Car transmissions - Standard or automatic?

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John McLeod VII
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Message 1557847 - Posted: 16 Aug 2014, 15:10:57 UTC - in response to Message 1557757.  

I always drive my car via the rev counter (tachometer) it is more accurate for speed than the speedometer. I know that in 5th gear it is 22mph/1000 rpm so I just know that 2000 is 44, 3000 is 66, and 4000 is 88. Also if I want to get my foot down it is useful to know whether the engine is in its max torque or power curve, or whether I need to drop a cog. Many times I see people pull out to overtake, try to accelerate and hardly anything happens, by the time they've taken a lower gear to pull away, there is a car up their backside in the outside lane!

I also miss the oil pressure gauge, all you get now is a light on the dashboard. And far too many people think that it is a low oil level warning light, and drive on until they see it before topping up. Then they wonder why they knacker their engine! The oil level has to drop pretty low for the pressure to disappear and trigger the light. I also miss the ammeter as well, that was a useful indication as to whether your dynamo/alternator/generator was giving it's full output. Most useful in the days when you could skim the Commutator and replace brushes very cheaply. And if you REALLY knew what you were doing you could flash Lucas units over from Pos to Neg earth!

Vis a vis some of the daft car accessories over the years, the silliest was the early UK 1950 Ford Anglias with windscreen wipers that worked on vacuum from the engine intake manifold. As the car laboured uphill the wipers would slow to a standstill due to the intake manifold vacuum dropping to near nil, only to start working again as the top was reached and the intake vacuum increased. They also had a tendency to slow down or stop above 40 mph for the same reason.

Some cars now have an oil level light in addition to an oil pressure light. The oil level light goes on when a quart down (in the US anyway). I found this out by reading my owner's manual. The only warning light I have seen on my car is the low fuel (which comes on with 70 miles or so left in the tank.)


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Message 1557932 - Posted: 16 Aug 2014, 19:42:37 UTC

I do look at the tachometer from time to time but one place where it is very useful is when you are using engine braking on a long down hill grade. Often high gear will not provide sufficient braking so you keep downshifting till you find a gear that will hold. On the motor home this was a real problem because it had an automatic transmission and anything over 2500RPMs could end the life of the engine. The weight resulted in a fine balancing act where you didn't take all day to get down the hill but you didn't damage the drivetrain or overheat the brakes.


There was a movie with Lucy and Desi where they were in a motorhome, and for some odd reason, that's what popped in my mind when I read this. ;~}

Some cars now have an oil level light in addition to an oil pressure light. The oil level light goes on when a quart down (in the US anyway). I found this out by reading my owner's manual. The only warning light I have seen on my car is the low fuel (which comes on with 70 miles or so left in the tank.)


I've done the silly thing of “testing” my fuel low light. Don't try that. :~}


In regard to monitoring speed with the tach, maybe I could have used that idea when my old Nissan Sentra's speedometer cable was broken. I got a ticket for speeding, but it was waived after I got the cable fixed. The car's odometer was also controlled by that cable, so it went awhile in virtual agelessness.

I always bring my manual transmission car back to neutral when I stop at a stop sign or a red light. Is this what you all do? I keep my foot on the brake, of course.
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Message 1557938 - Posted: 16 Aug 2014, 20:14:24 UTC

If god wanted me to drive an automatic he wouldn't have given me a left foot.
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Message 1557945 - Posted: 16 Aug 2014, 20:41:58 UTC - in response to Message 1551104.  

I started with an austin cambridge many year ago,
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Message 1557951 - Posted: 16 Aug 2014, 20:56:34 UTC - in response to Message 1557922.  

The only warning light I have seen on my car is the low fuel (which comes on with 70 miles or so left in the tank.)

In the UK that comes on when the "Reserve" tank takes over. It usually gives you about a gallon and a half of fuel left, which averages 50 miles. No problem in the UK with finding a filling station, but might be in the USA!

