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Proper Shifting Technique

XC92

Proven Member
1,364
280
Jul 22, 2020
Queens, New_York
This may seem like a stupid question given that I've owned and driven the same stick shift DSM for close to 30 years, and have been driving stick for even longer than that. But my car sat for 5-6 years and I drove only automatics during that time, and now that I've fixed and mostly restored my Talon and driving it regularly again, I just want to make sure that I'd doing it right. I'm just going with muscle memory and I'm pretty sure I am, but thought I'd ask, especially about one specific aspect.

Basically, when I upshift, I let my foot off the gas, disengage the clutch, shift into the next gear, then simultaneously reengage the clutch and press the gas pedal. But I was just wondering, should I maintain some pressure on the gas pedal the whole time, or am I right to release it until I start to release the clutch pedal once it's in the next gear?

I want to avoid excessive stress on the engine, clutch and trans, while at the same time avoid any jerkiness in the car's forward motion, especially if there are passengers. Releasing the gas pedal doesn't exactly make the car jerk back, the way that suddenly releasing the clutch pedal makes it jerk forward, but the deceleration is noticeable and I was hoping to avoid it, but without potentially damaging anything in the process.

I feel kind of stupid asking this because driving a stick isn't new to me. But could I have been doing it wrong all these years and not realized it? Or was I doing it right, but it's not necessarily the only "right" way to do it?

Downshifts are a whole other thing. I've mostly stopped engine braking as I understand that it's hard on the parts, and I understand that I basically want to rev match, to avoid unnecessary wear and tear, and of course any jerkiness.
 

1990TSIAWDTALON

Moderator
9,000
4,880
Nov 14, 2013
Independence, Kansas
Drive it like a grandma. Downshift when you want. It won't hurt it unless you are downshifting from 9200 or some silly stuff. I always use the gears to slow down, less heat on the brakes. If the transmission is in fine shape, it is meant to handle normal driving styles on a stock car like yours.
 

XC92

Proven Member
1,364
280
Jul 22, 2020
Queens, New_York
Drive it like a grandma. Downshift when you want. It won't hurt it unless you are downshifting from 9200 or some silly stuff. I always use the gears to slow down, less heat on the brakes. If the transmission is in fine shape, it is meant to handle normal driving styles on a stock car like yours.
That concerns my other, less important question. Mainly I wanted to know what to do with the gas pedal when upshifting. Release, maintain, press in? I'm pretty sure I'm doing it right but with so many years not driving a stick, I just want to make sure.
 

1990TSIAWDTALON

Moderator
9,000
4,880
Nov 14, 2013
Independence, Kansas
I just bang the s*** of them, no lag. The less slipping of the clutch as possible. You don't have a lightened flywheel so you will get a lot of inertia out of the stock flywheel to get ya moving and to maintain engine speed while you are in between shifts so just make reasonably quick shifts, don't let it lag like a grandma might. Accelerator.....I just let off and go back on it if I am just piddling around. Much different if I am having a run!
I really thought driving a stick was like riding a bike, but it doesn't hurt to ask if you are doing it right. I MADE my sons take their drivers test in a stick shift car (they didn't like it at the time but are glad now).
 

XC92

Proven Member
1,364
280
Jul 22, 2020
Queens, New_York
I tried both methods but clearly I'm used to the one where you release the gas pedal until you're ready to release the clutch pedal. So the method where you don't release the gas is done, but more for racing or more "spirited" driving, not for everyday driving? Does it tend to wear out the clutch, engine or trans faster?

Also, is what you're referring to what's called "speed shifting", compared to that other method where you don't release the gas, which I think is called "power shifting", and most drivers use yet a third method, what you call "grandma shifting", right?
 

1990TSIAWDTALON

Moderator
9,000
4,880
Nov 14, 2013
Independence, Kansas
Basically. I don't call it speed shifting, I just don't fart around when I am going thru the gears. I get it into the next gear asap and out on the clutch and back on the gas. I drive my cars where THEY want to be driven, meaning whatever RPM it likes, that is the gear I am in.
Racing, foot to floor, hoping the rev limiter works if I miss a shift.
I don't go into gear really fast, I do take it easy on the syncro's and let them do their work when I am just driving for groceries or what not. That makes the trans not have to work as hard and if you feel like rev matching, go for it. I don't but if you are good at it, you don't even need the clutch. My DD Saturn had its slave cylinder go out when I was 20 miles from home and I drove it right back to the shop that did my work WITH NO CLUTCH. It was a little bit of a challenge as to what route I needed to take but I got her there. The shop was trying to figure out how to get it back when I came pulling in. They were glad I knew how to get it home. :)
It turned out that the slave had just popped out of place, they repositioned it and I was back on the road in 10 minutes.
 

