Here’s How to Destroy Your Manual Transmission (And How to Make it Last)

How Long Would It Actually Take To Destroy A Transmission Grinding Gears? Longer Than You’d Think.

Which leads us to grinding, or that awful noise you hear when you engage the clutch halfway into the gear, or when you try to shift without disengaging the clutch and the revs aren’t matched, or when you’re coasting in neutral and you try to put the car into gear without first disengaging the clutch.

The sound is very bad and even panic-inducing but, I was happy to learn, far from the end of the world. Wyatt says if you intentionally ground a gear, it would be an hour or two before it was stripped, meaning that “you’ve got a lot in the bank” before that happens, since most drivers hear the noise and within a few seconds remedy the situation by putting it back in neutral.

Is Engine Braking That Bad? No, But It’s Not That Good Either.

One thing my dad did that always confounded me was engine braking, or downshifting to slow down instead of using the brakes. A former auto mechanic, he used to say he did this to save the brakes, but that reasoning always felt a little suspect to me, and, indeed Wyatt said that if you want to protect your clutch and transmission long-term, you should shift into neutral, release the clutch, and then hit the brakes.

The slowing effect of downshifting, he says, “is what the brakes are for.”

And Just For Fun, Here’s How to Launch Your Car Without Breaking Everything

And while this blog is aimed at normal people, and not maniacs, let’s say you really want to launch the car while causing the least amount of harm. One easy rule: Never put the pedal to the floor until the clutch is fully engaged. Before all that, though, rev the engine to 3,000 or 4,000 rpm, and release the clutch quickly but not too quickly. Too quickly and you’ll break the clutch then and there, too slowly and you might fry it.

Best, though, for those of us who don’t have unlimited budgets, is to ease the car into first gear at much lower rpm and fully engage the clutch. After that, there’s no risk to the transmission at all. Feel free to punch it.

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