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How to shift into first gear

Hello. If anyone can solve a LOOONG standing argument between my husband and myself, I would appreciate it. He likes to shift into first gear as he’s coming to a stop (either sign or light). I think you shouldn’t put it in first until you’re at a complete stop. He says he’s not doing any harm as long as the clutch is engaged. We agreed to let car talk settle this once and for all. Thank you!

You are correct. Your husband is putting unnecessary wear and tear on the synchronizer assembly. It’s a pointless habit that he has.
If the vehicle ever starts to develop a slight “crunch” sound going into first gear then you will know whodunit.

Repairng a problem like this will be expensive.

I usually go into first as I am coming to a stop, when I am around 2 or 3 MPH. This allows me to use the idle speed of the engine to double-clutch into first gear very gently. If I am going to remain stopped, like at a long red light, I leave it in neutral with my foot off the clutch until it is time to go. Shifting into first will harm nothing, unless you are going too fast to do so. There a steep uphill hairpin turn near my house that requires me to shift to first around 12-13- MPH, and I have to double-clutch it to do it quickly without straining the shift linkage and synchronizers.

This may sound like a lot of hassle, but when you live in a city with Pittsburgh’s topography, you gotta do what you gotta do!

I like to wait until the car stops moving before shifting to first.

If necessary, I will double-clutch into first while still moving, but normally that’s not required.

Hubby is going to wear out the first gear synchronizer sooner or later.

Your husband is damaging the transmission. The transmission should be completely stopped before putting the transmission in first gear or reverse. I hope he listens now that you have some input from other drivers.

As with any other gears, a light touch on the shifter should be used to shift to first.

However, shifting to 1st with a light touch require some fancy double clutching footwork. Read up on “doubleclutch’s” post. I use those techniques to shift to first without forcing the shifter.

You should go into first after you have come to a stop…there is NO REASON to sit at a light with the clutch engaged and the trans in gear…YOu will fatigue your clutch springs…this happened to my Explorer from one of my friends over using the clutch and holding the clutch in while in gear…

When you drive a manual shift vehicle…shift normally and when you are going to come to a light…keep AWAY from the clutch until the last moment before you come to a stop and to prevent the engine from stalling out. You CAN downshift and release the clutch IF you need the engine braking affect…if you dont need it just let off the gas in the last gear you are in…and come to a stop…putting your foot on the clutch right before you stop…then go to neutral…then repeat…any other way You WILL BE overusing the clutch for no reason. People argue about this constantly…the way described above is the PROPER way to use a clutch.

Constant downshifting on the way to a stop is only needed in EMERGENCY situations…Downshifting basically places DOUBLE the useage on your clutch and taxes the synchros in the tranny…the method above is the correct way…I was taught by my father a CAREER long haul truck driver of over 40 years…

It depends on how extreme he is about doing this. If he is doing this immediately before the car comes to a complete stop, three or four mph, the difference is not worth arguing about. He may even be putting less wear on the syncronizer because it only has to match the input shaft rpm to the first gear instead of having to brake the input shaft from the engine’s idle rpm to a complete stop.
If he’s doing this downshift while the car is still moving 20 mph or so, he is definitely putting unneeded wear on the synchronizer.

Some transmissions, particularly the unsynchronized “crash boxes” found in motorcycles should never be shifted while the vehicle is stationary. If you gotta go through the gears of a motorcycle while the bike is parked, roll the bike back and forth while putting gentle pressure on the shifter and when the gear dogs line up, the shifter will move on its own. Trying to force it is a good way to bend shift forks.

In the old days, first gear wasn’t synchronized so you had to be completely stopped to put the car in first gear without crunching the gears. The only way to shift into low while moving was to double clutch. In fact, the way I would shift the old non-synchronized manual into low was before shifting into low at a complete stop, I would shift into second and then into low with the clutch pedal down.

