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Summary
  • To take care of your manual transmission vehicle, you shouldn’t miss shifts, rest your hand on the shift handle, or engage the clutch to hold your vehicle on a hill.
  • You also shouldn’t coast in neutral or shift without engaging the clutch when driving a manual transmission vehicle.
  • Take care of your manual transmission by properly engaging the clutch, shifting to neutral at a traffic light, and scheduling regular maintenance.

Driving a vehicle with manual transmission certainly has its perks. Aside from enjoying a more engaging drive, you also have more control. It’s also less expensive to purchase and maintain a vehicle with a manual transmission.

Whether you own a newer vehicle with a manual transmission or you drive a classic car, it’s important to learn about manual transmission maintenance. Find out all the important dos and don’ts about driving a manual with this brief guide.

What Not to Do If You Drive a Manual Transmission

Certain driving habits are really hard to spot and correct, especially if you’ve been doing them since you started driving. But it isn’t too late to become aware of the common myths and potentially harmful things we do when driving a stick shift. Below are some examples:

manual transmission of a car
Resting your hand on the shift knob accelerates wear on your transmission, specifically the gearshift’s fork.

Money Shifting

Money shifting is when you miss the gear you want to shift to accidentally. It can also happen if you downshift aggressively. For example, you suddenly shifted into second instead of fourth. This significantly wears down the clutch, and it can put you in a pretty dangerous situation.

This happens even to the best of us. For those not in the know, there’s a reason why it’s called a money shift. It costs a lot of money to repair the damage that’s been done to your manual transmission if you’ve money shifted. To avoid spending thousands of dollars on repairs, always be sure to engage the correct gear while driving.

Leaving Your Hand on the Shift Knob

A lot of manual as well as automatic transmission drivers do this, but there’s a perfectly good reason to drop this habit now. Resting your hand on the shift knob accelerates wear on your transmission, specifically the gearshift’s fork. This fork wears down, especially if it’s engaged with the collar that helps slide the lever into different gears.

Constantly Engaging the Clutch Pedal/ Clutch Driving

This is another thing that many of us are probably guilty of doing as well. Remember that the clutch pedal is meant to be engaged and disengaged. If you’re pressing down on it constantly, you’re keeping the clutch partially engaged. Doing this can strain the clutch and other parts connected to it, necessitating expensive repairs. Keep your feet off the clutch once you’ve shifted gears.

Engaging the Clutch to Hold Your Vehicle on a Hill

When going up a hill, many drivers will hold on to the clutch to prevent their vehicle from rolling backwards. This heavily damages the clutch disc and can cause road accidents. Instead of engaging the clutch, apply the handbrake to keep your car steady until you’re ready to move.

Keeping Your Car in Gear While at a Stop

If you keep your clutch engaged even when you’re not moving, you’re going to wear out your transmission’s gears and clutch. When you’re at a stop, always remember to set your transmission to neutral and keep your foot off the clutch pedal.

stepping on the clutch pedal
Constantly engaging the clutch pedal can strain the clutch and other parts connected to it, which may result in expensive repairs.

Coasting in Neutral

Many drivers think coasting in neutral is beneficial because it helps save fuel, but it’s actually quite unsafe because you don’t have full control over your vehicle when it’s in neutral. You may lose engine braking and the ability to quickly avoid hazardous situations. Instead of coasting in neutral, shift to a lower gear.

Using the Wrong Gears

Automatic vehicles shift gears on their own. This makes it easier to learn how to drive automatic vehicles. It also allows you to keep both hands on the steering wheel for better control. Meanwhile, when it comes to driving a manual, the driver does most of the work in such a way that they need to go through the gears in order when speeding up.

It’s easy to go into the wrong gear with stick shifts, but there are a couple of rules of thumb that you need to remember. One, if you can, it’s better to shift to a higher gear. Two, try to avoid the redline zone and higher RPMs that rapidly wear out the clutch and gears.

Shifting Without Engaging the Clutch/Slip Shifting

There’s a reason why you need to engage the clutch before you shift gears. Engaging the clutch momentarily disconnects the engine from the transmission so that you can safely change gears. Shifting without engaging the clutch can damage not only your clutch but also your entire engine.

How to Care for Your Manual Transmission

While there are a lot of things you can do to harm your stick shift, there are also a lot of ways to care for it, too. Below are a few manual transmission maintenance and care tips you should know about:

transmission dipstick
While checking your transmission fluid levels, you should also check the state of transmission fluid itself.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

It’s a good practice to regularly check and do maintenance on your transmission. Because service intervals vary, you should first check your owner’s manual for the recommended frequency of your manual transmission maintenance. Below are a couple of things you should remember to check when you do your scheduled transmission maintenance:

  • Check your transmission fluid– If you have low transmission fluid, you may have a leak somewhere in your system. When this happens, you’ll need to have your vehicle checked immediately, as this situation may lead to transmission failure.
  • Flush the transmission fluid– While checking transmission fluid levels, you should also check the state of your transmission fluid. The color should be a bright, clear red with a slightly sweet smell. If you notice the color going darker or if there are visible particles suspended in the fluid, it’s time to flush your transmission fluid. Check your owner’s manual for the correct interval and for the right type of transmission fluid you should use.
  • Regularly change transmission filter (if applicable)- Some older vehicles have transmission filters that need to be replaced every time you flush your transmission fluid. You can consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure whether you have one or not.

Properly Engage the Clutch

Make sure to properly press down and engage the clutch when you’re shifting gears. This allows your transmission to shift gears smoothly, and it also lessens the risk of damage to other transmission components.

Shift to Neutral at a Traffic Light

As mentioned above, you risk damaging your transmission if you keep your gears engaged while your vehicle is stopped. Remember to shift to neutral when you’re at a traffic light or when you’re not moving.

Knowing how to drive a stick shift is a valuable skill nowadays. That’s why you should learn how to take care of your vehicle. If you’re interested in learning more about transmissions, you can check our short course on transmissions here.

Where to Get Transmission and Shifter Parts for Your Vehicle

As your ride racks up mileage, some transmission parts naturally wear out, no matter how well you take care of them. In this case, the most efficient way to fix the issue is by replacing the bad components. For top-notch parts that won’t break the bank, shop here at CarParts.com.

Here at CarParts.com, you’ll never go over budget while shopping for your car repair needs. All our transmission parts come with a low-price guarantee to help you get the best value for your money.

Access our website using your computer or mobile device to get started. Search for the part you need, fill out the vehicle selector to view the ones that fit your ride, and use the search filters to further customize the results. Place your order and check out securely in minutes — it’s that easy!

Our strategically located auto parts warehouses are equipped with the latest technology to ensure efficient processing and shipping. Order today, and we’ll have your new transmission parts delivered to your doorstep in a few days.

Check out our transmission and shifters and shop now!

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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