Diesel Manual Transmissions vs Automatics: A Comparison Guide

January 27, 2012

You have decided on the vehicle you want to purchase, but you can't decide on a diesel manual transmission or an automatic transmission model. You should put some of these differences into perspective by comparing them.

Manual transmissions are more work intensive and require the use of two feet to operate it. One foot operates the gas pedal and the other the clutch. In unison with the clutch, you must change the gears by using a gearshift or a stick. This gradual shifting and actuating the clutch must be done until the vehicle reaches the desired traveling speed. Novice drivers are disadvantaged when learning to drive because trying to concentrate on shifting gears diverts their attention away from the road. Automatic transmissions are simple to use because they shift through the gears automatically until the vehicle reaches traveling speed. You only have to shift from park to drive, and you're on your way.

A vehicle equipped with a manual transmission utilizes the engine's power more efficiently than an automatic transmission, because the driver can control the gear changes with a stick shift, and will shift to a higher gear when the engine has reached sufficient power. Automatic transmissions do the shifting itself, and usually prematurely. This premature shifting prevents the vehicle from utilizing the full power of the engine.

Manual transmissions are more fuel efficient than automatic transmissions. Because the driver controls the shift from one gear to the next, full-throttle acceleration is reached before the vehicle is shifted to the next gear. However, keep in mind that novice drivers may not realize the highest fuel efficiency with their manual transmission because they may not shift at the optimum moment. Automatic transmissions shift from one gear to the next prematurely, thereby not allowing the engine to reach its optimum power before reaching the next gear. Because the newer vehicles are equipped with more efficient automatic transmissions, the fuel efficiency gap is closing.

Automatic transmissions usually require more frequent and complex servicing. Because of their complexity and increased number of moving parts, these transmissions are more labor intensive. When you have diesel repairs done, the cost is significantly higher than manual transmissions. Manual transmissions are much simpler in design and have fewer parts that tend to fail. If you perform regular oil and fluid changes and have the engine periodically inspected, a manual transmission may never need an expensive overhaul outside of replacing the clutch. This problem can be reduced with experience and modifying your shifting techniques. In addition, if you fail to shift to the correct gear, or are prone to grinding the gears, it is possible to inflict costly damage to the transmission.

You should look closely at the differences between the automatic and manual transmissions before you decide to buy. Take into consideration the pricing, how you are going to use the vehicle, your patience level and the repair cost involved in maintaining the vehicle.