We often hear about a car’s transmission, but we don’t always know how important it really is to the car’s performance. What exactly does the transmission do, anyway? What’s the best way to care for your transmission? Here’s some information and advice for drivers of manual cars about how to take care of the transmission.

What the Transmission Does

In a manual car, the driver is responsible for shifting from gear to gear. The transmission transfers the engine power to the driveshaft and rear wheels. The gears inside the transmission then change the car’s drive-wheel speed and torque in proportion to the torque and speed of the engine. In a nutshell, lower gear ratios function as torque multipliers, which means they help the engine acquire the power to accelerate. The clutch connects the engine and the transmission, so when you push the clutch pedal in, you disconnect the engine and the transmission. Releasing the clutch pedal reconnects the engine and the transmission. As you’ll see, a lot of manual transmission problems are the result of improper use of the clutch, which can damage the connection between the transmission and the engine of the car.

Shift Properly

Always use the clutch correctly when shifting gears. Letting go of the clutch too soon while putting the car in gear will result in a loud grinding noise, a sign of the damage that’s happening to the system. Never skip shifts, such as shifting directly from second into fourth. It might look cool, but it can wreck the transmission. Also, avoid shifting into reverse while going forward.

Check Your Clutch

The clutch assembly should always move somewhere between a half an inch and an inch before you feel the heavier pressure from the release of the clutch’s pressure plate. Releasing the pressure plate means that the clutch is transmitting all of the engine power to the wheels. If the clutch isn’t moving properly, it could affect the car’s performance.

Avoid Downshifting When Braking

If you downshift (move from a higher gear to a lower gear) when you’re braking, you put unnecessary stress on the transmission. This stress will be audible in the engine. Downshifting to stop will wear out the car’s transmission faster than braking will wear out the brake pads. Instead of downshifting when you stop, put the car in neutral and cruise to a stop.

Avoid Riding the Clutch

When you shift as you’re accelerating, let go of the clutch pedal completely instead of applying pressure to it once the car is in gear. Even if you’re shifting gears frequently, make sure you completely release the clutch after every gear shift. Don’t apply continuous pressure to the clutch or rest your foot on the clutch pedal. Riding the clutch can quickly wear down the car’s transmission.

Change Your Transmission Fluid

Both automatic and manual cars require the transmission fluid to be changed, but a manual transmission doesn’t require new fluid nearly as often as an automatic. Most manual transmissions require new fluid every 100,000 miles. Check your car’s owner’s manual for the specifics.

Have Regular Inspections

Make sure to have your car inspected by a professional on a regular basis, and if any problems come up or the car starts making strange noises or running differently, take it in immediately.