Alice's husband: A man of old habits

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband just cannot break himself of old habits and I'm wondering it if is doing any damage to the car. After years of driving a manual shift, we bought a completely automatic small, foreign-made car. Instead of letting the motor and its automatic functions just take over as he approaches a stop, he changes to a lower gear, stating something about "that's what compression is for." After stopping, he puts it back in "Drive" and we continue on. I know it's unnecessary, but is he hurting something on the car by doing this?

RAY: Your husband is shiftless, Alice. He obviously misses the thrill of changing his own gears, and his frustrated play-shifting is driving you nuts. You wrote to us in hopes that we would give you the mechanical ammunition you need to tell him to cut it out.

TOM: But the truth is he's not really hurting anything by downshifting as he comes to a stop. Unless he's shifting into second gear at 50 or 60 miles and hour, he's just doing something that the transmission would have done by itself anyway. The only thing he might wear out over time is the shift linkage, but that's not a big deal.

RAY: There is one manual transmission habit that IS bad for automatics, however. If he shifts into Neutral when he comes to a stop, you should tell him to cut that out immediately. Moving the shifter back and forth between Neutral and Drive loads and unloads the drive train unnecessarily, and that does wear things out--big things.

TOM: I think you should take a different approach, Alice. Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than with those light zappers. If you want him to stop fiddling with the transmission, give him something better to fiddle with. I don't know...get a him one of those radios with an incomprehensible 45-band equalizer.

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