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Manual or automatic transmission?

edited November 2011 in Repair and Maintenance
I have an 04 Pontiac Vibe with 68,000 miles on it and the transmission has to be replaced. I live up a fairly steep hill and I'm thinking that's why it died so early.
When I get another car, is a manual or an automatic transmission better for driving hills?


  • Not really....but Autos are FAR more prone to failures than a manual is... For the most part. I think all the guys would agree that is a true statement.

    Whats happened to your Auto tranny? Whats it doing? SOmetimes little things can manifest themselves a s big issues when they actually arent.
  • According to what Tom and Ray have said on their show, when you live in a hilly area (like San Francisco), you are better off with an automatic. I am not so sure myself.

    I can see why an automatic might be better on hills for some people. When you start out going uphill, you might be inclined (no pun intended) to let the clutch out slower than you would if you were driving on level ground, and go heavier on the throttle. However, this issue can be overcome by using the proper technique with the parking brake as a "hill-holder," which will keep the car from rolling back.

    Frankly, it's hard to know if you need a new clutch because you are using improper technique or if you need a new clutch because the one you have was not designed and built robustly. It's all speculation. Perhaps if I were able to observe your technique, I could give you some pointers.

    Do you know anyone who has had a clutch last more than 200,000 miles? If you do, see if that person is willing to give you some pointers.
  • Back in the 1960s, most automatic transmissions were less troublesome than the 3 speed manual transmissions with the column shift. There were some exceptions--the 1955 Buick Dynaflow automatic gave a lot of trouble. Some of the Borg-Warner automatic transmissions in AMC products in the late 1960s and early 1970s were problematic and AMC switched to the Chrysler automatic transmissions. However, the GM 4 speed Hydramatic and the Chrysler Torqueflite transmissions were quite rugged in those days. The GM Hydramatic was even used in tanks during WW II. There was a company that beefed up the GM Hydramatic transmissions for drag racing--these transmissions were known as the B & W Hyrdrostick.
    Back in 1970, I had the synchronizers give problems in the manual transmission of the 1965 Rambler that I owned. The transmission man that repaired the transmission advised me not to buy another manual transmission--he said that the automatics were more reliable. He said that the manual transmisisons were designed in the 1930s when the engines produced less torque.
    I think that the manual transmissions in most modern cars have been improved, but if maintained with 30,000 fluid and filter changes, today's automatic transmissions are reliable. The weak link in a manual transmission is the clutch. My advice would be to purchase the car with the type of transmission you feel most comfortable driving.
  • Today, you will find manual transmissions are getting hard to find...Your Pontiac Vibe tranny failed because it's a Pontiac Vibe...
  • No the manual transmission likely failed as its made by Toyota.

    There is a higher than normal failure rate on Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe(same car essentially underneath) on manual transmissions. Toyota despite its golden reputation flubbed up this design.

    Manuals are far less prone to failure generally.
  • Automatic transmissions are the weak link of FWD/AWD vehicles...When they fail, the repair cost frequently exceeds the value of the vehicle..
  • Thanks for the comments.
    One question was "What is my tranny doing?" At this point it is making a noise when in gear. I had my mechanic (I trust him and so do lots of "Yelpers") diagnose it. He drove it, checked the fluid and replaced it. Noise is gradually getting louder. The clutch is ok, tho he said now is the time to replace it (when the tranny is replaced) but as that is another $8-900, I don't think I'' go that route.
    I'm assuming it is worth the investment and I can get another 3 years out of the car.
  • Harper- does you Vibe have a manual? or automatic trans? On first read I though you had an auto, and the 2nd post mentions a clutch switching me to think automatic.

    Think you may have a bad bearing and likely the hilly driveway isn't really the reason for the failure.
  • It's been noted that these manual transmissions are supposed to have the transmission oil changed every 30k miles or 24 months, whichever comes first.
    Maybe the lack of that procedure has something to do with the manual transmission failures.

    Another possibility is that the oil could be slightly low and this can lead to oil starvation on mainshaft bearings; maybe even more so on hilly terrain.

    While I won't go into the story we had a Subaru in the shop once that suffered repeated mainshaft bearing failures because of the trans oil level. The trans had a capacity of about 7 pints. Less than 2 pints down and the transmission mainshaft bearings would turn purple and freeze clean up after a few hundred miles.
  • Harper, check my discussion threads about my '03 Matrix. The problems with the Matrix/Vibe manual transmissions are many. They have received high lemon ratings. Since the tranny is the only part that is a lemon, I have my car in the shop now for a rebuild; I hope that it's worth it with almost 140K miles on the car. Oh yeah, and ask experienced transmission repair guys about this car. You will hear the same thing I said.
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