Would you rather drive a manual or an automatic transmission car?
Posted Thursday, March 7 2013 at 02:00
When it comes to whether or not an automatic transmission car is better than that of manual transmission, the debate can rage on for days and days. Let’s critically look at both. The truth is, most people today can drive, thanks to the majority of imports being automatic, but can these drivers do justice to a manual in case of an emergency?
The other day a colleague asked me whether I could drive a manual transmission car, “Of course, what would you think?” There are many unwritten expectations out there in the world for men and women too. People expect men to be able to kick a ball, knot a tie, sleep with the lights off, cut a chicken’s head off, always pay the bill at the restaurant, fix a dead engine or even defuse a bomb. But what about the old axiom that a man always has to know how to drive a manual transmission car?
I hate to break it to you, but by far and large, men are supposed to know how to drive that stick. It is that simple. Driving a stick shift is one of those “life things” that you need to know. After enough time and practice, manual shifting becomes second nature. Most people that drive manuals don’t have to look down or take their eyes off the road to see which gear they are in, or where the next gear is. The problem nowadays is that driving a manual car has become a lost art form as more and more people opt for the convenience and ease of an automatic.
A manual is fun
Unfortunately, considering how fun driving a manual transmission car is, you really get a sense of man-and-machine symbiosis when you master the manual transmission. You start to understand the relationship between the engine, gearbox and wheels. There are many other reasons to learn to drive a stick shift. If you enjoy driving, many people will tell you that driving a manual transmission car gives you much more control and that a true driver never buys automatic. Also, manual transmission cars always have less expensive gearboxes to fix and get better mileage. The latter more often than not is the main reason why many Ugandans would go for a manual when buying a car. And as a regular driver you will be faced with driving a manual someday. Unfortunately for many Ugandans, most cars we buy are used from Japan where automatics are preferred. On the other hand in Europe, manuals are preferred.
The few who do learn manual shifting usually do not pick up the skills from a driving school, rather, they got schooled by their bored Uncle Joe or their theoretically more experienced best friend. And always gather a host of different ideas and rules about a manual car. Nonetheless, there are a few things you ought to just know about manual transmissions.
Whenever the clutch pedal is not all the way up or all the way down, you are putting wear on your clutch and chances are you will have to replace it in a few months. If you are stopped on a slight incline you must use the brake to keep the car from rolling backward. It sometimes appears cool, having the ability to prevent your car from rolling back with the clutch and accelerator a.k.a balancing, but you are performing regular costly damage to your clutch.
If you are worried about rolling back between the time you release the brake pedal and engage the clutch you can “cheat” by pulling the hand brake. Do not fully apply the handbrake unless you are on a really steep hill. Instead, just use enough hand brake to keep the car from rolling backward.
Then engage the clutch when traffic allows and pull away from the stop, being sure to release the handbrake as soon as you start moving forward. The most important rule, however, is never use the clutch to hold your car in place while waiting on an incline.
So which is better?
So all this begs the question, if you had a choice would you rock a manual or play it safe with the automatic? Before we get into this debate you have to understand that many old beliefs that autos are not that efficient may not apply in today’s modern cars. In fact you shall find that some autos are way more efficient than a manual. Nevertheless, except for perhaps people who drive industrial cars and new cars from authorised dealers who import cars designed for our market, it may be hard to find a car with a manual transmission, specifically one from Japan.
On the other hand, when you have a choice of manual or automatic in say a car bond, you will pay less almost every time for the auto. Why? Well the older beliefs apply and indeed they should as the car you are buying is old and it is from a time when these beliefs applied. Additionally, on the maintenance point of view, a manual can take a whole lot more abuse compared to an automatic which when it fails, is a nightmare that shall make best friends out of you and your mechanic.
Autos simplify driving but are sensitive
While autos make life easy, all you have to do is push the gear into drive, with a manual it is a bit more complex however in some instances a manual is a godsend. Enter jump starting. You just can never understand how awesome jumpstarting is until you actually need it and do it. Driving in Kampala is quite physically consuming. With a manual it is even more tiring in stop and go traffic. Automatics on the other hand make this routine quite easier.
Manual or automatic, it is simply a preference issue. Luxurious newer cars come with the best of both worlds where with the push of a button you can easily switch back and forth between manual and auto.
While it is not a true manual in the literal sense, it is one of those options you have but don’t need and never use. Manuals are more reliable, simply put. Autos on the other hand while good too require a whole lot more attention and care.