Depends on where you are. On my route to and from work, there are about a half dozen gas stations I can stop at easily. The round trip is a bit over 50 miles. In the south west, I have seen a sign that said last chance for gas for 130 miles...


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Message 1558001 - Posted: 16 Aug 2014, 23:08:32 UTC - in response to Message 1557938.  

If god wanted me to drive an automatic he wouldn't have given me a left foot.

I drive my car, left foot for the brake, right for gas. In my rig, left for clutch, right for gas and brake. My rig has a piggyback forklift, left foot forward and reverse, right for gas.
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Message 1558020 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 0:21:42 UTC - in response to Message 1558001.  

In my rig, left for clutch, right for gas and brake

That is the "proper" way to drive.
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Message 1558030 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 1:51:08 UTC

A brief return to sensors/gages --

When I was ten, my father, one day, asked me if I cared to knock out a dent
in the right, front fender. Of course, I readily agreed. He knew that I
could do it, having watched him change tires, many times in the past -- and,
this would involve jacking up the car ('36 Chevy), removing the tire (w/rim),
and then taking the ball-end of a ball-peen hammer, and pounding out the dents,
from the inside of the fender. Reverse process, for a completed job.

I did all that, and he was quite pleased.

The point, here, is -- With low-pressure sensors in the tires, a person is
obliged to take the car to a repair shop (usually, the dealership, today),
to have even a hub-cap removed.

My point -- not to sound technically-elitist -- is, that, perhaps, cars are
being designed for the least-technically-inclined. And, folks who understand
at least the basics, are being shunted off to the side.

Another example --

Hard-copy road maps? Try Barns & Noble; they're not in gas-stations, any
more. Why paper maps? Put the picture of the map in your head, and you
don't have to take your eyes off the road to look at a GPS device.
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Message 1558114 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 7:59:05 UTC - in response to Message 1558020.  

In my rig, left for clutch, right for gas and brake

That is the "proper" way to drive.



That's how I, and every driver I know, drives:)
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Message 1558201 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 14:29:48 UTC

My two oldest kids know how to down-shift. The youngest couldn't care less.
Driverless cars, here we come, I guess.

A follow-up point, Chris, is ... what will freeing up our minds lead to?
People are becoming more and more detached from former knowledge, to be
replaced by an environment which is increasingly-isolated from previous
reality.

A case, in point: It's becoming more difficult to engage people's interest
in nature and its problems. They don't have a "feel" for it, any more.
Many homes in Lexington, anyway, have lawn-service. The owners of those
homes are too busy in the technical world. They don't realize/care about
the consequences of having easy-to-maintain lawns, plus a few shrubs and trees.
Everyone, over here (it seems, from my perspective, anyway) wants his place
to look like Her Majesty's grounds, and maintained, accordingly. Disaster,
when multiplied many-fold.
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Message 1558215 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 15:25:28 UTC - in response to Message 1558214.  

Driverless cars, here we come, I guess.

They are here NOW!

Oh yeah, speeding along with no steering wheel, no brake or accelerator pedals at 25mph max, that's the google self driving car, good for the blind really... @ 25mph it's not much to crow for, as it would take ages to get anywhere, I'll keep My driving skills sharp and drive My own car.
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Message 1558216 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 15:32:32 UTC - in response to Message 1558215.  

Driverless cars, here we come, I guess.

They are here NOW!

Oh yeah, speeding along with no steering wheel, no brake or accelerator pedals at 25mph max, that's the google self driving car, good for the blind really... @ 25mph it's not much to crow for, as it would take ages to get anywhere, I'll keep My driving skills sharp and drive My own car.

25 is full speed and then some in LA rush hour traffic.
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Message 1558228 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 16:04:35 UTC - in response to Message 1558141.  

It's not quite like that Jim! Back in the early 60's when I first passed my test, cars were so simple that a 10 year old could work on one (and they did!). At that time in the UK there were still some pre war push-rod sidevalve engines about although OHV and OHC were becoming the majority. You opened the bonnet and you could get to everything, plugs, points, carburettor, filters etc. In those days we changed the vegetable based engine oil every 3000 miles, used flushing oil as well, and used different grades for winter and summer, But quite soon, 20W/50 multigrade mineral oils were coming in that lasted 5000 miles.