It is like “BLE” says,it all depends on if he is trying to downshift into first at 20mph or 2 mph. No harm at 2mph but why in the world at 20 mph?

down shifting into first gear…? not a good thing to do. transmissions these days have synchronized gears, with a ring made mostly brass, to aide shifting into gears smoothly.
shifting gears should be smooth and quiet operation.
first of all you are right, you shouldn’t (not can’t) down shift into first gear coming to a stop.
second you can still harm the transmission synchros even with the clutch id disengaged.
i drove a manual transmission when i took my driving test for my license. i am still driving a manual transmission. i don’t down shift into first coming to a stop. when i come to a stop i’m in neutral. when come to a stop you should be in neutral foot off clutch.
when the clutch pedal is down at a stop, there is pressure applied to tho throw out bearing and the clutch cover which will reduce the life of those parts.

Correction…when coming to a stop you should be in the last gear you were in…remain in that gear with foot off the clutch and then depress clutch at the time you are rolling down to a stop to prevent the engine from dying. Then you go into neutral with foot off the clutch. Then depress clutch…into first or whichever gear u want and off you go…coasting in neutral is putting all of the braking onto the brake pads (which they should be able to handle)…a steep hill or mountain pass will give a good example of an over exaggerated version of the need for some engine braking action …when you can alleviate SOME of the braking job by staying in your last gear or lower gear if need be. This will ease brake pad wear keep your rotors cool and keep your trans and synchros happy.

As you are coming to a stop, Neutral is where you want the transmission to be, foot off the clutch… Using the clutch as a false neutral, holding the transmission in first, causes unnecessary wear on both the 1st gear syncros and the clutch…

When you shift from second to first, resistance is felt in the shift lever before it pops into place…That resistance is the brass synchronizer ring being forced into position which allows the gear to engage…Older cars had no syncro on first gear but skilled drivers could “double-clutch” the transmission and engage first gear without grinding the gears…As your husband wears out the brass syncronizer, it will become more and more difficult for him to downshift into first gear as the gears begin to clash…

Honda blackbird is correct! you should not be in neutral rolling to a stop. in fact you should not be in neutral when the car is moving forwards and backwards.
i always look ahead when i drive. when i know i have to stop, i start slowing down in gear, then i shift into neutral just before the car comes to a complete stop.

Well, I drive nothing but automatics, I let the transmission do the downshifting!!
I noticed a couple of people said the clutch should be “engaged” when they should have said “disengaged”

However, being in neutral as your car is rolling to a stop will do absolutely no damage to a transmission, even if you “shouldn’t do it”.

Really, some of us act as if the sky will fall if someone else does not drive exactly as we were taught to drive by the high school football coach who taught driver’s ed.

While I agree with all the technical replies that you are correct, I’ll argue it’s a battle not worth fighting.

You say your husband has been doing this for a LOOONG time. That means he’s not going to change. People have driven manual transmissions for years the way he does with no ill effects.

Do his habits shorten the life of the synchros a bit? Perhaps (we don’t have the details of his habits to know for sure).

  • He’s either doing it in a way that is not harming anything,
  • Or he’s slightly adding additional wear to syncros (that you’ll never notice),
  • Or you’ll get rid of the car before anything wears out.
  • Or there’s a very remote chance you’ll need to pay for repairs.

I would hope your marital happiness is worth far more than proving who is right or wrong on a trivial difference of opinion like this.

YES as I said…being in neutral will of course NOT HARM THE TRANNY… Being in neutral will put the entire job of slowing the car down on to the brakes…which isnt that great of a thing esp when yuo get free brake power from the decellerating engine…Being in neutral when coming to a stop has nothing to do with the transmissions health as I stated…and not a good habit to form.

The SKY WILL FALL…when you adhere to this being in neutral when coming down a mountain pass…then you overheat your rotors…and find out what brake FADE is all about…hopefully you stay on the road after that…this is the exaggerated version of what is taking place…

Any other issues?

Blackbird, we already have a member who likes TO MAKE A POINT using caps. One is enough.

LOL…SORRY…Its kind of effective and certainly warranted. I shall use them sparingly…except for my last post on the gasoline heater in the Corvair…lol…I went a little nutz with caps… It showed surprise and a raised volume level in my writing…thats what caps are for or at least how I use them. lol