Life is art. Time to talk a bit about the art of using a clutch. When I first learned to drive, I was having such a hard time that I said frequently “I’ll always drive an automatic.”
It would have been possible to do that – however, I knew deep down that I needed to learn. I admired the people who could work a clutch. My own mother had, for most of her cars, and everybody I liked knew how.
I dreaded learning. There was so much to do! It seemed like I’d never get the rhythm right, especially starting up a hill.
Then came my pretty Dodge Dakota pickup. It was perfect for my needs, but it was a standard. I practiced and practiced – stalled out quite a few times – and eventually learned. Then, when I was looking for a sedan, I found myself searching eagerly for a standard. I found it – my battered Elantra has served me for over a decade.
Now, after quite a few years driving standards, I’m irritated if I have to drive an automatic. There’s nothing to do! I have so little control! I can’t stand automatics anymore. There are some very good reasons why standards are not only safer, but better cars to own.
Advantages of a Standard Transmission
Better speed control – when you stay in one particular gear, it naturally keeps you in a range of speeds. This helps prevent you from driving too fast for the road. It’s a bit like a cruise control only more flexible.
Safer braking – When you slow down while driving a standard, you use the brake as well as your engine to do it. So if your brakes completely fail you have another option to get back under control. You also tend brake more smoothly and safely.
Ticket avoidance – when you drive a standard, you can slow down without using the brake at all – just let off the gas and quietly shift into a lower gear. That can help you avoid the notice of traffic cops who are looking for brake lights.
A back-up to your starter – with most standards, you can push start them without using your ignition at all. So if it, your battery, or your alternator fail, you aren’t out of luck. You can start up again with the help of either some strong friends or a gentle hill.
Cheaper to work on – a clutch replacement is usually less than a thousand dollars. Mine are around six hundred. With good driving you can get a clutch to last a long time. An automatic transmission replacement will cost you a LOT more than that.
Cheaper to buy – with standards being less popular, many times you can get a better deal on them. That’s a great advantage!
Better knowledge of your car – with a standard, you are more aware of what your engine is doing. That helps you be easier on the car, and also be alert of any problems before they get bad.
Better gas mileage – some of the modern automatics claim to have better gas mileage than standards, but in general, you do get better gas mileage with a standard and good driving than older automatics can deliver.
If more of us learn to love and drive standards, they will continue to be available in new models of trucks and cars. I’d hate to see the standard die out – they are just too useful! Not only that, but they are a lot of fun to drive.