Driving and parking tips for the new owner of a manual transmission.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently purchased a vehicle with a manual transmission. I have two questions: 1) Is it bad to leave the transmission in gear when parked on a hill without having the parking brake engaged? 2) How harmful is it to rest your foot on the clutch when you're driving in gear?

RAY: Well, both of these procedures are highly recommended, Eric.

TOM: Right. Resting your foot on the clutch while you're driving is officially sanctioned by the Fraternal Order of Clutch Rebuilders.

RAY: And parking in gear on a hill without the parking brake engaged received "five stars" at the annual meeting of the Collision Repairers And Painters of Los Angeles.

TOM: Eric, what are you, nuts? These are both bad ideas. Leaving the car in gear helps keep it from rolling. But it's no guarantee. If the clutch is slipping, if the engine compression is low, or if the hill is just too steep...down you go. That's why you should always park a manual transmission car in Reverse or First (the gears with the biggest gear ratios) AND apply the parking brake. Just doing one or the other isn't sufficient.

RAY: As for the clutch, it only wears out when it's in use---when you're shifting into (or, to a lesser extent, out of) a gear. But when you rest your foot on it-- even lightly--you're using it, and therefore, wearing it out all of the time!

TOM: If you don't believe us, try out these ideas for a while, Eric. And then you can write to us in 15,000 miles and ask us a couple of more questions... like why your car won't move anymore when you let the clutch out, and how you explain to a local organized crime figure why your subcompact just rolled into his '96 Lincoln Town Car.

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