Am I killing my transmission?

I drive a 2006 Mazda3 S sedan, with a five-speed manual transmission. I’ve been shifting in the following manner, pretty much since I bought the car 5 years and 120,000 miles ago. When shifting from any gear to a higher gear while accelerating (during day-to-day, around-town driving, not during “spirited” driving), I let off the gas and pull the shifter into neutral at approximately the same time (without using the clutch), then I step on the clutch and shift into the next gear in the normal manner (When I’m being more of a leadfoot, I don’t shift it like this). It’s like double-clutching, without the first half of the double-clutch action. I hear a slight mechanical sound as I take the car out of the previous gear, very much like the sound of putting the car into gear with the engine turned off and my foot off of the clutch; there’s no grinding or anything. Also, there isn’t much resistance when I pull the car out of the previous gear, so I’m pretty sure I’m doing it at the appropriate time (if there is an appropriate time for this kind of shifting). I’m still on the original clutch, so I’m pretty sure that what I’m doing is actually extending the life of my clutch. I haven’t noticed any transmission problems, except for a bad synchro in 3rd gear (which hopefully has more to do with my spirited driving than my day-to-day shifting method). My wife thinks I’m killing my transmission. Am I killing it, or is this an acceptable way to shift?

If done properly…you’re NOT hurting anything. You can shift INTO gear also without the clutch without hurting anything either…But it has to be done properly also.

I don’t think you’re killing it, I’ve done that on occaision. You can feel the right time to shift to neutral by the force required to do it - it will be about the same as the force needed to shift when the car is stopped and the engine’s not running.

Like you said, your 3rd gear synchro problem is more caused by fast shifting into gear, not how you shift out of it.

But it’s not helping (or hurting) your clutch.

I’ve been doing that for years. It’s called “breaking torque” to get it out of gear. If you don’t have to use a lot of force on the lever, you’re OK.

If your technique is OK then there should not be damage. Poorly done lots of times could wear the transmission so it could start to pop out of gear on its own. Since you are going to push in the clutch anyway why not do it a tad sooner as you are shifting out of the current gear?

This is the first time I have seen 5 people agree on anything on Car Talk!! Good Going!!

Six… I commonly shift without the clutch. Like Mike said, if done properly you wont harm anything.



Except for starting off the line (engine running, it can be done from a dead start, too), you can shift through the gears without ever using a clutch. Clutching is easier, but it can be done. I had to drive over 100 miles in the UK after a hydraulic clutch broke on the weekend, and it was late at night (from London to a town up North a ways). Did the whole thing with no clutch. My BMW (at the time) was just fine. My wife’s nerves were a different story, but she got used to it after 95 miles. :slight_smile:

I agree that as long as you unload the gears when you do it it’s harmless, but I wonder WHY one would do it?

I am going to disagree with all the others, I was a tractor-trailer driver with 3 million miles and when I started I drove a lot of miles on non-syncro transmissions and people don’t realize the important job the syncros do. That little whirring sound you hear is the syncros spooling up to match the gear speeds exactly so you can shift without grinding. I was a freight hauler driving company trucks (usually a different one every trip) so there were no financial consequences if I wore out the syncros but if it was my truck it would be clutch every time.

Well, I knew we would get at least one disagreement!!

I agree with oldtimer 11. Not good for the synchronizers. They always say never rest your hand on the shifter because you can unknowingly be putting force on the synchronizers causing them to wear out. Imagine how quickly they can wear out if you shift out of gear without using the clutch?


Whether or not this technique does any damage, I wonder why doing it this way is of any value. You’re pressing the clutch anyway, so why not do it before you shift out of gear? What do you gain by shifting out of gear first?

There is a sudden break in the acceleration while shifting (with a stick-shift) that causes a passenger to lurch forward in the seat. Breaking torque before shifting smooths out this lurch and makes for a more pleasant passenger experience regardless of whether you pull the shifter out of gear before or after de-clutching. If the engine responds quickly to the throttle pedal being lifted, pulling it out of gear with the clutch still engaged can make for a nice pseudo-double clutch as the OP describes, which actually means less work for the syncros. Many seasoned tractor-trailer drivers shift without using the clutch most of the time. The clutch pedal on truck tractors that I’ve driven are brutal!

I don’t know that breaking torque in this way is needed to make for a smoother shift. It’s possible to do this easily enough via letting off the accelerator a bit before disengaging the clutch. I typically do this in a vehicle I’m unfamiliar with such as a rental or when driving a friend’s car. When I’ve had time to learn the gears, I generally break torque when shifting myself as this tends to keep me from driving like I’m Mad Max, as my ex liked to say. (I was taught to drive in the Army on a combat driving course so my defaults are a bit different than many folks’ … grin.)

I’ve never had issues with synchros going out early or, really, had to replace clutches frequently. My current vehicle is an automatic but I put 193,000 miles on my last truck (bought it new) and the guy I sold it to still hasn’t had to replace the clutch 5 years later. If I could have still fit my ex, the kid and myself in it I never would have sold it. Love that thing; I only ever had to replace a $5 starter relay aside from the obvious such as plugs, brakes, and such. Sorry, little OT there. Heh.

Nilt, letting off the accelerator a bit is exactly what I mean when I say “breaking torque”. I let up on the throttle, and I begin the shift as it hits the point where the car is no longer accelerating. If you suddenly press the clutch and release the throttle, it creates a “lurch” that causes your passengers to spill their coffee.

Yeah, doubleclutch, that’s bad form. I often get comments on how well I drive a manual. Funny thing is it’s not that hard … you just pay attention to what the vehicle is telling you. Sheesh!

Doubleclutch, I am not saying I didn’t shift without the clutch, I just wouldn’t do it on a truck I owned. If you ever drove a tractor from the 40s or 50s with a two stick transmission (duplex,triplex or 4x4) you would realize how much the clutch eases things on the transmission.

I’ve never driven an older twin stick truck. On the newer trucks with the air splitter, shifting without the clutch is pretty straightforward, as long as you float them gears right.