Is it okay for Tim to play "standard transmission" with his automatic?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray:

I've always wondered: Does it hurt anything to drive my automatic transmission like a manual (i.e., put the shifter into first, then bump it to second, then to drive, then push the button to shift to overdrive)? I think it's kind of fun. I've even told myself it must somehow be better for the car. Am I delusional? -- Tim

RAY: Are you delusional? We don't know. That would be a question for your psychiatrist, Tim. Are you a knucklehead when it comes to cars? We can answer that one, Tim.

TOM: I can't think of any way in which it's better for your car. But the good news is that it doesn't do any harm. Unlike a manual transmission, which forces you to use up a little bit of your clutch disk every time you shift, an automatic transmission uses a fluid to transmit power from the engine to the driveshaft. So you're not really causing any extra wear and tear.

RAY: In fact, a lot of cars sold these days have optional "auto-manual" transmissions. Those are basically automatic transmissions that have a separate "shift gate" that allows you to manually shift up and down through the gears. That's exactly what you're doing.

TOM: They just make it easier to do by giving you a separate "gate" in which to do it; it lets you flick the shifter forward or backward to shift gears, without having to worry about accidentally slamming the shifter into reverse or park -- which, by the way, is something you want to avoid, Tim.

RAY: The only other potential downside is if you forget to shift up someday. You shift from first into second, and then you get involved in a conversation or a ballgame on the radio. Next thing you know, you see the exit for Schenectady, and you realize you've driven 250 miles on the highway in second gear. That's not good for the engine or the transmission. Or your gas mileage. So, delusional or not, try not to get too distracted. And buy a car with a stick shift next time.

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