There are those who prefer automatic transmissions because of their ease and efficiency. Then there are those who prefer a manual transmission due to its performance and control. Is there really a better choice between the two? As with most decisions made in life, the answer is, it depends. Obviously if you’ve never learned to drive a standard, you’re going to need an automatic. On the other hand, many people first learned to drive on a stick-shift and the ease of an automatic is both bland and boring for them. No matter which you prefer, there is good and bad to both.
We’ll start with the good and bad of the automatic. The first good thing about the automatic is the obvious one – it’s easier to operate. No clutch to press in, no stick to constantly move, just push the gas and the car goes. It’s much easier for a driver because he/she does not have to pay attention to the vehicle’s rpm or speed to shift. Today’s automatic transmissions are regulated and operated by the onboard computer. It knows when it should shift, downshift, and remain stationary. If you can tell the difference between a “D” and an “R”, you’re all set to drive an automatic.
Reliability and repair costs are also in favor of automatics. Because they are designed to be handled by the computer, automatic transmissions don’t suffer from human error. The only human error which can hurt an automatic is the failure to properly change the transmission fluid and/or filter. As long as you keep up with your mileage intervals, your automatic tranny will outlast several other areas of your vehicle.
The bad side to automatics is that, should the need for repairs ever arise, they are traditionally more expensive to fix. Automatics are filled with small passageways in the valve body, numerous clutch packs, gears, and computerized sensors and relays. As such, they are much more complicated to repair. Filters are designed to remove harmful contaminants, such as the aluminum shavings that fill a transmission over the natural course of time due to constant friction, before they have a chance to plug up the valve body. However, if the filter and fluid is not changed regularly, these contaminants can wreak havoc on the internal workings.
Now, we’ll look at the good side of the manual transmission. Obviously, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, the standard transmission is of a much simpler design and traditionally costs less to repair when there is a problem. It also gives your vehicle the opportunity to utilize more of its power. Since the driver controls when the vehicle shifts, the gearing can be utilized to its maximum output. This is not the case with an automatic which is told when to shift, meaning that gearing cannot reach its maximum potential before the gearing range changes.
Also, despite how well an automatic transmission is controlled, acceleration can only reach its maximum potential if there is a human being controlling when the gears change. Granted, the automatic transmission has come a long way in performance standards, but an experienced driver with a manual transmission will still outperform an automatic every time. This is the biggest reason that NASCAR drivers typically drive manual transmissions.
The bad part of the manual transmission is the more frequent need for repair. If you’ve ever owned a standard tranny, you know that sooner or later you’re going to need to replace the clutch. That’s just the nature of the beast. Clutches consist of a friction plate made of similar material to your brake pads. After so many miles of usage, it’s going to wear out. Unfortunately, this is never usually a cheap or an easy fix.
The choice of which is the better to drive definitely relies on the driver. It’s a personal preference that is usually only attained by driving both options and deciding which is best for you.