Repairing Manual Cars vs. Automatic Vehicles: A Guide for First-time Stick Drivers

With more automatic cars in the market today than manual ones, many young drivers haven’t tried driving a stick yet. And so, when they experience it for the first time, they may feel a little intimidated. It’s not that driving a stick is more challenging. But it requires more focus than driving an automatic. You’re practically driving a go-kart or bump car with an automatic transmission. The pedals beneath your foot are just for accelerating and stopping. On the other hand, there’s an additional pedal in a manual called a clutch.

What’s the Clutch?

The clutch is a crucial component for shifting gears in a manual transmission. Automatic cars don’t need it because they shift gears using hydraulic power. This device combines torque with gearsets. The torque converter would connect the engine to the transmission and use fluid to power the gears. As a result, you can shift the gear to “P,” and your vehicle will stop without stalling.

On the contrary, a manual auto may stall before stopping. Unlike an automatic transmission, the engine and the transmission in a manual car disconnect when you step on the clutch. In some cases, you may need to double-clutch, in which you’d first step on the clutch pedal to disconnect the engine from the transmission. This move takes the pressure off the “dog teeth” so that you can shift the gears to neutral. Then, you’d release the clutch pedal and rev the engine to the speed appropriate for the next gear.

It may all sound complicated if you’re driving a manual for the first time. But wait until you hear how to diagnose problems in a manual versus an automatic.

Common Repairs and Maintenance for Manual Transmissions

Despite the mechanisms of a manual transmission, they’re more straightforward and cheaper to maintain than an automatic transmission. In fact, automatic cars are more complex than manual ones. They carry more parts and functions that may fail. However, the easier to maintain between the two transmissions depends on personal preference. If you’ve only driven an automatic your entire life, you may find that maintaining it is hassle-free.

If you’re about to own a manual for the first time, these are the repairs and maintenance you should expect:

Gears Grinding

If you hear a grinding sound after shifting gears, it’s not the gear teeth getting un-meshed. It’s the dog teeth unsuccessfully engaging the holes in the side of the blue gear. Double-clutching can correct this mistake.

But if the grinding persists, the clutch may require repair or replacement. Take your car to the mechanic to confirm if that’s the case.

Shifting Delays

When you shift gears with a stick, the engine’s revolutions per minute (rpm) will surge, allowing your car to accelerate. But if your car refuses to move as fast as it should, you may need to replace your clutch. Shifting delays happen because the master cylinder or release cylinder is damaged or leaking. Over time and without repairs, your stick may lose the ability to change gears.

 Fluid Changes

Fluid changes typically cost $100 to $200 in an automatic. Manual transmissions also require periodic fluid changes, but they only cost around half an automatic price.

Repairs may cost a few hundred bucks if fluid leaks occur, regardless of your transmission type. Suppose the mechanic needs to tear your transmission apart to find the source. An experienced transmission service might recommend replacing the transmission altogether. Luckily, this problem occurs more often in an automatic than a manual. Mechanics can repair manual transmission leaks for about $1,500 to $3,000 if your vehicle is a non-luxury model. On the other hand, re-manufacturing an automatic transmission can cost up to $2,000 to $4,000.

Odd Noises

Any odd noise in a vehicle hints at a problem. You’d usually hear unfamiliar noises in an automatic when you start the engine. In a manual, the noises often sound when you shift gears. If you hear a clunking, whining, or any mechanical sound, take your car to the mechanic at once. The noises may indicate a transmission problem. It’s best to let a professional check your car’s problems early than waiting until you have the time or money. Manual or automatic, it’ll be pricier to fix a problem that’s already going on for a long time.

The inner workings of a manual transmission may be harder to understand. Still, they won’t affect your ability to drive a stick shift. With practice and discipline in maintaining a manual car, you’d quickly get the hang of its upkeep. However, you’ll be breaking many old habits before getting used to a stick shift. You may miss only having two pedals to think about.

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