Confidence behind the wheel is something that is often unreasonably inflated. We’ve all seen “righteous” behaviour of drivers during road rage incidents, all of whom are so confident in their driving skills.
The truth is, even those that are actually really good drivers were beginners once, filled with doubt, fear and lack of confidence. There is no shame in that, even though you may get that feeling. Regardless of your talent, you will need a lot of experience and kilometres under your belt before you can objectively be a good driver.
Luckily, we are here to help our novice drivers with some tips to keep them safe and get their confidence up faster. Here are some basic tips that will help you keep up with the traffic as a new driver and develop your skills and safety faster.
1. Be Comfortable
It cannot be overstated how important it is to set the car the way you like it. Even if you are not driving your vehicle, an extra minute or two for this will mean a lot. Get close enough to the steering wheel, elevate or lower the seat, angle the seatback to your liking, adjust the steering wheel reach and rake.
Make sure you also adjust all mirrors in a way that suits your height and sitting position. Almost each and every one of these points can have a list of tasks to perfect it, so we’ll leave that for another article.
In short, you need to be able to see all the mirrors with minimal head movement, you need to be comfortable and you need to be able to reach all the controls, including the pedals, without stretching too much. Adjust everything with three two points in mind.
2. Be Focused
Put your phone down, no argument about that. However, being a novice driver, you need to be focused as much as possible, so make sure you do the small things as well.
For example, find your favourite radio station and fasten your seatbelt before you start driving, not during. In short, make sure you are focused on driving alone. Many of these things are second nature to seasoned drivers, but they require conscious effort from beginners.
3. Use Mirrors
Yes, we’ve mentioned mirrors before, but we have to emphasize how important it is to be aware of your surroundings.
You will look at your mirrors 100 times for nothing, but the first time a biker swishes past you right at the moment you are about to turn, you will understand just how important it is to always know what is going on behind you and on the sides.
The sooner this becomes second nature for you, the better, so make sure you give it a bit extra conscious effort in the beginning until it becomes second nature.
4. Use Indicators
There’s nobody behind you, you can turn without the signals. Wrong! Always make sure you use your turn signals.
The fact that you don’t see anyone does not mean there’s nobody around, especially in the city. Maybe there’s someone driving very fast that’s not in your mirror now, but will be there in two seconds or maybe there’s a pedestrian getting ready to cross the street and has no idea you’re turning.
Maybe someone else is also turning in the same street but hasn’t indicated. All of these things are accidents waiting to happen that can be avoided with a simple turn signal.
5. Keep Your Distance
There is absolutely no reason to glue your car’s front to another car’s rear while driving and there are so many reasons why this is a terrible idea. The three-second rule is your easiest bet for developing a feel for being too close. Some cars also come with indicators that can tell you if you are driving too close and react, like the Mercedes Benz latest models.
Any closer and you won’t be able to stop in time if the car in front of you jams on the break.
Tailgating is dangerous.
6. Obey Speed Limits
Yes, we all know some speed restrictions, especially in the city, may seem too strict and you may rightfully feel you can drive faster through a particular straight and empty street.
What you cannot do while driving faster is stop in time when a child or an animal runs out into the street. Speed limits are not just about keeping control over the car. They are also about having enough time to react.
The first sudden scare will teach you this with ease, but why not prevent a potential accident before it happens. There’s a reason limits are the way they are even when that reason is not obvious.
7. Don’t Be Embarrassed
Whatever happens, take your time and make sure you do things with attention. You messed up gears and your car shuts down in the middle of a busy city intersection? Other drivers are getting nervous, they start using the horn.
You are trying to parallel park and it’s taking too long? Who cares? Keep calm, make sure you know what you are doing. Rushing and panicking in these situations is a recipe for adding more issues, not solving the existing one.
8. Don’t Risk It
You think you probably can, but you’re not sure you can pass the traffic light before it turns red? Stop.
You’re not sure your car will fit in the parking spot? Find another one.
