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Summary
  • It’s generally safe to skip gears when downshifting as long as you release the clutch when the vehicle has reached an appropriate speed where the selected gear wouldn’t cause the engine to surge.
  • If you want to downshift properly, you need to learn a technique called rev matching. This prevents vehicles from jolting as a result of the engine trying to get up to its appropriate RPM. This technique also prevents excessive transmission and clutch wear.
  • You should never release the clutch in first or second gear while the vehicle is traveling at highway speeds. Doing this will cause the engine to surge and the vehicle to jolt.
  • For everyday driving, doing a rev-match downshift is okay when you’re slowly decelerating, such as when you see an intersection far ahead. You shouldn’t rev-match downshift when you’re braking hard.

When you’re slowing down on a manual transmission vehicle, it’s generally good practice to downshift as you decelerate. This allows you to have better control of your vehicle without putting too much stress on your brakes. That said, this process is more complicated than shifting to neutral and then just coasting as you brake. This also brings up some questions when it comes to technique. How to downshift in a manual properly? Can you skip gears when downshifting? Is downshifting even worth it? We’ll answer these questions in this article.

How to Downshift Properly

When you’re switching to a lower gear, the engine needs to spin at a higher RPM to account for the greater gear reduction. If you downshift without attempting to raise the engine’s RPM, the engine will surge or gain RPM rapidly as you release the clutch, causing the vehicle to lurch.

To downshift seamlessly, you need to blip the throttle right before you release the clutch. This technique is called rev matching, and it prevents vehicles from jolting as a result of the engine trying to get up to its appropriate RPM. This technique also prevents excessive transmission and clutch wear.

Rev-match downshifting while braking can be challenging since you’ll need to be pressing the throttle while on the brake pedal. This skill takes a bit of practice, but it’s very useful especially on the track.

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Can You Downshift More Than One Gear at a Time?

The short answer is that yes, you can. One situation where this applies is when you’re driving at highway speeds at fifth or sixth gear but you want to slow down because you need to turn right onto an exit ramp.

It’s generally safe to skip gears when downshifting as long as you release the clutch when the vehicle has reached an appropriate speed where the selected gear wouldn’t cause the engine to surge. For example, you can shift from fifth gear to second gear as long as you only release the clutch at a speed appropriate for the second gear. If you release the clutch while the vehicle is traveling too fast, the vehicle will jolt and decelerate like you tapped your brakes.

You can also downshift more than one gear and release the clutch sooner if you can confidently execute a rev-match downshift. However, this means that you need to be familiar with your vehicle. More specifically, the engine’s RPM for that particular gear and speed, plus how the vehicle responds to throttle blips.

Generally, executing a rev-match downshift is easier when downshifting one gear at a time, since you’ll only need to blip the engine’s RPM a small amount. Downshifting multiple gears will require you to blip the throttle more since the engine RPM required to match the transmission speed is higher.

Depending on your familiarity with your vehicle, rev-matching a downshift with skipped gears can be challenging. You’ll need to wait for the engine’s RPM to rise to the appropriate RPM before letting go of the clutch.

Can Downshifting Incorrectly Cause Transmission Damage?

Yes. You should never release the clutch at low gear while the vehicle is traveling at highway speeds without rev-matching. As previously mentioned, doing this will cause the engine to surge and the vehicle to jolt.

When this happens, you’ll also be putting a lot of stress on the clutch and gearbox. While downshifting incorrectly might not cause immediate failure, it can cause the clutch and gearbox to wear out faster.

Downshifting incorrectly will also cause your vehicle to decelerate suddenly. This can be like slamming on your brakes on the highway, which could be dangerous.

For everyday driving, doing a rev-match downshift is okay when you’re slowly decelerating, such as when you see an intersection far ahead. You shouldn’t rev-match downshift when you’re braking hard, such as when you’re reacting to a pedestrian crossing the road. In these emergency scenarios, it would be better to just slam on the brakes and press on the clutch just to stop the engine from stalling.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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