Kryndon

Proven Member
804
460
Jan 10, 2014
Bulgaria, Europe
I really don't want to come off as rude or snide but come on bud, you've driven stick all your life, 5 years ain't gonna make you forget how to do it! Just normal upshifting would be getting up to your desired RPM (personally I do 2200 RPM max in the city and then upshift, dropping to 1800-1900 diesel territory), pressing in the clutch not fully, I'd say 80% just so I break most of the contact between plate and disc. Then I shift into next gear and just as I let go of the clutch I get on the gas lightly, around 10-20% clutch pressed in, if that makes sense? Basically you get on the gas at the right moment to avoid jerk but to also avoid excessive clutch slippage.

As for downshifting and engine braking, I could not disagree more. Engine braking IS a critical braking method which should be utilized in any vehicle and in most conditions (excluding severe snow or icing on road!). Also, engine braking has THE LEAST amount of engine load. Think about it, what is engine braking? It's the engine acting as a vacuum pump, compressing air against itself with NO added fuel; injector duty is at 0%. The engine is making 0 power. Thus, the engine and transmission are only fighting against the frictional forces of the road through the tires. As soon as you get on the gas even 5% throttle, you are adding fuel. Now the engine has an increased load because it's not only fighting against road friction but also trying to make more power per given airflow since it's combusting with fuel. If you think I'm talking bullshit you can easily check by running a log at cruise then let off and let it engine brake. At cruise or idle you'd probably see between 0.5-0.7 load factor. At engine brake you'd see 0.10-0.15... The forces acting upon the piston, pin and rings are much less. This is why 18 wheelers have a dedicated engine brake toggle, in the form of either a Jacob's brake (Jake Brake valve directly at the head) or another kind which utilizes exhaust gas to throttle the exhaust manifold, same effect different principle.

Engine braking is a good method to learn and practice, and it makes your vehicle much safer in coasting conditions or when running down hills.

P.S, install NLTS and you'll do your tranny a favor. It's by far the best thing about these manual boxes. Otherwise I still want to auto swap in a heartbeat! (f*** clutches and f*** gears)
 

XC92

Proven Member
1,364
280
Jul 22, 2020
Queens, New_York
Basically. I don't call it speed shifting, I just don't fart around when I am going thru the gears. I get it into the next gear asap and out on the clutch and back on the gas. I drive my cars where THEY want to be driven, meaning whatever RPM it likes, that is the gear I am in.
Racing, foot to floor, hoping the rev limiter works if I miss a shift.
I don't go into gear really fast, I do take it easy on the syncro's and let them do their work when I am just driving for groceries or what not. That makes the trans not have to work as hard and if you feel like rev matching, go for it. I don't but if you are good at it, you don't even need the clutch. My DD Saturn had its slave cylinder go out when I was 20 miles from home and I drove it right back to the shop that did my work WITH NO CLUTCH. It was a little bit of a challenge as to what route I needed to take but I got her there. The shop was trying to figure out how to get it back when I came pulling in. They were glad I knew how to get it home. :)
It turned out that the slave had just popped out of place, they repositioned it and I was back on the road in 10 minutes.
So basically, I'm doing it right and have been all along, so nothing to worry about. Like I wrote, when you stop doing something you used to do all the time for an extended period of time, when you resume doing it, it's easy to wonder if you're doing it right at first. Cognitive memory <> muscle memory.

And after doing some more research, these are the 3 most common shifting methods I came across, at least for syncromesh systems like ours:

1 - "Standard": Release gas, disengage clutch, shift to next gear, then press gas and reengage clutch at the same time

2 - "Speed": Same as above, just do it faster to minimize speed loss

3 - "Power": Don't release gas

Sounds like you're doing #2. I think I read that #3 can damage your driveline or wear out your clutch faster, kind of like engine braking does.

I'll try #2, although for all I know that's what I've been doing and it's so instinctive that I never really thought about it.

There's also rev matching, but that's not really necessary for our cars (unless you installed a dogtooth trans), unless you're racing or doing something special, which is not me. Also double-clutching, heel and toe, etc. Too fancy for me.

I really don't want to come off as rude or snide but come on bud, you've driven stick all your life, 5 years ain't gonna make you forget how to do it! Just normal upshifting would be getting up to your desired RPM (personally I do 2200 RPM max in the city and then upshift, dropping to 1800-1900 diesel territory), pressing in the clutch not fully, I'd say 80% just so I break most of the contact between plate and disc. Then I shift into next gear and just as I let go of the clutch I get on the gas lightly, around 10-20% clutch pressed in, if that makes sense? Basically you get on the gas at the right moment to avoid jerk but to also avoid excessive clutch slippage.

