A manual transmission is a type of transmission system characterized by the use of a clutch for regulating torque transfer from the engine to the transmission, and a gearstick to manually select gears. Also known as a manual gearbox, standard transmission, or a stick shift, manual transmission is still offered by most automakers despite the availability of other transmission technologies, specifically automatic transmission or AT and continuously variable transmission or CVT. Of course, like its counterparts, thus transmission system has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages.
Benefits: Advantages of manual transmission
1. Better engine control: One of the advantages of manual transmission when compared to automatic transmission and continuously variable transmission is that it gives a drive a little more control over how hard the engine works and how much power gets to the wheels due to direct gear selection and torque transfer regulation.
Most sports cars come with manual transmissions due to better control over the engine that translates to direct driver involvement. In addition, off-road vehicles and trucks are often equipped with manual transmissions due to direct gear selection and more durability in rugged driving conditions.
2. Durability and low maintenance: Another benefit of manual transmission is longevity due to durability and low maintenance. When compared to automatic transmission and continuously variable transmission, a manual transmission has simpler mechanical specifications and fewer mechanical parts.
Also, manual transmission is smaller and more compact than AT although a CVT has similar compact orientation. Nonetheless, the inherent physical and mechanical characteristics of manual transmission translate to resiliency from wear and tear, lesser maintenance requirements, and easier reparability.
3. More cost-effective: The price of vehicles equipped with manual transmissions is usually lower than similar vehicle models come with an automatic transmission or continuously variable transmission variant. Specifically, the price difference ranges from $1000 to $3000.
Furthermore, the durability, lower maintenance frequency, and easier reparability of manual transmission boxes translate to lower maintenance and repair costs. It is also worth mentioning that in a manual gearbox, the engine slows down the vehicle more effectively whenever the driver releases the engine speed control. In an automatic transmission, engine-breaking is less effective, thus resulting in more usage of breaks and shorter break life.
4. Push starting: Push starting is another advantage of manual transmission. Also known as clutch starting or crash starting, push starting is a method of starting a vehicle when other starting methods are unavailable due to a low battery or other hardware failures.
Note that the most common way of push starting vehicles with manual transmission is by selecting the second gear before switching the ignition, depressing the clutch, pushing the vehicle, and quickly releasing the clutch. However, vehicles with automatic transmission, except those with front and rear hydraulic pumps, are difficult to push start because gear transmission selection is only doable when the actual gearbox is operational.
Drawbacks: Disadvantages of manual transmission
1. Complexity of use: Drivers who are only accustomed to automatic transmission or continuously variable transmission might find manual transmission complex and intimidating. There is a relative learning curve attached to driving vehicles with manual gearboxes because they involve the operation of an extra clutch pedal while keeping the correct gear selection at all times. Essentially, manual transmission requires more coordination and concentration than the AT and CVT variants.
There are other more specifics disadvantages due to the operational complexity of manual transmission. For example, in heavy traffic or long drives, a driver needs to operate the clutch pedal more frequently while removing one hand from the steering wheel periodically while the vehicle is in motion to continuously select the correct gear. Driving up or down the hill, and stopping on hill are considerably more difficult in vehicles with manual gearboxes. Nonetheless, these drawbacks also mean that manual transmission can cause more fatigue and might be more difficult to use for people with injuries or disabilities.
2. Relatively slower shifting speed: Similar to operational complexity, another disadvantage of manual transmission is a relatively slower shifting speed than automatic transmission or continuously variable transmission. This drawback stems from the time required for a driver to operate the clutch pedal and move the gearstick to choose the appropriate gear.
Remember that AT and CVT variants automatically or seamlessly shift the gear without the need for additional input or involvement from the driver. Simply put, in AT or CVT mechanism, the vehicle does the selection of the gear. Of course, experienced MT drivers, including racing drivers, have a higher degree of shifting response times than average AT and CVT drivers.
3. Mechanical deterioration due to improper use: Despite its durability, lower maintenance frequency and lower maintenance cost stemming from its mechanical simplicity, manual transmission is still vulnerable to upkeeps due to improper use. For example, inappropriate selection of gear can lead to mechanical damage.
The clutch is also susceptible to wear and tear under different circumstances. For example, driving in the first gear or moving the vehicle from a standstill causes a considerable amount of mechanical stress due to friction. This friction becomes worse when moving from a standstill upward on a hill due to the need to overcome the force of gravity. Nonetheless, when accelerating from an incline, some drivers use the non-electric parking break to prolong the lifespan of the clutch.