You’re not sure you can overtake in time? Wait for the next opportunity.
Don’t put your life at risk just to shave off a few seconds.
9. Weather Is Important
So, you’ve driven through this road a bunch of times, you know you can go at a certain speed, sure it’s a bit faster and your car leans a bit while turning, but that makes it more fun and you know you can do it. You’ve done it a hundred times. But it wasn’t raining back then.
Wet roads can dramatically change your driving conditions in a split second. Make sure your tyres are in good condition and check out our tips on driving in wet weather conditions.
Whatever you recognize as your weak spot, find a safe area and practice. If you have to look at the gear lever while shifting, find an empty parking and practice shifting without looking.
There you can make a mistake. If you have problems parking, make yourself some soft borders that won’t damage your car if you touch them and practice. You’ll get good really quickly, just accept that you need practice.
11. Get to Know Your Car
Get the feel for the brakes, the length of the bonnet and the boot, the width of the car, throttle response, gearbox, body roll and similar. This will give you lots of confidence in everyday driving.
12. Make Sure Your Car Is In a Good Condition
This should go without saying, but somehow it escapes many drivers. A buffer between a save and an accident is usually very small and bad brake discs, broken indicators or a dead horn can make you cross that line in a second.
For us, driving is not just a necessity, but a passion as well. But it takes responsibility, care and experience to truly enjoy driving. We hope these tips will give you some ideas, maybe introduce some points you did not consider and help you grow well-founded confidence that is a must for every good driver.
Pests can find their way everywhere. They can easily get in your home, in your office, and in other places, you may own. Your car is no exception. The last thing you want to happen is for a cockroach to suddenly appear on your dashboard while driving.
That being said, not only can they be a nuisance, but they can also attract other bigger pests as well. This is why you need to keep them out straight from the beginning. Here are some tips for you to do so.
Keep The Car Clean
Pests are attracted to areas they see as potential food sources. So, if you leave bags of chips, leftovers, and other pieces of garbage there, you can be sure that pests will come scouting in your car.
Plus, cluttered areas are the best nesting place for beetles, spiders, ants and other insects. By keeping your car clean, you are preventing these opportunities from occurring for them. They will no longer have any places to hide in, which will make your car less appealing to them.
Kids tend to be messy eaters in the car. Make sure you clean up after them to prevent unwanted ‘guests’.
Use Pest Repellents
Whether we are talking about bigger pests or smaller pests, they all tend to have a very keen sense of smell. And just like us, they also have specific fragrances and odors that they might dislike.
For instance, Irish spring soap, peppermint oil, and cayenne pepper can be used to repel bigger pests, such as rodents. For bugs, you might try making a concoction from vinegar, vanilla, and lemon. This will keep spiders and other similar bugs out. If you get a lot of mosquitos in your car, you can also try tea tree essential oil.
Try not to use your usual bug sprays as they are rather poisonous and more so in such confined places. If the pests infestation in your car is really bad, it is better to bring it to a professional pests removal service.
Keep Things Bright
Pests prefer dark places, especially when it comes to breeding or setting up a home. If you want to keep them away from your car, make sure to keep things bright. A good idea would be to leave the lights in your garage on when you are not using your car, to discourage them from getting near the area.
You could also keep the hood popped open under sunlight for a few hours. Big and small pests alike tend to hide in the crevices under the hood, your car’s darkest areas. If you keep the hood open under daylight or artificial light, the pests will no longer want to stay there.
Block Possible Entries
Sometimes, the answer is as simple as that. If you don’t want pests in your car, you just need to block their entry points. Don’t leave your car doors or windows open throughout the night, unless there is a lot of light going around in there.
Also, if you know for a fact that your car has entry points for pests, you may use mesh to seal them. This will allow for the air to flow while keeping the pests, big and small, away from your vehicle.
Install Repelling Gadgets
Essential oils and concoctions are not the only things you can use to keep pests away from your car. You may also use modern gadgets. These products may emit high-frequency sounds that only pests can hear.
