AutosIs gear skipping in manual transmissions safe? What Polish drivers should know

Is gear skipping in manual transmissions safe? What Polish drivers should know

Gearbox jack
Gearbox jack
Images source: © WP | Tomasz Budzik

12:50 PM EST, January 22, 2024

Despite the growing popularity of automatic transmissions, manual ones still remain the most common type of transmission on roads in many countries. For many drivers, shifting gears is a habitual task, performed almost instinctively.

Very few drivers take into account potential mistakes they could make during this task. Is it safe to skip some gears while driving? Is doing so a misstep? The answer is: no, it's not necessarily a mistake, but only if you do it consciously and with care. Furthermore, the process differs depending on whether you're shifting up or down. You'll encounter different "pitfalls" when skipping gears while shifting up compared to downshifting.

Many drivers frequently skip gears when shifting up. Indeed, this practice is even recommended by eco-driving instructors. It's not surprising: the higher the gear, the lower the engine speed, ultimately leading to lower fuel consumption. That's the main point.

A common scenario is as follows: a driver wishes to rapidly accelerate their car to a higher speed. While driving in 2nd gear, the engine revs up, and after reaching the desired speed, they directly shift into 4th gear, omitting 3rd gear. This whole process is smoother and quicker than traversing each successive gear. But is this healthy for the drivetrain?

The answer is: yes, but only if the engine speed doesn't drop excessively low after shifting into a higher gear. For instance, if you're accelerating to 37 mph in 2nd gear, the tachometer is at 4,000 rpm, and then you shift into 4th gear and the revs drop to 2,000 rpm, then in most cases, this is an acceptable range for further acceleration and maintaining constant speed. However, if we shifted from 2nd to 5th gear, the revs might fall below 1,500 rpm, which would strain the drivetrain and the engine unit.

And can you skip gears when downshifting? Many drivers, particularly in gasoline engine cars with a naturally aspirated engine, do this right before initiating an overtaking maneuver. For instance, we're calmly driving at 50 mph in 5th gear, the tachometer is registering 2,000 rpm, and we want to overtake the car ahead of us swiftly. Switching to 3rd gear will increase the engine speed to over 3,000 rpm, enabling a more efficient overtaking maneuver.

It's crucial to note, though, that a sudden increase in engine speed can be substantially more harmful than a decrease. An overly aggressive downshift can not only place considerable stress on the drivetrain, but it can also increase the risk of wheel lock-up and losing grip on slippery surfaces. As a result, more seasoned drivers prep for downshifts by gently pressing the accelerator pedal to raise the engine speed and minimize the negative impacts of sudden downshifts.

The key consideration is maintaining proper engine speed. So, can you skip gears in a manual transmission? Yes, but only if you monitor the correct engine speed. This value varies for each car and engine, and understanding it necessitates a particular touch. Unquestionably, upward gear skipping is less risky and simpler, a standard practice for many drivers.

Downshifting by several gears simultaneously requires a somewhat superior level of driving proficiency. Given the potential risk of loss of grip and the stresses exerted on the drivetrain, this maneuver isn't recommended for daily, relaxed commuting.

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