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Why You Should Consider a Manual Transmission to Take on British Columbia Winter Weather

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Anyone living in the Fraser Valley over the last few years knows how extreme weather has become in this part of British Columbia. In addition to summer heat waves, residents have recently experienced other severe weather, including heavy rains and strong storms. Perhaps you are worried about more snow than normal in late 2023 and early 2024 too, especially at higher elevations.

Extreme weather events always make driving a challenge. Many people in the Greater Vancouver area don’t have the luxury of staying home in bad weather. Therefore, having a vehicle that can handle challenging road conditions is helpful.

While your mind may jump to a sport utility vehicle or pickup truck, there’s another type of car you should consider: a manual transmission. Here’s why this kind of vehicle may be your best weapon against British Columbia winter weather, no matter what size or style you choose.

How Does a Manual Transmission Work?

There was a time in the middle of the 20th century when manual transmissions were the norm and automatics were the new kid on the block. Now it’s the other way around. So you may not be familiar with how manual transmissions work.

When you drive an automatic, the vehicle makes transmission decisions for you. You simply step on the accelerator or apply the brakes, and the car shifts up or down in gears accordingly. But with a manual transmission, those gear shifts are at your discretion.

Manual transmission vehicles have a third pedal on the floor called a clutch. You engage the clutch any time you need to switch gears, simultaneously using a stick shift to the right of the driver’s seat.

It can take a bit of practice to learn how to juggle using the accelerator and the clutch at the same time, particularly when braking. Most people know someone who can teach them, but there are driving schools that also have courses in driving a manual transmission. As a bonus, you might also pick up some defensive driving tips there that help with thick traffic and high-speed situations.

Many people who get used to driving a manual transmission never want to go back. The next section explores why.

What Are the Advantages of Driving a Manual Transmission Vehicle?

Improved responsiveness

Have you ever “floored it” while merging into tight traffic on a highway, only to have your vehicle lag behind your use of the accelerator? You might have felt like something was holding the car or truck back and then heard the sound of the engine change as you finally shot forward.

That’s the automatic transmission shifting up, which can take some time, depending on how the gears are configured in your unique vehicle. Some are set with longer third gears, so shifting up into fourth takes more time. However, you have none of that with a manual transmission, as you decide when to shift.

Fewer and easier repairs

Automatic transmissions have more moving parts and are more complicated than their manual counterparts. That makes them more expensive to repair due to the labour and parts involved.

Additionally, manual transmissions use either gear oil or engine oil as a lubricant. Because there’s no transmission fluid used, this reduces repair hassles for owners.

If you drive a manual transmission vehicle properly, you use the engine to help slow it down (more on that in the following section pertaining to snow). That means less wear and tear on your brakes, which saves money and headaches over time.

Lower cost

In general, manual transmission vehicles cost less than automatic ones. This is in part due to having simpler transmission components and in part due to reduced demand. If you’re shopping for a car, especially in the used market, you might get more of a bargain with a manual.

Potential for greater fuel efficiency

While newer automatic vehicles are catching up, manual transmission automobiles used to have better fuel efficiency. If you’re comparing two older cars, the manual is likely to need fewer visits to the pump. Also, if you understand the nuances of driving a stick shift, you can improve fuel consumption even more.

Ability to push start

If you have starter problems with an automatic vehicle, you’re likely going to be stuck waiting for a tow. However, with a manual transmission, you can usually push start it until the engine ignition catches to either keep on with your trip or at least move out of the way of fast-moving traffic.

Theft deterrence

Thieves tend to leave manual transmission vehicles alone because they don’t know how to drive them. One look at that stick shift, and they move on to easier targets!

Larger selection when car shopping or travelling

If you’re buying a vehicle, whether new or used, being open to a manual transmission gives you more options. Likewise, if you’re travelling, particularly overseas, you’ll want to know how to drive a stick to rent a car.

Pure fun

Then there’s just the sheer enjoyment of driving an old-school-style car. You might like the hands-on aspect of a stick shift and the growl of the engine as you move between gears. It can make nearly any vehicle feel more like a sportscar.

Some drivers report that driving a manual transmission keeps them more actively present while driving too, making them less distracted and less prone to accidents.

Why Is a Manual Transmission Often Preferred in Winter?

As mentioned earlier, you are in control of the gear you’re driving in with a manual transmission. This is one of the great advantages of a manual transmission over an automatic when you’re driving in winter weather.

If you’re in an automatic transmission vehicle, you’re at the mercy of your brakes when slowing or stopping in wet, snowy, or icy conditions. Your brakes can ice up, or you can easily go into a skid in this scenario.

However, with a manual transmission, you can downshift into second gear to slow down and sometimes avoid the brakes entirely. You improve your vehicle’s handling and gain more control over your path, which reduces skids and slipping accidents. This is even more important when driving off-road or on steep grades.

Many people say they prefer automatic vehicles for stop-and-go traffic around Aldergrove and Greater Vancouver. And while they are easier to drive in these situations, you might be sacrificing precision and control for convenience. Once you learn how to drive a manual transmission efficiently, you’ll no doubt appreciate spending less time on your brake pedal and feeling less “skittery” on the road in winter.

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