Some of these devices are sensitive to motion and can often last a long time. Used regularly, they may even be used for nesting prevention. You may also buy gadgets that also release repellent scents along with high-frequency sounds. They can be very effective in keeping the pests out of your car.
Traps are probably the book’s oldest trick but can be very efficient. Not only can you find traps for rodents, but you can also find versions for insects. Traps can catch and kill the pests on the spot (i.e., mouse traps or sticky bands), or they can work on a larger scale.
For example, certain bug traps feature a substance that is poisonous to bugs but does not kill them instantly. Instead, it lingers on their body, and they will take the deadly substance to their nest. Not only will the “trapped” insect die from the poison, but it will kill their kin as well, therefore, solving your problem.
Use Your Car
Sometimes, the main reason why pests enter your car is that you do not use it. If you leave the car parked in the same spot for several days in a row, you are all but inviting the pests to intrude. Whether we are talking about rodents or insects, they will be more likely to enter a place that has not moved in a while.
If you really cannot move your car or drive it, you may at least want to start the engine once a day. By leaving it on for a bit, not only will you prevent rodents from entering, but the warmth of it will also prevent insects from gathering.
The Bottom Line
In the end, to prevent pests from entering your car, you need to keep it clean and make it uninhabitable for them. You may use traps, you may use deterrents or you may use a combination of both. Regardless, if you are proactive, you may easily keep your car pest-free.
Your car battery is like the blood of your vehicle that keeps it running effectively. From starting the engine to activating the car GPS, the battery plays a massive role in your car’s functions.
Taking care of the battery ensures that your car runs smoothly with minimum problems. Let’s face it: we’ve all had nightmares about being late to an important meeting just because the car battery decided to die at the last minute.
It’s essential to remember that the battery deteriorates with every use. That is why it’s best to schedule a timely replacement instead of waiting for it to give up entirely.
Your car battery failing out of nowhere can cause a multitude of safety and reliability issues. Therefore, make sure to get it replaced on time, so you don’t have to say, “I wish I knew sooner.”
How Long Do Car Batteries Typically Last For?
Car batteries usually last around three years before they get worn down and become inefficient. However, this estimated age is affected by several factors. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to generalizing how long your car battery will last.
One of the essential factors in the longevity of the battery is the temperature. If you’re living in a moderate climate with little humidity, your car battery may last up to 5 years!
However, things aren’t as smooth for places with scorching heat and sweltering flames.
Since the average temperature in Singapore is higher, it has a considerable effect on the typical age of car batteries.
The heatwaves in Singapore increase the chemical reactions of a car battery. Unfortunately, this deteriorates the performance and reduces the average lifespan of the battery to almost half. Resultantly, the car batteries in Singapore may not last half as long as those in countries with relatively cooler temperatures.
Moreover, your usage patterns, including how often you use your car, also contribute to the way your battery ages. For example, if you use your vehicle for extremely short trips, it won’t give the battery enough time to recharge. On the other hand, if you keep the car parked in your garage for too long, the battery will probably discharge over time and damage your engine in the meantime.
Therefore, it’s essential to check the battery’s health periodically to extend its life as much as possible.
In most places of the world, a common cause for roadside assistance calls is car battery failure. So why do these breakdowns occur? A survey showed that it’s because the batteries were simply too old for their job.
In this article, we’ll look at eight signs to help you identify when it’s time to change your car battery.
1. The Electrical System Isn’t Responding Well
Your car battery deteriorates over time, but once the system gets inefficient to the point it causes hiccups in minor tasks, it’s time to schedule a replacement.
If you notice that your car’s electrical system isn’t responding well, it’s probably a sign of a draining battery. This includes checking whether the headlights work as well as they did initially. Dim headlights usually mean that the battery isn’t able to provide as much power as needed.
Moreover, if the radio and internal lights respond with a delay, it could also indicate a failing battery.
