Since the invention of the automatic transmission in 1921, it’s overtaken the US automotive market to the point where manual transmissions have become rarer than a stock 240SX. Well, not quite that rare…
But anyway, we here at Ideal think that the slow death of the stick shift is an absolute SHAME! And we’re going tell you why in this article. If you don’t know how to drive manual, hopefully this will inspire you to learn, because there are some serious upsides to shifting with a stick.
And that’s why it’s important that we save the manual transmission!
Reason # 1: More control over your vehicle.
Car buyers spend hours researching, trying to find their Ideal car, and then ruin them by having a little robot shift the gears for them. And yet, you have WAY more control INSTANTLY if you choose a car that you shift yourself!
Plus with most cars, it won’t cost you any sort of premium. Heck, we’re looking at new Jeeps… and an automatic transmission costs an extra $2,500 over a manual. It’s a more complicated system, so it costs more.
But… here’s the kicker! I understand that the vast majority of Americans these days don’t know how to drive a manual transmission, but it is absolutely worth learning, because with a stick-shift, you are the one deciding how much power’s going from the engine to the wheels, not your car’s computer.
This makes it much easier and safer to navigate in bad weather conditions like wet roads or on snow, or if you get stuck behind a slowpoke on a two lane road. In an automatic car, you’d have to wait for your car’s computer to downshift to let you pass them. But in a manual, you can drop a gear, smash the gas and get around them quickly and safely. And having more control over your engine is helpful on perfect road conditions as well.
Reason # 2: Fuel economy.
While the newest automatic transmission cars are much more fuel efficient than ANY of the cars of the past, the torque converters and hydraulic pumps on older automatics can suck up a considerable amount of a car’s power and fuel economy.
So if you’re looking to buy a car that’s a few years old, it’s definitely better to go with a manual. When you’re driving a manual transmission, the job of the torque converter is essentially transferred to the clutch, which is completely under your control. By eliminating this unnecessary piece of machinery, your car has one less moving piece that it has to contribute power and fuel to.
Plus, when you’re the one stepping on the clutch, YOU decide exactly when you’re going to be in what gear, so it’s easy to see how this might save you a few gas miles here and there. It’s been estimated that manual transmission cars can get up to 15% better fuel economy than their automatic counterparts in some cases, and that is a SERIOUSLY significant number!
That’s the difference between 20 and 23 miles per gallon. And over a car’s lifetime, those three extra MPGs could end up saving you a fortune.
Reason # 3: Easier to maintain.
Keep it simple, stupid! With the dominance of automatic transmissions in the U.S. market, we don’t even realize that we’re driving around in over-complicated, costly, and difficult-to-repair cars. In general, manual transmission systems are BY FAR simpler than their automatic evil twins.
This means that they’re far less likely to break down in the first place and have you running back and forth from the mechanic’s shop. It also means that that the repairs on these manual machines are much, much easier, and are usually something you could do yourself at home.
The only common problem with manual transmissions is burnt-out clutches, but clutches typically last hundreds of thousands of miles, especially if you’re a good driver. And if you do need to replace your clutch, it certainly isn’t rocket science, and you could do it at your home with the help of a couple buddies.
Don’t know anything about fixing transmissions? Don’t worry! There’s plenty of resources online that can teach you how to fix a manual transmission in just a matter of minutes.
Reason # 4: Better understanding of your car.
We all know a D.I.Y. guy. The washing machine’s broken, he knows just what to do. The office copy machine won’t work, he’s down there poking around the back panels, and in a matter of minutes… BOOM… he’s got it working again. The only difference between the DIY guy and you is a willingness to understand how the things around you work.
Luckily, a manual transmission can make it exceptionally easy to learn about the inner-workings of your car. In fact, it’s kind of a necessity to understand your car in order to drive a manual. When you start to get a feel for how your engine responds to certain gear shifts, and how your engine is shifting power from the engine to the wheels, you’ll get a better appreciation for what your car responds well to.
And if something in your car should stop working, you’ll probably have a better understanding of what needs to be fixed if you understand how your car works in the first place.
In a world where we use devices everyday that we have no understanding of, being able to comprehend the inner workings of your car gives you freedom from the giant companies of the automotive industry, who want you to spend a fortune on repair parts and consultations.
TAKE BACK YOUR LIBERTY! DRIVE A MANUAL!
Reason # 5: Keeps you focused on the road.
I’ve heard of people doing some pretty ridiculous things while driving an automatic: eating a bowl of cereal, changing a baby’s diaper, typing emails on a laptop, just to name a few. And then, of course, there’s texting and driving. It doesn’t take a genius to know that none of these behaviors are the slightest bit safe.
But if you’re driving a manual, all of these things become pretty much impossible, due to the simple fact that it requires a much higher degree of driver participation and attention to the road. In a car that doesn’t switch gears for you, you have no choice but to be attentive to the traffic and the road conditions around you, because you have to be ready to grab the stick at any moment.
And with your full attention going towards your car and the road, the chances of you getting distracted and getting into an accident go WAY down.
Try eating a bowl of cereal while downshifting a manual transmission…you can’t! Wait, wait, no, please don’t try that.
Reason # 6: Everyone else in the world does it.
Have you ever dreamt of taking a trip to Europe and taking a scenic drive down the Autobahn or the Transfagarasan? How about cruising beachside down Australia’s Great Ocean Road? Well, I’m hate to break it to you, you’re going to have to learn to drive stick.
The fact of the matter is that most other countries in the world are dominated by manual transmission cars, and it can be extremely difficult to rent an automatic abroad. So before you buy a flight to Germany and expect to rent a Bimmer that you’re going to traverse the continent in, understand that when you get to the Enterprise or Avis desk at the airport, most of the options are going to be manual transmission.
It seems that the U.S. is lagging behind the rest of the world in appreciation of the wonders of driving stick, and nobody likes a tourist who shows up in a foreign country and demands an automatic because they can’t drive a manual.
Get yourself a manual NOW and start practicing for that well-deserved Eurotrip.
Reason # 7: It’s fun!
When it comes to deciding what kind of car you’re going to drive, it’s certainly important to take a deep look at the specs: the reliability, the fuel economy, the engine output, etc.. But we hope that you understand that driving is about more than that.
It’s about the feeling it gives, the connection you have with your car. It’s about enjoying the ride. And let me tell you, driving a manual is a ton of fun. There’s nothing like shifting your whip up a gear and feeling the surge of life into the engine.
Drivers who are new to stick-shifts often refer to the feeling as being similar to playing a video game. And seasoned stick drivers have a long-standing love for their transmissions and how well they are able to control them.
There’s a damn good reason why those who get into driving a manual almost never go back to automatic. It’s because stick-shifts are the epitome of leisurely driving, And if you truly appreciate the art of the car, a manual transmission is the only way to do it.