The extended oil changes are the results of tighter engine tolerances and better additive packages in the oil. My mustang 4.6l with 123,000 miles will still run 5000 miles without adding oil and at oil change time, the oil is still clean enough to see through.

But, technology moved on, cars became more sophisticated, Fuel injection came in, electronic ignition, engine management chips, diagnostic machines, instrument panels had a plethora of warning lights. You open a bonnet of a modern car these days and you just shake your head and close it again. Plugs last 60,000 miles, good job, ever tried finding one? You could change the old air filters in seconds, these days they are hidden away somewhere in many feet of ducting. Modern multigrade synthetic engine oils last for 20,000 miles or 2 years, with no sludge in the sump. Good job really as that is where front wheel drive cars effectively have the gearbox!

And also it has to be said that on the human front, drivers became lazier. It isn't seen as a privilege to own a car these days, it is just taken as a simple life convenience like running water at a tap. Ask a modern man to get his hands dirty and you'll get a pained expression. Also there is some truth in the accusation that car manufacturers deliberately design cars to be hard to service or repair by the owner, so that they have to be taken to a garage, or preferably a main dealer, for almost anything these days. Look at these labour charges! Garage hourly rates

I would put the blame for this on the United States. The technology for fuel injection and engine control has been around a long time but it was far to costly to use. Our pollution control regulations where impossible to achieve without far better engine control so when everybody had to use the technology, it's cost was no longer a disadvantage and everybody switched to it.
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Message 1558234 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 16:18:55 UTC

I change my oil every six months, but have resisted using the synthetic stuff. Any thoughts on this?

Also, how often do you all change your manual transmission fluid? My 1999 Saturn SC1 has 133,000 miles on it, and I had the fluid changed just a few months ago, and that was my first time. I bought the car in 2008, when it had 108,000 miles on it.
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Message 1558240 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 16:36:44 UTC - in response to Message 1558234.  
Last modified: 17 Aug 2014, 17:31:23 UTC

I change my oil every six months, but have resisted using the synthetic stuff. Any thoughts on this?

Also, how often do you all change your manual transmission fluid? My 1999 Saturn SC1 has 133,000 miles on it, and I had the fluid changed just a few months ago, and that was my first time. I bought the car in 2008, when it had 108,000 miles on it.

Check the owners manual for the oil change period on the manual transmission but 100,000 miles sounds about right for manual transmission or rear ends.
The real determination on oil changes is how long the additive package holds up. Truck driver don' t change oil by miles because it can take over 4 gallons of oil. They pull oil samples and send them to a lab that runs a check on the additive package. When the additive package starts to break down, it's time for an oil change. Synthetic oils do tend to last longer but without a test kit, I would advise you stick with the factory oil change period.
The reason for changing the oil is not because the oil wears out. The reason is because the additive package breaks down or the oil is carrying to much grime.
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Message 1558255 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 17:29:01 UTC - in response to Message 1558216.  

Driverless cars, here we come, I guess.

They are here NOW!

Oh yeah, speeding along with no steering wheel, no brake or accelerator pedals at 25mph max, that's the google self driving car, good for the blind really... @ 25mph it's not much to crow for, as it would take ages to get anywhere, I'll keep My driving skills sharp and drive My own car.

25 is full speed and then some in LA rush hour traffic.

I doubt it would be allowed on a freeway, otherwise a moped could probably go there, I had one that would do 25mph and there were mopeds that did more than 25mph.
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Message 1558256 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 17:30:29 UTC - in response to Message 1558240.  

The reason for changing the oil is not because the oil wears out. The reason is because the additive package breaks down or the oil is carrying to much grime.


My car's engine oil gets dirty. I drive light miles, but always city stop n' go, never highway.