2. You Notice The Battery Terminals Are Corroding
Corrosion of the battery is another sign that it’s time to change your car battery.
Corroded battery terminals can significantly reduce the voltage. As a result, it will be hard for the battery to power the engine enough to start.
To check this, you can open the hood of your car and take a look at the battery terminals. If you notice a white ashy substance accumulating around the terminal connectors, the battery may be well on its way to corrosion.
In such situations, it is best to get the car battery replaced immediately rather than waiting for it to damage other parts of the car.
3. You Notice A Bad Acidic Smell
For some reason, car owners don’t take care of their battery as well as they do for other parts, such as the engine oil. In fact, most people don’t even bother to think about changing the battery till it completely dies out on them.
However, you must know that a deteriorating car battery can severely damage your car. This can lead to accidents, as well as a ton of money spent on repair.
If you notice a burning smell while driving your car, it could indicate that the battery is either leaking or damaged. The odor is almost like a stinky rotten egg, which is the sulphuric acid of the battery.
4. Your Battery Case Looks Swollen
If the casing of your car battery appears to be swollen or bloated, it could result from two factors. First, over or undercharging the battery causes changes in the acid concentration, leading to misshaping of the battery case. Secondly, this could also be because of the excessive heat. This type of swelling is particularly damaging to your car and can even cause the battery to explode if not taken care of at the right moment.
Therefore, if you notice any deterioration of the battery case, schedule a trip to the auto shop and get it checked immediately.
5. It Takes Longer For The Engine To Start
Another common sign of a deteriorating battery is that it takes longer for the engine to start. So basically, if the engine has a cranky and sluggish start that’s similar to a college student waking up after finals week, it’s probably time to get the battery changed.
This delay mainly occurs when the battery finds it hard to provide enough energy to power the engine. Although you may be able to get it to turn on after a few tries, it puts your car in great danger. Once the battery runs out of charge to power the engine, it could turn off at any time while you’re driving the vehicle.
So if you notice that starting the engine is taking longer than average, you’re better off taking a trip to the technician to avoid any potential danger.
6. The “Check Engine” Light Turns On
The “Check Engine” or “Malfunction Indicator” light is probably one that every car owner fears the most. This light often turns on out of nowhere and warns you to take a look at your engine.
There are several reasons for this light to turn on, one of which is a faulty battery. If you notice that the light is on, you should try to find a place where you can safely pull over and figure out what prompted the action. Often, the reason could be something like overheating or a misplaced gas cap, but it could also mean something more severe for the health of your battery.
It is probably in your (and your car’s) best interest to have the nearest auto shop check it out.
7. You Notice That The Battery Fluid Level Is Low
Hot weather affects your car battery in a similar way to how it affects the human body, i.e., they both get dehydrated. Like humans, batteries, too, rely on liquids for their execution. Harsh weather can cause the water in the acid to evaporate rapidly, which could tremendously decrease car performance.
Most car batteries have a transparent case that allows you to monitor the fluid level. If you notice that the level falls below the lead plates, it’s most likely the best time to change your car battery.
8. The Car Battery Is In Old Age
With the latest advancements and innovations in automobile technology, there has been a significant increase in the strain on the car battery. These powerful yet demanding features drain the car battery even when you have the vehicle parked in the garage.
That is why once your car battery crosses the 3-year mark, you should be on the lookout for it to die on you anytime. So keep an eye out for any signs or evidence that could indicate the battery is weakening.
However, not every dying battery shows apparent signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is best to have your car battery inspected periodically at the auto shop.
The deterioration of the car battery isn’t always linear. It may be working perfectly fine and then fall apart rapidly over a few weeks. That is why you should try to get the battery checked out whenever you get a routine service for your car. This will help you catch the problem early on before the battery can cause damage to your engine or other parts of the car.
Check out this list of the ‘Top 10 Car Issues‘ that you should know of as well.
If you are selling your used car in Singapore, there are a few ways you can do it, but one of those is not very common, yet it is pretty tempting. We are talking about selling your car by consignment.
