If you drive stick, you’re part of an exclusive club.
Believe it or not, studies have indicated that only 18% of Americans can drive a stick shift.
For us car folks, that sounds crazy. A manual transmission gives you a ton of benefits. You have more control, better gas mileage, and often lower maintenance costs. Plus driving stick is fun.
You’ve probably even heard the very popular rumor that since so few people know how to drive stick, you’re less likely to have your vehicle stolen—although we’ve never seen any conclusive data to back this claim up. (It still sounds cool though!)
If you want to continue enjoying all of the great benefits of your manual transmission, you’ll have to keep it well maintained. In this post, we’ll explore how to do exactly that.
The first thing to know is that your driving habits can impact your transmission. Let’s take a look:
Understand Your Clutch and Develop Good Driving Habits
One of the easiest bad habits to fall into when driving stick is not completely engaging your clutch. If you don’t push it down all the way, you can damage the transmission.
It’s easy to get into this bad habit because in most vehicles you can still shift without completely depressing the pedal. Even if you don’t hear any grinding sounds, you may still be running the risk of future shifting problems.
To get into the right habit, train yourself to push your clutch all the way to the floor (or as close as you can).
Another quick clutch tip: only depress the pedal while shifting. You’ve probably heard the phrase “riding the clutch.” This means holding the clutch down while driving or parked, e.g., at a traffic light. If you engage the clutch at times other than when you’re shifting, you’re putting unnecessary wear on the transmission system.
Ditch the Downshifting Myth
One of the most persistent myths about driving stick is that downshifting when coming to a stop is a good idea. The argument is that by downshifting, you put less wear and tear on the brakes.
That’s technically true, but it’s still bad advice.
Here’s why: transmission repairs are more expensive by a fairly significant margin than having your brake pads replaced.
Why would you want to put additional stress on more expensive parts of your car (the transmission) than comparatively cheaper and easier to replace parts (the brakes)?
A great way to remember this is the saying “gears to go, brakes to slow.”
Transmission Maintenance: Fluid, Flushing, and Filters
Insofar as transmission maintenance is concerned, you’ll want to be aware of three primary activities: checking the transmission fluid, flushing the transmission fluid, and having the transmission filter changed out when necessary.
Newer vehicles make checking your transmission fluid more or less just as simple as checking your oil. You examine the dipstick for your transmission fluid and check the levels—unlike checking your oil, low levels of transmission fluid may indicate a leak and mean that you should take your vehicle to a shop right away.
You’re also going to examine the color and smell of the transmission fluid. You want it to be a relatively bright, clear red with a subtle sweet smell. Darker colors or funky smells mean you need to have your transmission examined by a pro.
Next, the transmission fluid will occasionally need to be replaced as part of your vehicle’s regular maintenance schedule (“flushing” the transmission). Check your manual for how often you need to do this. It’s usually between every 30,000 and 60,000 miles.
Finally, older vehicles may have transmission filters. This depends on the age, make, and model of your car, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual or ask a professional if this is something you need to maintain. If you have a filter, it should be changed out at roughly the same time that you get your transmission flushed.
Visit Your Local BG Certified Shop for The Best Service
It’s a good idea to have your transmission inspected about once a year. Transmission specialists will conduct a thorough inspection and diagnostic check of the whole transmission system. It’s a great way to catch problems before they get worse (and thus become more expensive).
When you get a transmission inspection, the auto professional will check for leaks, fluid level, and other problems. This kind of preventative maintenance can save you a bundle, along with using the right driveline products. For example, our popular BG Syncro Shift II has been specifically designed for front wheel drive manual transmissions.
If you haven’t done it in the last 30,000-60,000 miles, make sure to find a certified BG shop near you with this tool and schedule a transmission inspection today.