When you should and shouldn't downshift.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have the great misfortune of having a know-it-all friend. I drive a 1995 Toyota Corolla, and he drives a Corvette. While visiting him, I found myself being chastised for downshifting. His argument was that "Click and Clack said not to downshift." A short time later, I heard you two guys advising a sweet young lady TO downshift. What's the story? -- John

RAY: Well, John, as my mother used to say to me whenever I put a broken transmission on the kitchen table just before dinner, "There's a time and a place for everything."

TOM: When we tell people not to downshift, we're talking about downshifting on normal roads during everyday driving. I'm sure your friend in the Corvette -- before
he heard our advice -- used to downshift into second as he approached every red light. Why? Because he thought he was "saving the brakes." But more importantly,
because it sounded cool and he was trying to get girls to turn their heads and notice him.

RAY: But at some point, he probably heard us explain that he was ruining his clutch by downshifting so often. And two or three clutches later, he started to believe us.

TOM: On the other hand, there is one situation in which you absolutely DO want to downshift and save the brakes. And that's when you're going down a long, steep hill.
If, for example, you're coming down a mountain road and you constantly use the brakes, you're liable to overheat them. And if they overheat, the brake fluid can boil.
And if that happens, you'll find yourself at the bottom of the mountain much more quickly than you would have expected!

RAY: So on a long, steep hill, you SHOULD put your manual OR automatic transmission in a gear low enough to keep you at a safe, comfortable speed. If the hill is so
steep that you're still speeding up and having to ride the brakes, drop it a gear lower and try again.

TOM: And if you're really lucky, there will be some girls walking up the mountain who will turn their heads and notice you.

?(C) 1999 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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