In short, what consignment promises is that you can decide on the price, you can keep full ownership until the car is sold and a consignment agent will do all the work.
Sounds perfect? Let’s take a closer look.
The Benefits of Selling Your Car by Consignment
As we all know, buying, selling, owning and even thinking about cars in Singapore can be tedious, convoluted and very costly endeavours. COE makes everything even more complicated and the related paperwork is something nobody really enjoys.
Luckily, other people can do this for you and even give your car more exposure to potential buyers.
These people are either dealers or consignment agents.
The advantage of selling your car by consignment in this respect is that you determine the price, even though an experienced consignment agent will be able to provide guidance. The dealer will usually offer you a price that is noticeably lower, so if you are looking for someone to deal with the paperwork and the actual sale and still get the top dollar, consignment is the way to go.
Moreover, consignment agents will usually have the option of offering potential buyers good financing options since they work with banks. This also increases the chances of selling the car faster and it also makes your car an option for buyers who do not plan to pay the full amount immediately.
With our car prices here, this is a really welcome benefit.
Secondly, if you opt for consignment, you can actually still drive your car, much like you would if you were selling it yourself. However, most consignment agents will also give you an option to leave the car in their showroom so that they can show it to potential buyers.
If you have another car to drive, this is a good idea as it may speed up the sale.
If you opt to drive your car while it is being marketed and there is an interested party, the consignment agent will organize the best time and place for the buyer to view the car. This is a bit more work for you, as you need to bring the car but having the option of driving the car while someone else is selling it for you is a major benefit and well worth the occasional meeting with potential buyers.
Next, a consignment agent will deal with the marketing and promotion of your sale. These agents will usually be experienced; they will have a good system and even their own channels. If your car is good or if your asking price is a good one, they may even already know someone who may be interested in buying your car.
Lastly, if you ever sold something popular online, you may know what an issue phone calls and messages from buyers can be, especially the ones who waste your time trying to get you to significantly reduce the price. If you are too busy to deal with this, a consignment agent is the way to go.
The Downsides of Selling Your Car by Consignment
Yes, you get to set the price and it will usually be better than what the dealer offers, but if you think an agent is going to do all the paperwork, marketing and organization and get nothing out of it, that won’t likely be the case.
The price of their services varies, but most of them will take a certain percentage of the selling price. The percentage is something you might be able to negotiate with the agent. Even with this cost, selling your car for a reasonable price would probably land you more cash than a dealer would offer.
Where the dealer has the advantage in most cases is the speed of the sale. While you do need to drop your price for a dealer, you get the money immediately. With consignment, you have no idea how quickly your car will be sold. If you are in a rush, you can try consignment, but ultimately, the dealer is the fastest option.
Unlike dealers, consignment agents will not be bound by the lemon law and they will rarely fix any issues the car has. While this is not very important for you as the seller, some buyers will rather take these advantages and go with the dealer. It is not a major downside, but it does reduce the number of potential buyers a bit.
Should You Sell Your Car by Consignment
It really depends on what your priority is. If the speed of sale is your main concern then a dealer is the way to go. If you agree on the price, you get the money immediately and that is it. If you want to get the best price possible, then selling it yourself is the best option. However, if you want someone else to do all the paperwork, consignment and dealer are the available options.
Consignment sits between selling the car yourself and using a dealer. You get more money than a dealer would offer, but less than if you did it all yourself; you don’t need to deal with the paperwork and marketing, but you do need to wait for the right buyer to come along.
Speaking of which, while it may sound that there is no difference in the speed of sale between doing it yourself and using a consignment agent, that is rarely the case. The routine, established marketing routes, the previous reputation of the agent, having an actual showroom where buyers can walk into and knowledge of the market all means the right buyer is more likely to find your car via a consignment agent than car classifieds.
If you are planning to sell your car, make sure to send us your details for the best quote possible.
