Do I have to downshift through every gear while making a routine stop? Only if you want a happy wife.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently moved to France (adventure No. 1), got married (adventure No. 2) and have subsequently begun driving (adventure No. 3) my wife's Renault (adventure No. 4). Without getting into French driving habits, my wife regularly yells at me because when I stop the car, I depress the clutch and step on the brake, as I learned in the United States in a Ford Probe. She INSISTS that regardless of the stopping distance, I should shift back through all of the previous gears and thus use engine braking. Obviously, I downshift to go around a corner or down a hill, but on regular stops? Is my wife nuts? Or, more importantly, is she wrong? -- Justin

TOM: Justin, it sounds like you've been willing to go through quite a few inconveniences for this woman. You've moved to France. You're driving a Renault. She must be some woman, huh?

RAY: So just consider this another little inconvenience that you have to put up with to keep her happy. After all, would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy? I thought so.

TOM: She's probably nuts, Justin. And wrong, too. There's absolutely no reason why you should shift back down through the gears to make a routine stop. It sounds like some kind of obsessive-compulsive behavior to me. All it does is wear out your clutch. And clutches -- at least in the United States -- are more expensive than brake pads.

RAY: Maybe the European Union subsidizes clutches, in which case you should smile, say "Yes, dear" and shift back down through the gears. And if it doesn't, you should just smile, say "Yes, dear" and shift back down through the gears. You catching on, Justin?

Get the Car Talk Newsletter