It's amazing to me that the transmission oil doesn't need to be changed as frequently as the engine's.
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Message 1558258 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 17:31:14 UTC - in response to Message 1558240.  

I change my oil every six months, but have resisted using the synthetic stuff. Any thoughts on this?

Also, how often do you all change your manual transmission fluid? My 1999 Saturn SC1 has 133,000 miles on it, and I had the fluid changed just a few months ago, and that was my first time. I bought the car in 2008, when it had 108,000 miles on it.

Check the owners manual for the oil change period on the manual transmission but 100,000 miles sounds about right for manual transmission or rear ends.
The real determination on oil changes is how long the additive package hold up. Truck driver don' t change oil by miles because it can take over 4 gallons of oil. They pull oil samples and send them to a lab that runs a check on the additive package. When the additive package starts to break down, it's time for an oil change. Synthetic oils do tend to last longer but without a test kit, I would advise you stick with the factory oil change period.
The reason for changing the oil is not because the oil wears out. The reason is because the additive package breaks down or the oil is carrying to much grime.

I run synthetic in my 24yo 1990 Olds Cutlass Ciera. Why? Because it is the best for the motor. Which still has only 60,000 miles on it, and I intend to drive the car until the wheels fall off. Rebuilding the suspension in a couple of weeks.

I change engine oil twice a year, spring and fall, not because it really needs it with the low mileage I drive, but I prefer to run 20w50w in the summer and 5w30w in the winter to make cranking a bit easier when it gets down below zero f here.

Your statement about the additives in oil being what 'wears out' is largely true. I have not changed the auto transmission fluid, but I did top it off with a bottle of additive restorer. I think it may have been from Lucas. It replenishes the detergents and thingys that keep gum and sludge from building up and the seals from hardening.

Another thing I might point out about automatic transmissions...sometimes when they act up, the filter has to be changed. Yes, auto trannys have a fluid filter too. It's inside the pan. I had a couple of old high mileage Buicks years ago that when the weather got cold, would hesitate to go into gear in the morning. That's because the filter was clogged up and the cold, thicker fluid would not flow through it readily.
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Message 1558267 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 17:44:57 UTC - in response to Message 1558256.  

The reason for changing the oil is not because the oil wears out. The reason is because the additive package breaks down or the oil is carrying to much grime.


My car's engine oil gets dirty. I drive light miles, but always city stop n' go, never highway.

It's amazing to me that the transmission oil doesn't need to be changed as frequently as the engine's.

Two thing break down motor oil. One is the engine runs at higher temperatures and there is blow by from the rings. Transmissions have oil coolers that allow the oil to reach the optimum temperature and then tend to hold that temperature. I saw a table once from GM and it indicated oil at room temperature would last forever but at the temperature increased, it's life was shorter. That is also the reason why oil coolers have been added to engines.

Automatic transmission can have a shorter oil change period if they are used to pull heavy loads because the temperature may rise above the normal operating temperature. This will result in a burnt smell.
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Message 1558269 - Posted: 17 Aug 2014, 17:48:56 UTC - in response to Message 1558267.  

The reason for changing the oil is not because the oil wears out. The reason is because the additive package breaks down or the oil is carrying to much grime.


My car's engine oil gets dirty. I drive light miles, but always city stop n' go, never highway.

It's amazing to me that the transmission oil doesn't need to be changed as frequently as the engine's.

Two thing break down motor oil. One is the engine runs at higher temperatures and there is blow by from the rings. Transmissions have oil coolers that allow the oil to reach the optimum temperature and then tend to hold that temperature. I saw a table once from GM and it indicated oil at room temperature would last forever but at the temperature increased, it's life was shorter. That is also the reason why oil coolers have been added to engines.

Automatic transmission can have a shorter oil change period if they are used to pull heavy loads because the temperature may rise above the normal operating temperature. This will result in a burnt smell.

If the oil truly has a burnt smell, it usually means you are burning up the clutches with slippage. Not usually from the fluid itself.
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