10 Reasons a Manual Transmission is Better than an Automatic

Why a Manual Transmission is Better
Photography: Cole Quinnell

Not so long ago, it was widely accepted that a true performance car had a manual transmission. In fact, some performance cars were only available with a manual transmission. Well, in the great age that is the 21st century, things have changed. Now the beloved third pedal is being replaced with paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel and a network of passionless electronics connected to them that signal the transmission what to do when the driver commands it. But we’re proud to proclaim that the manual transmission is far from dead. In fact, here are 10 reasons that a manual transmission is still better than an automatic!

  1. Because Anyone Can Drive an Automatic

Let’s face it: most people driving a manual transmission today are doing so intentionally. Sure, 30 years ago it was an economy car or a pickup truck that people had, and more people knew how to drive them. But today, the default is an automatic. And anyone can move the lever from P to D; although some people need to be reminded to apply the brake before doing so. A driving enthusiast pilots a car with a manual transmission. It says, “I know what I’m doing, and I care about driving”

  1. You Have Full Control

With a manual transmission, you decide when to shift the gears. No computer that thinks it knows better than you about driving and shifting. No wondering when the transmission will upshift, or the opposite situation when the transmission upshifts itself even though you have put it into “manual” mode. If you want to drive the engine higher into the RPM range than normal, that’s your prerogative with a manual gearbox. You’ll never be in a situation where your manual transmission shifts itself at an opportune time.

  1. More Power to the Wheels

No one likes parasites, yet they are lurking in your car between the engine and the tires. Parasitic losses is an automotive term that describes the power that certain components consume, therefore keeping that power from doing its job of propelling your car. When it comes to transmissions, a traditional automatic transmission has an oil pump which requires power to turn. They also loose a certain percentage of engine power in the former of slippage found in the torque converter and clutches. All of that is power that a manual gearbox happily sends down the line to the tires to help put a smile on your face.

  1. So You Can Drive Anything

Motorcycle. Forklift. Farm tractor. Class 8 truck. A Model T. Okay, so you might need a little coaching, but if you master a manual transmission and a clutch pedal in your daily driving, you’re infinitely better prepared to drive nearly anything with an internal combustion engine and tires.

  1. Easier Engine Mods

Between the vacuum and electronic controls of an automatic, along with the stall speed of the torque converter, modifying the engine has extra factors in it when there’s an automatic involved. Sometimes, engine modifications can completely throw off an electronically controlled automatic transmission’s shift points, both robbing you of potential power to be gained by the engine modifications and deteriorating the driving quality of the car.

  1. People Are Less Likely to Borrow Your Car, Including Thieves

Since manual transmission are less common and learning to drive one is not required in driver’s education, a surprisingly low number of Americans know how to drive them. That includes your college roommate who might otherwise ask for your keys to make a libations run or a thief looking for an easy target.

  1. More Autocross/Track-Day Friendly

The problem with automatics in these scenarios is that it puts a lot of stress on the fluid and cooler connected to the transmission. Cooking the ATF in an automatic is muy mal, and can lead to failure and or decreased longevity. Even though some manual transmission also come with coolers, there is not a dramatic increase in heat generated in performance situations because the manual transmission does not have an oil pump creating heat and it does not rely on fluid pressure for proper shifting.

Past that, having a manual in an autocross/track day scenario gives you much more control of the vehicle for the course it’s on. You can more precisely control engine RPM and keep the engine in its power band as you go through the turns of the course.

  1. No Delays

Stepping on the gas and waiting for an automatic transmission to determine the appropriate gear and vary the torque converter slip to provide the acceleration you desire is no fun. With a manual transmission, when you want to accelerate, you choose to downshift if you feel it’s needed and there’s a direct correlation between engine rpm and tire speed.

  1. A Direct Connection

Shifting your own gears gives such a more powerful, visceral, personal connection to your vehicle compared to an automatic. It’s like making a gourmet meal yourself versus getting generic fast food. And then there’s the direct connection between crankshaft and driveshaft. It’s precise and constant; no torque converter or clutches designed to slip.

  1. Less Maintenance

Automatic transmissions require regular fluid changes and have a filter that needs to be replaced. That’s because a traditional automatic transmission with a torque converter has slippage and relatively high fluid operating temperature with normal use. This degrades the fluid much more quickly than in a manual transmission.

Have some reasons of your own to add? We’d love to hear why you think manual transmission are better than automatics! Leave us a comment below!

23 thoughts on “10 Reasons a Manual Transmission is Better than an Automatic”

  1. I have a tko600 behind my Turbo LS engine and some people say an auto would be faster down the dragstrip, but whenever you beat an auto while manually banging gears it is very satisfying!

  2. I have a TKO6500 behind my V12 Jaguar. Easier to match ratio’s, giving better performance and economy. In fact it livens up the car and makes it a Joy to behold. Puts you back in control as a Driver.

  3. I love to hear the mufflers popping from down shifting in my Mustang. Sounds bad ass. Can’t do it in an automatic. Even my mom gets a kick out of it. 😉

  4. My 2001 SVT Mustang Cobra has a Tremec Viper spec T56 and I like the simplicity of a manual trans versus the added complexity of an automatic. With an auto, there are more parts and more of a chance of something going wrong. Another plus is that a manual is more fun to drive, even in stop and go traffic.

  5. It’s a great way to sort the men from the boys not only that but it’s great to teach a woman how to drive the stick!

  6. Hard to beat the feeling of rowing a stick car down the track, even the auto guys appreciate the effort. Had a Liberty face plated Tremec and 351w, can’t wait to make a pass with the LSC5100 and 427w. 3 pedals and a stick means “your” getting it done.

  7. Yes, a manual transmission is better than an automatic as automatic transmissions needs fluid changes and a filter that are required to replace . That is because a traditional automatic transmission with a torque converter have higher fluid operating temperature and it degrades the fluid much quickly in-compared to a manual transmission. I hope it makes sense to round up the big debate on positive note and it is worth a practice and,also believe to go for manual transmission in car rather than automatic transmission. Excellent tips to appreciate. Knowledgeable and helpful blog.

  8. I prefer a manual. The only purpose I can see for a DSG/twin wet clutch/whater is when the transmission is far away from the driver…like some sort of coach/tour bus…also the only reason to have more than six gears if the vehicle wieghs more than 6000lbs. One of the first real mods I want to do with my P71 is a T56, and hopefully keep the stock drivestaft. Those cars are too underpowered to have an automatic.

  9. In this day of distractions and distracted drivers, when I’m driving, I’m ‘hooked up’. I’m a better driver. The young adults I know all drive manuals. I’ve taught my kids and nieces. It’s important.

  10. Manuals last longer and easier and cheaper to rebuild when necessary. I had 420,000 miles on a 98 integral that I bought new. Never did anything to the transmission except occasionally change the fluid during clutch changes.

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