Opting for a manual transmission vehicle provides a vastly different driving experience than that of its automatic counterparts. Some may even consider driving a manual to be a test of a real driver. On that topic, we've covered the best cars for drivers set on using a manual transmission in an earlier article.
However, this time, we'll go over a list of the most crucial and detrimental habits that should be avoided when operating a manual transmission car. Many of these rules are situational and will require some judgment, while others are just plain obvious. So, let's get to the eight things you should never do when driving a manual transmission car.
8 NEVER: Shift Without Engaging The Clutch
For you stick shift drivers out there, this one might seem plain obvious. However, that doesn't diminish the fact that failing to engage your clutch while shifting can have significant negative consequences on your gearbox. Pushing the gear lever into gear while the car is not running will not do much harm, but keep in mind that the clutch is there for a reason. And while it is possible to utilize rev-matching techniques to pull off a gear shift without engaging the clutch, failing to do so will result in severe grinding of gears that will drastically reduce the transmission's life span.
7 NEVER: Brake Without engaging the Clutch
This is a tricky one. For quick and short deceleration, such as in the case of downshifting, braking does not require the clutch to be engaged. Not touching the clutch actually improves the car's braking power as it helps engage the engine's natural resistance. However, and this is important, if you break too much in a higher gear, or use the breaks to get to a full stop, using the clutch is crucial.
Usually, as you break and decelerate, the engine's RPM will decrease with the car, and if it gets too low, the car will stall. Hence, it's important to engage the clutch before this happens.
6 NEVER: rest your arm on the gear lever
Not everyone knows this, but there's a good reason why your driving instructor insisted you should keep both hands on the steering wheel while you drive. The tendency to rest one's hand on the gear lever in between gear shifts is not an uncommon one. However, doing so can result in significant damage and wear on the gears in the transmission.
This is because the gear lever is directly connected to the selector fork, which, when put pressure on, can rub against the gears and synchronizers, causing premature wear.
Worst case scenario, the thing may even break. The transmission is a very intricate and delicate piece of technology, so all safety concerns aside, it's best to not put unnecessary pressure on the shifter and keep both hands on the wheel as often as possible.
5 NEVER: use the clutch bite instead of the parking brake to hold your car on a hill
Slowly releasing the clutch from a standstill will create what's known as the "clutch bite point," or a place where the clutch disc engages the engine disc which helps the car move off the line. Applied to a vehicle positioned on an incline, the same point will probably not move the car much, but will help keep it in position.
This should always be avoided, as it puts constant and unnecessary strain and friction on the aforementioned discs, causing them to wear out prematurely. There's a good reason why the car comes with parking brakes and the regular brakes, and using the clutch to do the breaks' job on an incline is a good way to secure an early visit to the mechanic.
4 NEVER: rest your foot on the clutch pedal
Most common in new drivers, "riding the clutch" is an easy way to wear out the clutch disc in a short time. The term refers to placing excessive pressure on the clutch pedal even when it is not being used by resting your foot on it. There are several reasons why this might be occurring, and one of them is incorrect seat positioning.
If the seat is placed too close to the steering wheel, or incorrectly adjusted, the driver might have a tendency to unconsciously keep their foot pressed against the clutch pedal. A way to avoid this, apart from correct seat adjustment, is to get into the habit of placing your foot on the footrest next to the clutch. If you think you might be riding the clutch, a pungent burning smell coming from the car (or the gearbox) will confirm your suspicions.
3 NEVER: keep your car in gear at a red light
Driving in the city means encountering a ton of red lights, so naturally, keeping your clutch pressed down every time you wait for the lights to change will cause a massive amount of wear over time. In this case, the damage will occur mostly to the springs and bearings within the clutch. Additional risks include accidentally releasing the clutch and hitting the car in front of you or people crossing the street. If consistently practiced, this behavior will lead you to having to prematurely replace your clutch. This is why it's best to shift to neutral and release the clutch while at a stoplight, as well as engage the break to make sure the car is not going anywhere.
2 NEVER: downshift if your RPM is high
A big part of driving a manual transmission car, and the reason why many people enjoy them more than automatics, is the ability to watch and listen to the engine RPM and being able to adjust the gear (and in turn performance) to your desire. A higher RPM usually means the car is producing more power, but it also means it's time to shift to a higher gear.
So naturally, downshifting with a high RPM will make the engine work even harder, resulting in the engine exceeding its redline or overheating. Inversely, upshifting when the engine RPM is too low will cause the tachometer to drop even further, which will make the car stall, posing a danger if stuck in traffic or traveling at a high speed.
1 NEVER: floor the gas pedal at a low RPM
A symptom of the lazy driver, attempting to accelerate by flooring the gas pedal despite the engine RPM being low will lead to what's called "lugging the engine." Similarly to trying to start driving your bike in the highest gear, flooring the gas pedal while the engine is at a low RPM (which means the gear is too high) will put unnecessary strain on it and make it unable to respond with any kind of performance.
This means that the engine will work less efficiently and likely overheat. To avoid the performance loss and engine risks associated with lugging, simply downshift before pressing the gas pedal and you will experience a significant speed gain.