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Know When to Shift in a Manual to Avoid Costly Repairs

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Driving a manual means taking responsibility for changing gears as you drive. Many people prefer this kind of direct control, but others aren't sure when they should be making shifts. This is something that you need to get to grips with since driving in the wrong gear will lead to reduced fuel efficiency and higher internal temperatures, all while increasing wear on the engine, transmission system and many of the vehicle's various fluids, which could mean manual gearbox repairs.

Here's a quick guide to help let you learn how to know if you need to make a shift.

Understand the Basic Rules

There are no definite rules for when you need to shift gears, but manufacturers generally design their vehicles to ensure that each gear fulfils a certain requirement. This means that each gear you shift into has a rough recommended speed of use and an average purpose.

  • 1st Gear (0-10 KM/hour): Provides the power you need to get moving and climb hills. You should also use it during low speed manoeuvres, such as parking.
  • 2nd Gear (10-20 KM/hour): Used for moving slowly and steadily, such as in slow traffic or while making turns.
  • 3rd Gear (20-35 KM/hour): Good for driving in residential areas or the city, essentially the gear you need for steady cruising away from the highway.
  • 4th Gear (35-50 KM/hour): Useful for driving at a good speed, but not for going right up to the limit on highways.
  • 5th Gear (50 KM/hour and Up): Used for cruising efficiently on the highway.

None of these rules are hard and fast, but it's useful to learn them if you're unsure when you need to be shifting.

Listen for Engine Sound

Many experienced drivers can change gear by ear. When you're in a gear that is too low for your current speed, the engine will need to work harder. If you're in too low a gear for your current speed, you'll hear the engine struggling to keep up.

Respect the Way the Car Feels

Excessive engine noise is usually a clear sign that you need to shift upwards. On the other hand, you'll find that your engine begins to run less smoothly when you're in a gear that is too high for your current speed. This leads to jerky motion and shaking.

Watch Your Tachometer

Otherwise known as the rev-counter, RPM gauge, or revolution counter, your tachometer shows you how many revolutions per minute (RPMs) the engine is performing; you should find this gauge next to your speedometer. Running in a higher RPM range than you need increases wear on parts and fluids, and doing so is a consequence of being in the wrong gear. If your tachometer needle shows a high number of RPMs, you probably need to change gears.