Cars, like any other machine, are bound to come across a few issues now and again. You may take them through routine maintenance checks, but there will be days when your car will sit back in your garage and think “ah, what a beautiful day to have a breakdown.” Luckily for you, some of these issues can be easily fixed without you having to take the car into service while some might require a visit to your trusted car workshop for repairs.
Problem 1: Dead/Discharged Car Battery
Dead or discharged car batteries are quite common, and there are plenty of reasons why this might happen. It can be because you left the electrical parts on when the car was not in use, parasitic drains, faulty charging, or perhaps defective draining.
Solution: The common way to fix this issue is to jumpstart the car. You will need a jumper cable, along with another donor car whose battery you can use to give your car a jumpstart. Place the terminals of the cables in their respective position, start the donor car and let it run. After a few minutes, try your car’s ignition and see if it works.
Problem 2: Uneven Tire Wear
Occasionally, after several road trips or daily drives, you may see that there is unusual tire wear (i.e., a particular tire’s treadwear doesn’t match with the other tires). This often happens when the wheel does not have the proper balancing.
Solution: To solve the issue, you need to immediately balance your vehicle’s wheel. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may also want to change the tire completely, so that you prevent any further issues.
Problem 3: Engine Overheating
When the engine of your car is turned on, things can get very hot as the power combustion is running its course. Your car uses a lot of radiators to ensure that the engine is at a proper level, along with coolants to ensure the heat does not go too high. If the temp gauge of your car goes up, then this means there is a problem with the cooling system of your car – specifically, the coolant levels.
Solution: If your engine is overheating quite often, then you might want to check your car’s coolant levels. If it’s not up to the mark, then you might want to add more coolant until there is enough.
Problem 4: Car Is Pulling on the Side
Picture this: you are coming home from the office and you are driving in a straight line. At some point, you find yourself putting some extra effort to keep straight, all because your car seems to veer off centre. This is not usually that big of a problem, but it means that your vehicle is out of alignment.
Solution: The obvious solution to this is to get your car’s alignment done. This can be done at home if you have the technical know-how, but to be certain everything is properly aligned, you might want to take your car to a proper tyre shop for a check.
Problem 5: Low Fuel Efficiency
More often than not, the fact that you are furiously driving your car around, without too much care, can cause the fuel efficiency to worsen. However, if you are driving your car responsibly, then the low fuel efficiency might have nothing to do with your driving habits. It may be anything from malfunctioning spark plugs, fuel injectors, dirty air filters, and so on.
Solution: The first thing for you to do here is to start driving more efficiently. If the problem does not seem to be anywhere near improved, then you might want to take your car into service. The chances are that you might need some parts cleaned or replaced.
Problem 6: Unusual Exhaust Smoke
An unusual amount of smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe is never good news and the colour can give you an idea as to why it’s happening. White or grey smoke usually suggests that the coolant is combusted along with fuel due to leakage. Blue smoke indicates a leakage in the valve seals. Black smoke suggests leakage in the fuel injector, causing excessive fuel burn.
Solution: Check if there are any leakages. If you do not have the experience or possibility to replace the parts, then you might want to take your car into a professional workshop.
Problem 7: Problem Brakes
When your car brakes are squealing or feeling less responsive, it might make you feel unsafe on the road. Usually, this happens because the brakes or brake pads have worn off.
Solution: In order to stop the brakes from squealing, you need to replace the brake pads. You need to do this as soon as you hear the squealing because worn-off brakes can become unresponsive – and can, therefore, lead to an accident.
Problem 8: Low AC Cooling
In a country like Singapore, where the weather is hot almost all year round, you can’t go driving around without a working air conditioner. If the cooling system doesn’t work properly, usually this happens as a result of gas leakage in the AC. It might also be a result of a broken or clogged compressor.
Solution: Check whether there is a leakage in the air conditioner or not. The chances are that you might want to take your car to a mechanic in order to solve this issue.
