Manual vs automatic vehicles: Pros and cons

Thursday January 10 2019

 Manual transmission engines are less com

Manual transmission engines are less complex, weigh less, and have more gears than automatics. You will end up getting more kilometres out of your fuel than you would with an automatic. STOCK PHOTO 

By Roland D. Nasasira

Andrew Mwesigye drives an automatic Toyota Prado TX. About three years ago, he owned a Toyota Premio. It also had automatic transmissions.
“Automatic cars are easy to drive. You just start the car and move the gear lever to drive and get on the road. You only remain with the task of balancing the car as you steer,” Mwesigye says.
“The beauty with an automatic car is that what you do with the gears, the clutch and acceleration pedal determines what speed you drive at. You can drive at the maximum speed if you can with any gear,” says Kenneth Ntulume, a motorist.

Alvin Nkini, a mechanic at Dalas Auto in Bunga, Kampala, explains that the main difference between automatic and manual cars is that automatic cars are operated automatically while manual are operated by a human factor, the driver.
When you are driving a manual car, you are in full command of the car.

This involves aspects such as engaging gears. In automatic cars, the car is just automatic. Automatic cars only give you gears according to the reeves. This, therefore, makes it impossible to command automatic cars by way of engaging which gear it uses.

“In manual cars, it is possible for you to drive up to 100 kilometres per hour in gear two and in gear three, you can drive at 120km/hour or even higher This cannot be done in an automatic car that gives you different gears at certain reeves,” Nkini explains.

Controlling the car
On a highway, if you are approaching an area that has much traffic, you can use the gears to downshift slowly to cool down the engine and speed in a manual car. In automatic cars, you just step on the brake pedal, and there is no other option of controlling the car.

Nkini adds that the advantage of an automatic car from the perspective of being a machine is that it works on an automatic formula on which it was designed. This means there was a formula that was pre-done and runs on it.

Then again, human error in operating an automatic car is minimal because it was automatically made. In manual cars, being operated manually, there is a human error factor, hinders the lifespan or durability or the rate of wear and tear of the car itself.

On rough terrains
If you are driving on a rough road, your judgement decides which gear to drive on in manual cars, whereas in an automatic car, you can even drive on L, which means low. This gives a manual car an upper hand in rough terrains.

This explains why non-government organisations all over the world prefer manual transmission cars compared to automatic ones. But at the same time, you can have a wrong judgement in a manual car, which is a form of human error, to drive on, say, gear two or three yet it was supposed to drive on a different gear.

“Driving schools teach you how to drive a car but they do not teach you which gear to use in a given terrain, rough or smooth and for how long. There is a lot of human error in manual cars compared to cars with automatic transmissions,” explains Eric Amadi, a mechanic.

Service and maintenance
If the battery icon in a manual car manifests on your dashboard, you can push start and proceed, but when it shows in automatic cars, you have to get another battery whether you like it or not. It cannot be pushed. The other solution is to be jumpstarted by another motorist or battery.

There is no way you can put an automatic car in neutral and push it aside until you give it power because the gear lever cannot move, much as there are those that have a safety knob that you press to move. This means that if you drive an automatic car, you must always make sure that your battery is 100 per cent in fine condition without its power going down.

Then also, maintenance of an automatic car is more expensive compared to manual cars. For example, when it comes to gearbox replacement, a manual gearbox is cheaper than an automatic one. The same also applies to repair. This is because an automatic gearbox is electronic whereas in manual cars, everything is manually run.

“In manual cars, you open the gearbox and find out which gear is not working and repair it but it is also not easy for them to break down. An automatic gearbox needs proper maintenance because it depends on hydraulic fluid, though there are cubic centimeters in the double differentials. If you don’t change the Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) regularly, it becomes dirty and the dirt goes to the clutch plate and gets stack. This means you remain on one gear or clutch and keep on losing one gear after another,” Amadi explains.

Manually, as long as you have cubic centimeters, which must be changed regularly, and there is no leakage, you can drive the car for as many as 40 years. In automatic cars, you have to be careful. If you make a mistake and use a different ATF in your car such as HRV Hondas and the Toyota RAV4 new model that use continuously variable transmission (CVT) transmission, it becomes costly to repair once it has broken down.

Amadi adds that in automatic cars, each gear has its own clutch while in a manual car, it has one clutch plate which works for all the gears. If one clutch wears out, you replace one as the rest remain functioning. For an automatic car, each gear has its own clutch. But if one or two gears burns, you may have to replace the entire gearbox.

This explains why commercial cars and double and single cabin pick-up trucks have manual transmissions. In case of a human error that spoils something in the car, it is repaired easily compared to an automatic car.

“If you do a mistake and you damage something in a gearbox, the solution is to replace the gearbox but if you do a mistake in a manual car, the worst scenario is to buy a clutch kit. In some situations, you can only buy a clutch plate,” Nkini adds.

Fuel consumption
Whereas some motorists prefer either manual or automatic cars due to the false misconception of fuel consumption, the rate at which you step on your accelerator primarily determines how your car consumes fuel.

It depends on how heavy your foot steps on the pedal. If you step on it harder, you are likely to drive on more fuel and if you step on your accelerator steadily, you drive on less fuel.

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