40km/hr, my ability to process what is happening around me diminishes. Drivers normally excuse a cyclist for riding at 30km/hr or less… they are less forgiving of cars driving at that speed.

    COVID-19 also reveals another advantage. When I want to go out, I just pump up the tyres, get on and go. Modern cars with all their electronics and remote locking are often too clever for their own good.

    Car detects keys within 10m… decides, “I’ll just leave the computer running in case owner wants to drive soon”. Computer draws constant 5A from battery. Not so bad if the car gets regular runs… not so great when car has been sitting in garage for the past fortnight due to coronavirus lockdowns! Apparently the RACQ has been run off their feet replacing flat batteries!

    1. I too find that pedaling 40 kph on a bicycle causes me such severe tunnel vision and loss of cognitive ability from the sheer effort that it would be dangerous to try any faster. After several miles of that, even after stopping I would be out of my wits for a good half an hour.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.