Problem 9: Car Is Using Too Much Engine Oil
Your car needs engine oil to function and if you find yourself constantly topping the oil levels, then you have a problem. Usually, this is because you may have used poor quality oil, one that led to a blockage in the oil filter. Another reason could be due to worn seals/gaskets and pistons in your engine.
Solution: Switch to a better quality oil and change the oil filter as well. If that doesn’t help then you should have your car looked at by a mechanic.
Problem 10: The Radiator Is Leaking
If your radiator is leaking, it might have been exposed to corrosion. If this happens, you need to take action as soon as possible.
Solution: In the event of a leak, you may want to switch to a liquid radiator sealant. As part of the usual maintenance, you may also want to replace the coolant. If the problem still doesn’t go away, you should replace the radiator and the hose entirely.
The Bottom Line
Very often, with the basic car knowledge of a driver, certain issues can easily be fixed. However, even after doing the “easy fix,” you should bring your car in for maintenance as soon as you can to make sure it has properly fixed and not cause further problems.
Most people think that gearbox types depend on if you have to change gears yourself or if it is done automatically. However, there are more differences in the underlying mechanisms, driving feel and the best application.
This is why we decided to give our readers a quick overview of the most common transmission options and help them decide what is the closest to their needs and desires. We will talk about the general concepts, their pros and cons and the best applications. There are, of course, exceptions to the rules, but in general, this is it.
How Many Types Of Transmissions Are There?
There are 5 different types of transmissions that we will be discussing in this article:
Automatic Transmission with Torque Converter
Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Single Speed Transmissions
We feel that these are the more common ones that are being used by modern car manufacturers. It is useful as a car owner to understand which transmission your car has and how it can affect the way you drive.
Manual gearboxes require the driver to operate the clutch to disconnect the driving force of the engine from the wheels and thus enable a change in the gear ratio. While manual gearboxes are beloved by many driving enthusiasts, they are less comfortable than the other options.
Sadly, the manual transmission is a dying breed. What once was by far the most common option now is reserved for a smaller number of vehicles, usually in a lower trim as a cost-saving option.
However, there are a few respectable vehicles out there that still keep the manual and are very fun to drive. Many hot hatches are equipped with a manual and its nature fits them perfectly. Also, some other driver’s cars still offer manual options, including the likes of the Ford Mustang or Mazda MX-5.
After the invention of the auto transmission, driving a manual car can be rather tiresome for city driving. Especially when you have to stop and move off many times throughout the journey. Drivers might find having to operate the clutch a pain.
However, there are certain benefits that come with driving a manual like a better feel of your car, cheaper maintenance and better fuel economy
Automatic Transmission with a Torque Converter
This is the most common kind of gearbox that shifts gears automatically. It uses a torque converter that is filled with liquid to accommodate the shifts. When the torque converter is not locked, the gearbox can change gears without any violent jerks as the liquid is used to cushion the change in ratio.
Many people see this option as the best of all worlds as it gives comfortable shifts that can be very fast and smooth at the same time. It is the perfect blend of comfort and performance.
However, there are some downsides. The most familiar one is a reduction in fuel efficiency. It is not huge, but it does make a difference. In most other options a single rotation of the engine crankshaft gives a set number of wheel rotations, depending on the particular gear ratio. However, the liquid that enables smooth shifts produces some losses as the connection is not as firmly set.
Simply put, with the liquid transferring the power to the wheels, the crankshaft rotation does not give the same fixed number of wheel rotations. These losses mean that sometimes you need more throttle for the same result and it means you use a bit more fuel.
The second downside has to do with performance applications. While these gearboxes can be amazingly efficient and while we do see them in many stunning performance vehicles, generally speaking, dual-clutch gearboxes offer faster shifts and a better, more continual use of the engine power.
Still, torque converter automatics seem here to stay. Their versatility seems unmatched and amazing solutions like the ZF’s 8HP automatic does wonders with reducing or eliminating the downsides.
