Standard Transmissions

First, allow a definition. Standard transmissions enable a driver to shift gears in a vehicle by depressing a clutch before changing from one gear to the next. This is in opposition to the standard in most vehicles on the road today: Automatic transmissions. Avoid confusing “standard issue” automatic transmissions with standard or manual transmissions. I know, we can’t call it a manual transmission because it implies only males can operate them. Malarkey!

It is my firm belief that driver education vehicles should only be equipped with manually shifted standard transmissions. Anyone learning with a manual transmission should be able to drive anything.

The tricky part was going from low to high range. You had to coordinate pulling up the low/high lever on the gear shift correctly as you changed during clutch depression. Many times, double clutching was required to properly engage gears. Going down from sixth to fifth was also a slowing down challenge.

Gear Shift Pattern
N is neutral with R signifying reverse.

I learned to drive a farm tractor when I was 12 years old. Knowing how to drive a standard enabled me to get a job driving flat bed trucks for a lumber yard when I earned my driver’s license at 16. The trucks were 10-speeds (not counting reverse or neutral) requiring you to start in first gear, low range, and work your way up to fifth gear, then shift to high range and work your way up from 6th to 10th gear to increase speed.

Technical stuff, I know, but learning to drive with a standard transmission teaches you how to keep proper distances from vehicles in front of you, especially on hills, and how to ensure you have enough room to slow down and avoid collisions. The coordination to stop involves clutch, shifting to neutral to disengage gears, and braking; all requiring conscious thought. Most passenger vehicles with standard transmissions only have five speeds and the shift pattern is tight compared to a larger truck’s gear shift. There’s also a reverse gear set slightly apart from the shift pattern to avoid accidentally shifting into reverse; that’s hard on the transmission.

Learning to drive with a standard transmission usually involves the grinding of a few gears as you get the hang of the pattern, clutch smoothness, and shift requirements. Try it sometime; some place safe.

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