ASK A MASTER MECHANIC: MANUAL VS. AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
At Master Mechanic, we’re very familiar with the two main types of drivers: those that enjoy shifting gears, and those that like the car to do it for them. For some, it comes down to the vehicle we learned to drive on, for other, it’s a matter of performance and the only REAL way to drive a car.
In any case, the debate between a manual transmission and automatic transmission certainly isn’t anything new. But thanks to advancements in cars, choosing one may have less to do with performance, and much more to do with preference. We caught up with a Master Mechanic to look at the pros and cons of both, and which type of transmission requires more maintenance.
Automatic transmissions were invented to be more convenient for drivers–and they definitely are. After starting the car and shifting into drive, you only need to manage the gas and brake. With a stick shift, you need to monitor the engine’s RPMs, engage the clutch, and upshift/downshift gears accordingly. All while watching the road. It takes practice to master and can be extremely inconvenient if you don’t know how to drive stick at all. The good news is that most modern cars have an automatic transmission by default, so you really don’t need to learn to drive stick unless you want to.
Still, you might find yourself in a situation where you need to know how to work a manual transmission, and it’s an excellent skill to have in your back pocket.
When they were first introduced, getting an automatic transmission required dishing out a bit more money upfront for a vehicle. Automatic transmissions were treated–and priced–like any other luxury feature. Today, this isn’t always the case, and were actually seeing a shift to the opposite: sometimes, manual transmissions cost more or aren’t offered at all. If there is a difference, it’s usually about $1000-$1500 CAD, but it all depends on the make and model of the vehicle!
Manual transmissions used to be more fuel-efficient that their automatic counterparts, but this isn’t the case anymore either. Today, automatic transmissions have more gears (as many as 10), which makes them more efficient than manuals. This is because the engine is able to spend more time running in the optimal RPM range. With fewer gears (5 to 6), this just isn’t possible with a manual transmission.
When driving in the city, idling is one of the biggest wastes of fuel. Innovations like stop-and-go systems shut down the engine every time the car is stopped, which pretty much eliminates idling in newer vehicles. While this is possible with a manual transmission, the whole process would be, well, manual. It also isn’t realistic or recommended for drivers to do this.
Any car you get will require routine maintenance and some repairs that you don’t anticipate. That said, automatic transmissions typically don’t need as much maintenance as manual transmissions, but that depends on the driver and vehicle.
If a driver isn’t coordinated when shifting gears, they can quickly cause some serious damage to a manual transmission. That could require in a new transmission prematurely, which is a pretty significant expense to shoulder. All we can definitively say is that you shouldn’t learn to drive stick on a new car!
Traditionally, another reason to choose a stick shift was better performance. That’s simply not true anymore either. Modern automatic transmissions have computer chips that make them quicker at accelerating than a manual, even with a professional driving the car.
That’s why you can now get most luxury sports cars with an automatic transmission, although some purists gawk at the thought.
Even with modern car security systems and cameras all over the place, vehicle theft is still a big problem. Having your car stolen is the last thing you want to think about when choosing new vehicle, but taking precautions is just good practice. Your choice in transmission might seem like it has little to do with theft prevention, but it does. Since a growing number of people don’t know how to drive a manual transmission, it could be enough of a deterrent for a thief.
While there are plenty of things to consider when choosing between a manual or automatic transmission, most really comes down to preference. Both have pros and cons, so you need to determine which is best for you.
If you have any questions about transmission types or car maintenance, don’t hesitate to contact your local Master Mechanic. We’re always happy to help!