MORE and more drivers are opting to drive automatic gearbox cars rather than manual nowadays. Even driving tests nowadays have numbers skewed mostly towards the automatic driving tests.

Admittedly, automatic cars are easier to drive and have an advantage during rush hour.

But, there is nothing like the exhilaration of running your car through all five (or six) gears on a winding road or performing a perfectly-timed downshift to overtake the car in front. Let us not forget double de-clutching (ask your grandpa) or heel and toeing down towards your favourite corner. Yes, there is still the romance of the manual gearbox to be found somewhere in your local dealers.

It was recently revealed that Proton’s general production ratio for automatic to manual cars based on market demand is 60:40, and they do not foresee a halt in the production of manual cars in the near future. There is yet hope that other manufacturers are also maintaining the option of a manual transmission for their models.

So, you should take good care of your manual transmission car (if you have one or are contemplating getting one). It is much less maintenance intensive than an automatic and much hardier as well.

USE THE CLUTCH PROPERLY

It is very important to use the clutch properly. For example, don’t only engage the clutch partially when you are shifting. You should always press the clutch all the way down. Fully engaging the clutch will prevent shifting problems, not to mention preserve the life of the clutch.

AVOID “RIDING” THE CLUTCH PEDAL

Many drivers like to rest their foot on the pedal while driving, or even at a red light. This sometimes disengages the clutch slightly, allowing it to slip without the driver realising it. It also wears out your clutch double time.

AVOID ENGINE BRAKING

The brakes are there for a reason - to slow you down. Engine braking is a driving technique that uses the gears of the transmission to slow the vehicle down. You should avoid engine braking whenever possible as it puts strain on the drivetrain. However, minimal engine braking, such as when going downhill, is sometimes necessary. As such, engine braking is sometimes unavoidable.

OTHER TIPS

When you are shifting between the first gear and reverse gear (in a parking lot, maybe), make sure the car comes to a complete stop before engaging one or the other gear. That “crunch” you heard was the synchromesh in your gearbox clashing.

SCHEDULE ROUTINE MAINTENANCE

Gearbox oil is usually changed at every other engine oil service. Use the best you can afford. Installing a gearbox oil cooler is also a good idea. Ask your friendly neighbourhood foreman to check the clutch action to determine if it is still within limits. Check and re-oil the cable or refresh the clutch fluid if yours is a hydraulic system. Don’t forget the rear differential oil if your car is a rear wheel drive. Don’t ask how many times I have drained nothing out of a rear differential.

MAKE ADJUSTMENTS

If you need a new clutch plate, make sure the foreman resurfaces the flywheel and installs a new pilot and throwout bearing. You may want to consider an aftermarket clutch made with better linings and a stiffer spring. However, these are harder work in traffic jams, so if your car is a commuter, stick with original clutches. Ask the foreman if he had used the proper alignment tool when installing the clutch. This is essential to avoid clutch vibration, or juddering, when driving. Another point is that all the dowels on the bellhousing should be present and correct. This ensures the drivetrain is in perfect alignment. Every so often, clutch chatter, vibrations and premature wear are not related to the clutch disc and pressure plate. Problems such as misalignment, flywheel resurfacing, pedal/freeplay adjustment and runout are responsible for the majority of clutch failures, premature wear and poor performance.

Check all the mountings (rubber or otherwise) and the driveshaft(s) for wear and tear. A worn out universal joint on a driveshaft makes the whole car shudder and shake at speed. Quite funny if you’re the passenger. Not so if you’re the driver.

So, if you’re one of the 40 per cent, it’s time for that manual transmission tune-up. You won’t believe how well the car goes afterwards.

See you at my workshop.

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