As for downshifting and engine braking, I could not disagree more. Engine braking IS a critical braking method which should be utilized in any vehicle and in most conditions (excluding severe snow or icing on road!). Also, engine braking has THE LEAST amount of engine load. Think about it, what is engine braking? It's the engine acting as a vacuum pump, compressing air against itself with NO added fuel; injector duty is at 0%. The engine is making 0 power. Thus, the engine and transmission are only fighting against the frictional forces of the road through the tires. As soon as you get on the gas even 5% throttle, you are adding fuel. Now the engine has an increased load because it's not only fighting against road friction but also trying to make more power per given airflow since it's combusting with fuel. If you think I'm talking bullshit you can easily check by running a log at cruise then let off and let it engine brake. At cruise or idle you'd probably see between 0.5-0.7 load factor. At engine brake you'd see 0.10-0.15... The forces acting upon the piston, pin and rings are much less. This is why 18 wheelers have a dedicated engine brake toggle, in the form of either a Jacob's brake (Jake Brake valve directly at the head) or another kind which utilizes exhaust gas to throttle the exhaust manifold, same effect different principle.

Engine braking is a good method to learn and practice, and it makes your vehicle much safer in coasting conditions or when running down hills.

P.S, install NLTS and you'll do your tranny a favor. It's by far the best thing about these manual boxes. Otherwise I still want to auto swap in a heartbeat! (f*** clutches and f*** gears)
I used to engine brake when downshifting but stopped when repeatedly told that it's hard on the clutch and driveline wears it faster. Pads are cheaper and easier to replace and all that. Also, fewer hills here than in Bulgaria.

And yes, it's possible to forget how to do something after a long layoff, or at least want to make sure you remember it right. Just making sure. Doesn't hurt.

Also, your advice about slipping the clutch on both disengagement and reengagement seems to go against all the advice I've heard. Only time I slip the clutch is in stop and go traffic where it's all but unavoidable if I don't want to hit someone or stall the engine.

Starting uphill though is easy and I never have to slip it, let alone use the e-brake or rely on some hill starting mechanism (which manual DSMs don't have anyway).
 

dwb

Proven Member
138
52
Sep 9, 2021
Broomfield, Colorado
Rev-matching is your friend for the least wear on your trans/clutch, but not always practical or easy. As long as you aren't launching, slamming gears and your clutch is working properly, you'll be fine.

I'm a pretty spirited driver, been daily driving my 1g for over 20 years, and I've blown a synchronizer twice. Once when my clutch wouldn't fully disengage. I had to force it into gear and it wore out the synchro. The second time was a hard shift into 2nd and the synchro ring split. Both were avoidable if I hadn't forced anything. It had nearly 200k miles on the trans before that the first synchro wore out.

Remember, clutches are consumables just like brake pads (and to some degree synchros too). Let the clutch take the abuse before your trans.
 

XC92

Proven Member
1,364
280
Jul 22, 2020
Queens, New_York
Well having replaced pads and a clutch and rebuilt a trans I'm set if (or rather when) I have to do it again, but obviously this is the preferred order of parts needing to be replaced or fixed in terms of difficulty and cost. I'll try to see if I can rev match but it might end up being too much bother, and much of the driving I do these days is urban where it probably doesn't matter as much.

Worst thing I did with my Talon in terms of driveline was not address an insufficient disengagement issue with the clutch pedal before it wore out the clutch and damaged the trans. Of course at the time I didn't know about the 1G clutch pedal slop issue and thus what was going on. I just figured that it was hard to get the trans into gear and all the grinding was because parts were starting to wear out. Had I known and fixed it, I'd probably still be on the previous clutch and wouldn't have had to rebuild the trans.

At this point I'm just doing a sanity check to make sure I'm doing things right.
 

pauleyman

DSM Wiseman
7,809
2,493
Nov 19, 2011
oklahoma city, Oklahoma
It's interesting to read all the different driving styles. I've never "speed shifted" but I'm quick when I need to be. I also know there wasn't a week that went by in my entire 30 years of dsm1g ownership that I didn't hit the rev limiter sometime during that week. I have owned a dsm as a daily since 1992. For the first 8 years my wife had it but when I drove it went up the rpm band. After 2000 I daily drove only dsms until 2018. Mine is now retired from daily duty but when it returns to the road I'm sure it will see the rev limit again. I have tried to stop downshifting unless I need to. Easier to replace brakes than a clutch. For instance if I'm slowing down to stop I don't downshift. If I'm slowing fir a curve or turn I downshift. I have always thought a sports car is meant to be driven and I've logged 10s of thousands of smile filled miles. I can also guarantee since I've kept the cars for so long and chosen to just fix as necessary instead of buy new cars I've got a seriously low dollar per mile expense theoughout my lifetime. Since I was 17 I've spent 31500 on the total purchase price of every car I've owned combined. This does not I clue the fact I've sold some and used the proceeds to buy the next one. If I include that I've spent 26600 in 35 years. This does NOT include the cars I've purchased for the wife(ex). 😄. Miles just by me has to be close to 500000.
Drive it like you stole it.
 