Moreover, some of the most revered transmissions are of this kind, including Tiptronic used in VW and Audi vehicles, Steptronic used in BMW, 5, 7 or 9G-Tronic made by Mercedes-Benz or Skyactiv-Drive made by Mazda.
Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)
Imagine having two manual transmissions in one car. One is used to drive the gear you are in right now and the other one pre-engages the next gear. The moment you decide to change gears, the shift happens instantly because the second transmission is already locked and ready to take over.
Now imagine this shift from one transmission to another is controlled by a computer that can do it with higher precision than any human being. This is exactly what dual-clutch gearboxes are and the two clutches are used to engage one set of gears or another.
The computer is used to pre-determine which gear you want to shift to (for example, if your revs are rising and you are accelerating, it assumes you want to go to a higher gear) and also to control a number of other aspects such as shifting points and shift speed.
There is no torque converter and the power delivery can be very smooth and uninterrupted. This is why dual-clutch gearboxes are perfect for many sports cars. Porsche’s PDK, Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-DCT or Audi’s S-Tronic are the perfect examples. Such technology allows for small SUVs/MPVs like the Mercedes GLA 200 and Mercedes GLB 200 to have quick accelerations.
However, it’s not all good news. The chase for lowers emissions and the best fuel economy have made many manufacturers offer dual-clutch gearboxes in cars that are far from any performance application. VW has been doing this with their DSG for more than a decade now.
While the logic behind these choices is sound, DCTs are also notorious for being jerky and harsh at low speeds as the computer tries to lock the clutch as soon as possible to prevent wear. Volkswagen’s DSG is probably the most famous example of this, especially in its early days. While you will not drive a racing car in a stop and go traffic very often, your VW Golf may actually spend most of its days like that.
Another downside comes from the predictions of the computer. The gearbox keeps two gears ready to go at all times – the one you are in, and the one it thinks you want to shift to. But if you want to overtake someone on a busy road and you start off from the fourth gear, rising revs, you may actually want to shift down to make the pickup more immediate and not up, as the computer thinks. The computer will pick up quickly, but the lag is noticeable.
However, with the latest applications in ‘normal’ cars, DCTs are becoming more and more refined.
It is worth noting that there are also multi-clutch gearboxes like the one used in the Koenigsegg Jesko which has seven clutches, or several generations of AMG MCT gearboxes.
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
CVT, or continuously variable transmission, is like a cone with a belt. As the belt moves up and down the cone, it changes the gear ratio continuously. There are no set gear ratios, but a range of ratios that constantly change giving you the best efficiency at any given point.
If you are accelerating hard, the CVT will put you in the most efficient revs for that purpose in a second. If you are cruising peacefully, it will give you the lowest efficient revs to reduce the engine noise and improve fuel efficiency. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
The downside is that CVTs give a very disconnected driving feel. For example, you may be accelerating but your engine revs will be at the same level despite the change in speed, as the acceleration will not come from a faster work of the engine, but a change in the position of the belt over the cone. Many driving enthusiasts are not a fan of this.
Manufacturers have done wonders in trying to make CVTs feel more natural, even providing something like simulated shifts that resemble fixed gear ratios, but the disconnected feel is still there.
CVTs are still reserved for cars with efficiency as their priority, including many hybrids or low-powered city cars. The latter feels more powerful as CVTs get them to the best revs instantly, so they are a good choice for these kinds of vehicles. A popular car in Singapore with such a transmission is the Honda Shuttle.
These are found almost exclusively on electric vehicles and the likes of the uniquely stunning Koenigsegg Regera. As electric motors can spin at much higher revs, they don’t really need to change their gear ratios to provide efficient operation.
So, What Should You Choose?
If you are buying an electric car, you don’t really have a choice. If you are up for a mix of comfort and performance, a torque converter automatic seems like the best choice in most cases. If you want some high-performance gear changes, dual-clutch will give you the fastest shifts. If you have a low-powered car and you aim for the best efficiency, get a CVT. And if you want some old-fashioned, all limbs, heel & toe fun, go for the manual.