long time manual driver advice to beginners
The first time I stole my parents car I was 15, a Saab 900 with a manual trans. I figured I'd seen it done a thousand times, how hard could it be?
I tried to quietly back out of the driveway but I lit up the tires in the process. I froze for a second, knowing they must have heard me, but decided I was in trouble anyway so I might as well finish my joyride. I dropped it into first and hit the gas, squealing the tires again. I struggled with launches and 1-2 shifts at first, but in about 10 minutes I was driving reasonably smooth. My parents never noticed, and I "borrowed" their car regularly after that.
My first car was also to be a manual and my dad insisted that I take my drivers test with it, even though I wanted to borrow an automatic because I thought it would be easier. I wound up passing the test, the only comments from the instructor being that I needed to downshift to second when coming to a stop instead of coasting. He said it was safer, and it is.
Since then, I have driven many manual cars, and never had to replace a clutch. I even bought a honda accord with a slipping clutch that I drove for a year before I ditched it, and the clutch was still as good as when I got it.
So here are my tips for normal driving from years of experience and hundreds of thousands of miles rowing my own gears-
Don't ride the clutch. Make a habit of putting your left foot on the floor after every shift. Feathering it in reverse is fine.
For smoothness and safety in normal driving, keep it between 2000 and 3000. Rev-match your down shifts if you're over 2500 rpm or driving spiritedly, but otherwise it's not a big deal. I regularly use the engine for braking, I just allow the rpms to hit 2000 before I downshift. I hear that it's "bad", but I've replaced many, many brake pads and 0 clutches. My general pattern for day to day driving is upshift around 3000 and downshift around 2000. Launch smoothly from 1000.
Don't worry about your clutch! My belief is that once you learn to drive smoothly, your clutch is a non issue. It's the clutch's job to "slip" between gear changes, and most people that fry a clutch do so because they drive aggressively, and that driving style will fry an automatic as well. Also remember, replacing a clutch in these cars is about $1000, and I'm guessing a new automatic is $4000+. I've seen and driven many cars with over 100k miles on the original clutch.
And driving a manual is manly.
Last edited by casemagic; 10-16-2010 at 01:50 AM.