Skipping third gear.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

While riding with a dear friend in her 1990 Nissan Maxima 5-speed, I was appalled to observe that she skips third gear. When I questioned her, she said she has always driven this way, and has never had any problems with her transmissions. What do you think?

RAY: Well, Margaret, we checked with Hugh Louis Dewey, our chief counsel over at the firm of Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe. And Huey (he's known to his friends as Huey Louey Dewey) tells us that the constitution guarantees every American the right to the pursuit of happiness. So if your friend finds happiness in skipping third gear, she is constitutionally entitled to do so.

TOM: And she's probably not doing any harm to the car. On relatively flat terrain, most cars have more gears than they need.

RAY: For example, we recently drove a 1993 Chevrolet Corvette, which has a six speed manual transmission. To save gas, the car has a feature which automatically "locks out" second and third gear under normal driving conditions. So Chevy feels that the engine is powerful enough, that no damage will be done by shifting from first gear to FOURTH GEAR under moderate driving conditions. If you're accelerating hard, or climbing a hill, second and third are available.

TOM: And how do you know when it's OK if you've skipped a gear? Well, you can tell it's NOT OK if the engine starts pinging or lugging. Pinging is that "marbles rattling in a coffee can" sound you can hear when accerating. Lugging is a chattering or bucking you can feel when you try to accelerate in too high a gear. These are the engine's ways of saying, "hey, dummy, downshift, will ya?"

RAY: That's what it says to my brother. My car says "Hey handsome, downshift, will ya?"

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