Driving a vehicle with a manual transmission is a highly satisfying experience. It can be jarring, however, if you happen to get it wrong. All sorts of unfortunate noises can come from the car – screaming engine, grinding gears, and much more besides.
Changing gear smoothly is also essential for the longevity of the vehicle. Clutches and gearboxes will last much longer when you learn to operate the transmission as smoothly as possible.
So what can you do to make a lurching vehicle and grinding gearbox a thing of the past? Here is some sage advice and top tips.
Tip 1. Take your time
One of the biggest issues with changing gear smoothly comes when you try and rush. Changing gear consists of several actions all taken in turn – lift off the throttle, depress the clutch, change gear, lift clutch, resume pressure on the throttle. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? And indeed it is.
The issue comes, however, when you rush. Whether it be because your mind is elsewhere or you’re nervous at a busy roundabout or junction, rushing through any of these steps can cause you to start the next step before you’ve finished the current step. That’s not good for your gearbox.
So when you rush, you’ll end up not making sure you push the gear smoothly into place, or you’ll start moving the gearstick before you’ve fully engaged the clutch. These types of mistakes make for a grinding, juddering gear change. Take your time, take it step by step, and each change will automatically get smoother.
Tip 2. Plan in advance
The secret of a smooth gear change is to know in advance what gear you’re going to need next. All gearboxes are different in their configuration, and it’s easy to get caught out when going from one to the next. Always take a few moments and plan your gear change in advance.
Rushing gear changes mean it’s much more likely you’ll attempt to push the gearstick where it shouldn’t go – it’s easy, for example, to accidentally miss when you’re going from third to fourth gear. It’s a pull straight down in most vehicles, but it’s often easy to accidentally pull the gearstick too far towards the side.
Knowing what your next gear change is going to be, whether it’s up or down, will give your mind a moment to plan exactly where the gear is in the gearbox. Just an extra moment’s thought can help you stop missing gears.
Tip 3. Be gentle
There was a time in motoring when you really had to show the car who was boss, and the gearbox required some considerable elbow grease to operate. This isn’t the case anymore. Clutches, throttles, and gearboxes are all so light they require next to no pressure to operate.
You’ll make much smoother gear changes if you lighten up the pressure you apply on the pedals and the force with which you pull the gearstick. Lightly press the clutch to engage it, don’t stamp on it. Similarly when you release it, do so smoothly, to prevent the car from lurching.
This can be hard if you need to make quick gear changes, but it’s worth the extra focus to make sure you remain as gentle as possible. Not only will this make the gear change smoother, but it will also reduce the wear and tear on your engine, gearbox, and clutch.
These three tips are all you need to begin changing gears smoothly and reliably. Be as gentle as possible, take your time, and plan in advance – that’s all you need to do ensure a smooth gear change every time.