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Six speed stick

I am encountering some standard shift '08s with a six speed transmission. I have a five speed currently and wonder if a six speed will be annoying. Frequently, when I am accelerating rapidly and have the RPMs to allow a smooth shift, I move directly from third to fifth. This is probably a bad habit and I wonder how I will handle stil another geer.

Drive it and see. We cannot predict how you will feel about anything.

You are correct that you need not use every gear. Depending on your acceleration technique, you may readily skip gears at any time. In a new car you will need time to develop a comfortable shifting pattern that suits yourself.

If the car is running fine with just the gears you’re using (not overreving or lugging) then the practice is totally harmless, although possibly not fuel efficient. Your car doesn’t even know you skipped the gear.

You can do the same with a six speed.

In my fleet I currently have one 3-speed, two 4-speeds and two 5-speeds. Going to fewer gears is a lot harder since you try to shift it into gears that don’t exist. This isn’t much of an issue on the 4 speeds where there’s just nothing there in the 5th position, but on the three speed, that 3rd to Reverse shift can be a hard one!

The 6 speed will be better on gas specially on the highway. Now is this “skip a gear shift” accidental or intentional. I test drove one of the new ones and did that accidently, and on a wheezy car it was not a good feeling to loose the power band like that.
Building up the revs in the low gears however is bad for your gas mileage.
Is it an American car with a nice low revving engine or an import with a 10,000 RPM motor. That determines a lot of drive quality and your options for economy or some fun & games.

Just a little off subject. When I was having my car serviced at the Honda dealer recently I read information sent to the dealer that warned against skipping gears. Seems the synchronizers are stressed and this can result in some damage. Never heard of this before.

Or when you go from driving a stick to an automatic on the column, and you find yourself reaching down for a shifter that’s not even there. …a little embarrassing when you’ve got a passenger…

I frequently go from 3rd or even 2nd to 5th if I’m through accelerating and am going fast enough to cruise in fifth at a steady speed, which is about 35 mph or so in my car. There are times when I need to accelerate to a 35 mph speed limit as fast as possible which pretty much is the end of 2nd gear. Since my acceleration is through, it’s directly to fifth or often to neutral and I coast up to the next red light.

The addition of more gears to make 6 speeds in a car with a strong engine such as a Cadillac CTS that now sports either a 6 speed automatic or a 6 speed manual transmission is nothing more than a response by marketing peoples’ desire to equal the competition. The average consumer goes along with this charade thinking that more is better and the car companies sell it so it must be good. Corvettes of a few years ago and still have for all I know, when equipped with a 6 speed manual transmission, an electrically controlled lockout mechanism to force the driver to short shift (skip gears) for the benefit of the EPA gas mileage rating. The skipped gear or gears were available if the driver accelerated faster than normal. The mechanism was easily defeated by disconnecting one wire to the transmission. Yes, it’s harmless to short shift and yes, I find it annoying to have to shift more often than I feel is necessary. Maybe you won’t. I have a 5 speed manual trans car that could easily be a 4 speed with a little adjustment in the first gear ratio, omitting the second gear and then with a minor adjustment to the third gear ratio.

Sure you can get along with only four or even three forward speeds. For a long time “standard” meant three on the tree. Ford Model T cars only had two forward ratios for that matter.
However, five and six speed transmissions make possible a higher overdrive ratio without having huge gaps between ratios. I had an older Honda Civic with a really tall overdrive 5th gear, about 2400 rpm at 60 mph, and there were a lot of times when I wished for a extra gear between 2nd and 3rd.
If constant shifting annoys you, that’s why automatics were invented.

Modern gasoline engines are quite capable of producing adequate power over a wide range of RPM, i.e. power band from 2000 to 6500 RPM. Therefore you don’t need multiple gears to accelerate and cruise most cars. In fact, the GM powerglide only had two speeds plus the torque converter and it worked quite well behind a V8. However, for fuel economy, keeping the engine running in the 2000 to 3000 RPM range is best. If the manufacturer can keep the engine speed close to one speed, they can optimize the engine parameters, i.e. cam timing, intake runner length, head design, etc. for even more fuel economy. To get this constant speed more gears are made available. The ultimate is the Constantly Variable Transmission, CVT. If you drive a 5 or 6 speed automatic, you will see that the computer will hold the engine speed quite constant unless you are booting it for acceleration or have the mode button set for ‘power’. In cruise it will be running close to 2000 to 2500 RPM.

