Transmission v. Brakes



For some sixty hears I have always used the gearshift, both manual and auto transmissions, to downshift at reasonable speeds thus save the brakes and improve control somewhat. Friend of mine says this practice is no good because transmissions are more costly to repair than brakes. What say you?

Al, Penn Valley, CA


Sorry, it should read “For some sixty years”.


Downshifting while on a steep downgrade is a very good idea, even if it does put some additional strain on the transmission.

Downshifting while driving on a flat surface is not a good idea–at least with an automatic transmission. As you already know, brakes are much cheaper to replace than transmissions.


Your friend is right. A brake job is cheaper than a transmission rebuild or replacement.

Downshifting is a good idea if you are going down a long steep grade, and you want to control your speed without overheating your brakes, but other than that, you should just use the brakes.

I know it’s a hard habit to break, but in the long run, breaking the habit should save you money.


I agree with the others, brakes are very easy to fix compared to trannys. Only do this on extended downhills.


What about driving in snow, where you don’t want to be on the brakes too much either?
I’ve done this a few times myself, where I’ll have a clear spot on the road where I can get a little more speed, but come upon a patch of snow still on the ground where I need to slow down, but don’t want to hit the brakes and possibly cause a loss of control. This is when it’s dark out, so I can’t see any further down the road than my headlights can show


I agree…using the transmission for sustain braking on hills is excellent; using it for every stop is useless. Better to coast in gear when possible by letting up on the accelerator earlier, and you get the advantage of engine braking w/o transmission wear. Better driving habits win out every time.


With new cars with abs, it’s better to hit the brakes when you have to, than downshifting in slippery conditions and using engine braking which cannot modulate braking, resulting in possible control loss. Especially true on ice. Slam and hold is actually safer…check out illustrations on utube.


Back when I was new to driving I was on a long icy driveway and thought downshifting was a good idea, It wasn’t for me, or the tree. Luckily very minor damage.


As you already know, even w/o abs on ice, it’s better to use and modulate bakes manually as best you can as engine braking gives you very little chance to release quickly to regain steerage.


Downshifting on a slick surface might cause the drive wheels to slide and before you can shift up again you lose control of the vehicle. Lately I have been using 2nd gear the last couple of blocks from my house which is all downhill. I have to stop at the top of the hill anyway so I just put it in 2nd gear (don’t have to downshift). Auto transmission.


Like so many questions we get here, OP needs to read the owners manual to determine when it’s appropriate to use transmission v. brakes on his cars. The manual is often less concerned about him saving one over the other than stopping him safely under both normal and slippery conditions as noted by the previous posts.