Hello all knowing Car Talk community, I need your help with a current debate I am having. I just bought a manual car and my wife is telling me that I should always downshift, regardless of how short the distance is between me and the stopped traffic ahead. Even if I am not taking my foot off of the brake before stopping. Her argument is I should always be in gear in case I have to maneuver somehow, my argument is if I am coming to stop with other traffic that even if I am in gear I can’t go anywhere anyway because I have nowhere to go and it just makes extra work for me to bother putting it in gear when I am not even going to let out the clutch. Please advise!

Brakes cost $$$ Transmission cost $$$$$$$$$$

There are times when you should down shift as you slow down, but not always.

However it may be more important to tell you wife how impressed you are with her knowledge than to try and tell her she is wrong.

(Side comment to Mrs. Clawson) Be a great wife and let the driver drive.
(Side comment to Mr. Clawson) Be a great husband and let the driver drive.

Life is too short to worry about these things. It is a judgment call ("how short the distance is…) let the driver make the decision.

I do not downshift as I’m slowing down for a stop. I only downshift when I want to accelerate.

I do not, however, shift to neutral and coast to a stop. The car remains in gear until shortly before I stop. If I need to “maneuver” I can quickly shift to a lower gear. It only takes a second.

Downshifting causes extra wear on the clutch and the transmission, both of which are very expensive to replace.

Having said that, if you wife believes she should downshift (probably got the idea from her father), you will have a hard time convincing her. I wouldn’t make a major issue of this. Can’t you agree to disagree?

Does she downshift with automatic transmissions? No. Transmissions and clutches are expensive. Brake pads are cheap. Use the brakes.

I too happen to believe your wife’s recommendations will add wear. However no one has a crystal ball that can tell you if it will lead to your needing transmission/clutch repairs (that you otherwise would not have needed to make).

In the end, it’s only a car, and its value doesn’t even come close to a happy marriage.

To add to Joseph Meehan’s comment:

  • Brakes cost: $$$
  • Transmission cost: $$$$$$$$$$
  • Unhappy marriage cost: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Like everyone is saying. Is it better to be correct or better to be Happy. As we all grow older I tend to be less concerned about being right all the time. Trust me it’s hard when you have an engineering degree.

Transmissions are great supplements to brakes in overall braking effectiveness. But, unless you’re driving a tractor with a hydrostatic transmission, cars are meant to have a balance between these two systems for max control and safety and over use of one over the other as suggested by wife, is asking for trouble.
Other than on long hills, effective engine braking occurs just leaving it in gear and letting up on the gas a little early…till you get to idle speed, Do this and make the people who made the car and wrote the manual happy.

If you are going to downshift as you slow down, replace the muffler on your car with a glass packed muffler or some other straight through muffler. The noise the car makes as you slow down in gear was called “racking off” back in the 1950’s. So what if it is hard on the transmission? Your car will sound impressive and if you impress your wife, it may be worth it. If she isn’t impressed, maybe some other cute chick from the 1950’s will be.

In re reading OP’s post; wife is right in one respect…always be in gear. If the debate is whether to leave in gear or clutch, she’s more right than wrong IMO. Sounds like OP is saying he’s not in gear at all…wrong or am I missing something ? Both sides seem to have a driving problem…get an auto.