XC92

Proven Member
1,364
280
Jul 22, 2020
Queens, New_York
I very, very rarely read the redline, especially now after the TB job I did and the ever so slight possibility that the gap is a tiny wee bit under the lower limit and there's the risk of tooth skipping. But generally I'm a wimp when it comes to pushing things to or near their limits. Highest I usually go is 5-6000 rpm.

In a way I don't really deserve this car or at least it's somewhat wasted on me, but I've had lots of fun criss-crossing the country with it (twice so far), especially on winding rural and hilly roads. And I'm pretty sure that I've been shifting properly the whole time, just not in the more aggressive way that some like to.

I find that occasionally asking what appear to be stupid and obvious questions reveals things we've taken for granted that maybe we shouldn't, that are worth a little reexamination. Never know what you might find out.

Next question, how do you handle stop and go driving, when you have to go from 0 to say 20 repeatedly, in traffic, with stop lights. I find myself having to feather the clutch, in 1st, to avoid both stalling and jumping, and feathering of course is a form of slipping, which is generally a no-no. Are there better ways though, that don't require a very gentle touch with the brakes and gas pedal, as I don't have very nimble feet?
 

Kryndon

Proven Member
804
460
Jan 10, 2014
Bulgaria, Europe
Nothing wrong with asking of course and it's nice to discuss things to hear different opinions as Paul said. But really I think a lot of people are underestimating a clutch's capabilities under normal operations. The slip it *may* endure during stop and go or even downshifting is not nearly as bad and detrimental as slip endured during launches or improper shifting with high engine load and RPMs. Remember that the clutch friction disc is experiencing two main forces: shear and clamp. The shear comes from the rotating faces between it and the flywheel+pressure plate against it, trying to twist it. The clamp force comes from the pressure plate trying to also push the friction disc against the flywheel face. The clamping force remains identical per given clutch pedal travel. Say at 80% clutch depression the force against the disc is 100 Newtons or whatever (random value). Then at 30% it may be 250 Newtons, at 20% it may be 500 N and at 0% clutch it may be the max rated clamping force (the one listed at the clutch spec sheet). 0% clutch meaning pedal is NOT pressed and clutch is engaged fully. 100% means you've fully pressed the pedal in and the disc is disengaged hence no force applied.

The force that varies is the frictional (shear) force due to RPM and engine load. An easy example is starting off with just using the clutch (no gas) on a flat road versus starting at an incline. You can easily start off on a flat road with just the clutch, but at an incline it will most probably stall even though your RPMs are the same, that's because the load is higher, so you need to compensate with more gas and a prolonged clutch engagement.

Another thing worth mentioning is that *most* clutches don't get 100% contact on both sides of the friction disc during your clutch pedal operation. It forms a concave-like interface between disc and plate/flywheel, and only gets 100% flat when you have the clutch completely engaged. So in city driving and most normal driving conditions, you are actually just wearing out the outermost surface of the friction disc. Next time you take your clutch out, take a good look at it as well as your plate and flywheel, you will see this. What I'm trying to get at is the amount of time a clutch spends slipping under NORMAL driving conditions is not that significant and most importantly the forces during that slippage are not nearly as high (shear/clamp) as you'd expect.

This doesn't mean you should feather or slip your clutch as much as you can, but if you understand these working principles, you can better see how your method of driving will affect it. Don't stress it too much, just make sure your system is in good working order, and like I said, do yourself a favor and run NLTS, set it to 5500 and bang those heckin' gears like you stole it :thumb:

P.S I'd rather change pads and rotors twice a year than replace clutch EVER again. (pads don't wear that much and are not nearly as expensive)
 

XC92

Proven Member
1,364
280
Jul 22, 2020
Queens, New_York
Changing a clutch isn't so bad. It's all the other stuff you have to do to do it. Of course that's what people mean when they say they hate to replace one.

And, in the kind of driving conditions I often experience, street driving with lots of slowing down and stopping and going 5-15mph as traffic ebbs and flows, 2nd gear is too high and 1st gear is too low. It's almost like I need a zero gear to not stall the engine or have jerky motion. So I have no choice but to feather or slip it. But if as you say at these speeds there's far less clutch wear than at speed, then I guess I shouldn't worry too much. It's just that you hear advice about how to NEVER slip the clutch, but sometimes it's just unavoidable, or so it seems to me.
 
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