Years of Driving a Manual

Driving a manual is not necessarily an acquired preference for everyone, but to say the least I find it allows the user to have that added connection to their vehicle. For me, I have been able to drive a manual vehicle for over 10 years and to an extent self taught. In the past I did receive some in depth explanations on how to operate a manual transmission and have been exposed to the operation as both my parents are able to drive manual vehicles. However during the time of receiving my driver's license and a coupe years after that, they did not own any manual vehicles.

At 16 years old I bought a motorcycle as a beginner's license did not require a full licensed driver so it allowed for some independence. And in a way, a motorcycle is similar to a manual vehicle. All the basic components exist such as an engine, manual gearbox, clutch, and gear selector. The same basic principle also applies such as the risk of stalling the engine so a balance is needed between the throttle and clutch, the clutch needs to be disengaged to select gears, and gears are selected manually. So I suppose in a way, I did have some experience operating a manual vehicle before jumping into an automobile.

Once I received my G2 automobile license, this allowed me to drive on my own without the need of a fully licensed driver. By this time I was already enrolled in an automotive repair class in high school where we repaired vehicles either owned by the school, teachers, or us. The opportunity finally arose where I could drive my very first manual car, it was an early 2000 Honda Civic coupe. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take the vehicle on road tests, but we were able to drive the vehicle in the school parking lot briefly. While this was a short trip, I could still add this to my learning experience.

Not even a year later I took on a part time position at a local new car dealership where I could further perfect my manual experience. Management was aware of my limited experience and allowed me to teach myself as not all of my coworkers could drive a manual. After some practice around the lot working with numerous vehicles, it was time to put my skills to the test when a coworker and I were required to deliver a customers vehicle. For a small town, of course it has to be during a busy time of day driving a 1997 Toyota Rav4. I will admit I was nervous to some extent thinking about the numerous stop lights, hill starts, and whatever else I did not take into account. But to my surprise the delivery went off without a hitch and I could proudly say I can drive a manual.

Around 18, I was the owner of a 1995 Ford Ranger 3.0L 6cyl equipped with a manual transmission. After that was sold, I owned other manual vehicles such as another 1995 Ford Ranger 2.3L 4cyl, 1998 Nissan Pathfinder 3.3L 6cyl, 1999 Subaru Forester 2.5L 4cyl, 2004 Volkswagen Golf TDI 1.9L 4cyl, and my current vehicle being a 1997 BMW 540i 4.4L 8cyl. Even my parents have owned numerous manual vehicles since I received my driver's license. My current vehicle has been in my ownership for almost four years and it is such an enjoyment operating the manual transmission. Once that skill has been mastered and you are comfortable operating the vehicle, it becomes second nature. I am able to determine my engine rpm without looking at the tachometer, know which gear has been selected, what gear is needed before entering a corner, or taking off on a hill without rolling back. It is really not that complicated, perhaps more intimidating than anything.

Keep in mind not all manual vehicles drive alike and even if the vehicle has a larger engine displacement, that doesn't mean it is harder to stall. The most user friendly manual I've ever driven and one I would recommend for learning was a MK4 Volkswagen TDI. Due to the nature of the diesel, there was no need to increase engine rpm when taking off from a stop and the engine never lugged easily. A diesel engine has much more torque, especially at lower rpm than compared to a gasoline engine and this is what prevents the vehicle from being stalled easily. With that being said, every vehicle has a different power band, gearing, clutch design, vehicle weight, and throttle feel.

Manual transmission allows the driver to have more control over a vehicle, the vehicle can be held in gear longer, engine brake rather than using the vehicle's braking system, possible chance for increase in fuel economy, increased vehicle performance as there is greater power loss through an automatic, and even just the overall feel for pure driving pleasure. Sadly it is a dying skill as most people prefer the comforts of an automatic and the automotive industry is aware of this. Automotive manufacturers are switching over to semi automatic transmissions which uses a clutch that is controlled by the vehicle's computer instead. Speaking for myself, I am hopeful that I can continue the ownership, along with many other enthusiasts.