All this means that you can use all the gears; accelerate modestly; and cruise with the RPM in the 2000 to 2500 range if you want the best fuel economy. If you don’t mind the slight increase in fuel consumption, you can accelerate to 5000 RPM in first; shift to the next gear that will have the engine drop to around 2500 RPM; and finally shift to the gear that lets you cruise in the 2000 to 2500 RPM range. I would not worry about syncro wear unless you are hurrying the shifts. Remember that the input shaft and clutch disc are spinning down when shifting up so they are pretty easy to slow if you allow the syncro to do its job.

Researcher, I am unfortunately old enough to recall Chevrolet 6 cylinder cars with two speed Powerglide transmissions from the first year, 1950. They were complete dogs and I would not be surprised if a good rider on a ten speed bicycle could not keep ahead for a while from a stop. Chevrolet included a slightly larger 6 cylinder engine to compensate for the transmission’s shortcomings. Four speed Hydramatic automatic transmissions could do much better in Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs then. Chevrolet was a price leader and chose to simplify their automatic transmission. It was not really automatic because to start in low, the shift lever was moved to the “Low” position and as speed gathered, you would move the lever to the “High” position.

I remember the 1950 Chevrolet PowerGlide cars and, despite the shortcomings, they really did sell. No other car in the low priced three (Chevrolet, Ford, or Plymouth) offered an automatic that year. You are right–to start in low, you had to move the lever to the “low” position. If you started in drive, all you had available was the torque multiplication of the torque converter. Chevrolet revised the Powerglide in 1953 so that it started in low and then shifted into direct drive automatically when the car was in “drive” position. The Buick Dynaflow drive was very similar to the 1950 Chevrolet Powerglide as it depended upon the torque multiplication of the torque converter.

I read in one old car publication that Chevrolet and Buick did not use the Hydramatic 4 speed transmissions because this transmission had rather rough shifts between gears which wouldn’t be acceptable with the torque tube drive (closed driveshaft) used by Chevrolet and Buick at this time. This statement in the old car publication puzzled me, because the 1950 Nash Ambassador used the GM 4 speed Hydramatic and also had the torque tube drive. I don’t remember the Nash as shifting particularly roughly.

As I remember, the 1950 Chevrolet Powerglide also used hydraulic valve lifters where the standard transmissions had solid tappets. The engineers probably figured that the Chevrolet Powerglide would really be noisy with solid tappets, particularly if the tappets were a little loose.

One more note: I owned, at one time, a 1948 Dodge with the fluid coupling. It could start away from a stop in high gear, but it was even slower than starting a 1950 Chevrolet from a dead stop in drive. The fluid coupling in the Dodge had no torque multiplication.

These automatics truly earned the nickname “slush box” given to automatics in those days.

The engine’s efficiency sweet spot also is different with different throttle openings. The dyno graphs that often are published show the rpm where peak horsepower and torque occur at full throttle. What a lot of people don’t realize is that as you close the throttle, that curve changes, drastically. For example, when the throttle is closed to idle position, the engine can still make a certain amount of torque and horsepower. Both the horsepower and torque peaks of an idling engine occur at a rpm that is lower than the engine’s unloaded idle speed. In fact, at rpm’s higher than the engine’s unloaded idle rpm, the torque is negative, the engine is braking.
That’s why you should shift at a lower rpm when accelerating at 1/2 throttle than you would if accelerating at full throttle. An engine running at half throttle has a different powerband than an engine running a full throttle.
One of the biggest problem with 3 speed transmissions is that because the 3rd to 2nd downshift is so drastic, the high gear ratio has to be a tradeoff between reasonable hill pulling power and efficient cruising. With a six speed, it’s no big deal to drop down to fifth and that lets sixth gear be a no-compromise best possible gas mileage on the highway overdrive ratio. Fifth is for maximum top speed on a racetrack.