Top and side view of a typical manual transmission, in this case a Ford Toploader, used in cars with external floor shifters.
Most modern cars are fitted with a synchronized gear box. Transmission gears are always in mesh and rotating, but gears on one shaft can freely rotate or be locked to the shaft. The locking mechanism for a gear consists of a collar (or dog collar) on the shaft which is able to slide sideways so that teeth (or dogs) on its inner surface bridge two circular rings with teeth on their outer circumference: one attached to the gear, one to the shaft. When the rings are bridged by the collar, that particular gear is rotationally locked to the shaft and determines the output speed of the transmission. The gearshift lever manipulates the collars using a set of linkages, so arranged so that one collar may be permitted to lock only one gear at any one time; when "shifting gears," the locking collar from one gear is disengaged before that of another engaged. One collar often serves for two gears; sliding in one direction selects one transmission speed, in the other direction selects another.
In a synchromesh gearbox, to correctly match the speed of the gear to that of the shaft as the gear is engaged, the collar initially applies a force to a cone-shaped brass clutch attached to the gear, which brings the speeds to match prior to the collar locking into place. The collar is prevented from bridging the locking rings when the speeds are mismatched by synchro rings (also called blocker rings or balk rings, with the latter being spelled baulk in the UK). The synchro ring rotates slightly due to the frictional torque from the cone clutch. In this position, the dog clutch is prevented from engaging. The brass clutch ring gradually causes parts to spin at the same speed. When they do spin the same speed, there is no more torque from the cone clutch, and the dog clutch is allowed to fall in to engagement. In a modern gearbox, the action of all of these components is so smooth and fast it is hardly noticed.
The modern cone system was developed by Porsche and introduced in the 1952 Porsche 356; cone synchronizers were called Porsche-type for many years after this. In the early 1950s, only the second-third shift was synchromesh in most cars, requiring only a single synchro and a simple linkage; drivers' manuals in cars suggested that if the driver needed to shift from second to first, it was best to come to a complete stop then shift into first and start up again. With continuing sophistication of mechanical development, however, fully synchromesh transmissions with three speeds, then four speeds, and then five speeds, became universal by the 1980s. Many modern manual transmission cars, especially sports cars, now offer six speeds.
Reverse gear, however, is usually not synchromesh, as there is only one reverse gear in the normal automotive transmission and changing gears into reverse while moving is not required. Among the cars that have synchromesh in reverse are the 1995-2000 Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique, '00-'05 Chevrolet Cavalier, Mercedes 190 2.3-16, the V6 equipped Alfa Romeo GTV/Spider (916), certain Chrysler, Jeep, and GM products which use the New Venture NV3500 and NV3550 units, the Volvo 850, and almost all Lamborghinis and BMWs
Like other transmissions, a manual transmission has several shafts with various gears and other components attached to them. Typically, a rear-wheel-drive transmission has three shafts: an input shaft, a countershaft and an output shaft. The countershaft is sometimes called a layshaft.
In a rear-wheel-drive transmission, the input and output shaft lie along the same line, and may in fact be combined into a single shaft within the transmission. This single shaft is called a mainshaft. The input and output ends of this combined shaft rotate independently, at different speeds, which is possible because one piece slides into a hollow bore in the other piece, where it is supported by a bearing. Sometimes the term mainshaft refers to just the input shaft or just the output shaft, rather than the entire assembly.
In some transmissions, it's possible for the input and output components of the mainshaft to be locked together to create a 1:1 gear ratio, causing the power flow to bypass the countershaft. The mainshaft then behaves like a single, solid shaft, a situation referred to as direct drive.
Even in transmissions that do not feature direct drive, it's an advantage for the input and output to lie along the same line, because this reduces the amount of torsion that the transmission case has to bear.
Under one possible design, the transmission's input shaft has just one pinion gear, which drives the countershaft. Along the countershaft are mounted gears of various sizes, which rotate when the input shaft rotates. These gears correspond to the forward speeds and reverse. Each of the forward gears on the countershaft is permanently meshed with a corresponding gear on the output shaft. However, these driven gears are not rigidly attached to the output shaft: although the shaft runs through them, they spin independently of it, which is made possible by bearings in their hubs. Reverse is typically implemented differently, see the section on Reverse.
Most front-wheel-drive transmissions for transverse engine mounting are designed differently. For one thing, they have an integral final drive and differential. For another, they usually have only two shafts; input and countershaft, sometimes called input and output. The input shaft runs the whole length of the gearbox, and there is no separate input pinion. At the end of the second (counter/output) shaft is a pinion gear that mates with the ring gear on the differential.
Front-wheel and rear-wheel-drive transmissions operate similarly. When the transmission is in neutral, and the clutch is disengaged, the input shaft, clutch disk and countershaft can continue to rotate under their own inertia. In this state, the engine, the input shaft and clutch, and the output shaft all rotate independently.
 Dog clutch
The gear selector does not engage or disengage the actual gear teeth which are permanently meshed. Rather, the action of the gear selector is to lock one of the freely spinning gears to the shaft that runs through its hub. The shaft then spins together with that gear. The output shaft's speed relative to the countershaft is determined by the ratio of the two gears: the one permanently attached to the countershaft, and that gear's mate which is now locked to the output shaft.
Locking the output shaft with a gear is achieved by means of a dog clutch selector. The dog clutch is a sliding selector mechanism which is splined to the output shaft, meaning that its hub has teeth that fit into slots (splines) on the shaft, forcing it to rotate with that shaft. However, the splines allow the selector to move back and forth on the shaft, which happens when it is pushed by a selector fork that is linked to the gear lever. The fork does not rotate, so it is attached to a collar bearing on the selector. The selector is typically symmetric: it slides between two gears and has a synchromesh and teeth on each side in order to lock either gear to the shaft.
If the teeth, the so-called dog teeth, make contact with the gear, but the two parts are spinning at different speeds, the teeth will fail to engage and a loud grinding sound will be heard as they clatter together. For this reason, a modern dog clutch in an automobile has a synchronizer mechanism or synchromesh, which consists of a cone clutch and blocking ring. Before the teeth can engage, the cone clutch engages first which brings the selector and gear to the same speed using friction. Moreover, until synchronization occurs, the teeth are prevented from making contact, because further motion of the selector is prevented by a blocker (or baulk) ring. When synchronization occurs, friction on the blocker ring is relieved and it twists slightly, bringing into alignment certain grooves and notches that allow further passage of the selector which brings the teeth together. Of course, the exact design of the synchronizer varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
The synchronizer has to change the momentum of the entire input shaft and clutch disk. Additionally, it can be abused by exposure to the momentum and power of the engine itself, which is what happens when attempts are made to select a gear without fully disengaging the clutch. This causes extra wear on the rings and sleeves, reducing their service life. When an experimenting driver tries to "match the revs" on a synchronized transmission and force it into gear without using the clutch, the synchronizer will make up for any discrepancy in RPM. The success in engaging the gear without clutching can deceive the driver into thinking that the RPM of the layshaft and transmission were actually exactly matched. Nevertheless, approximate rev. matching with clutching can decrease the general delta between layshaft and transmission and decrease synchro wear.
The previous discussion normally applies only to the forward gears. The implementation of the reverse gear is usually different, implemented in the following way to reduce the cost of the transmission. Reverse is also a pair of gears: one gear on the countershaft and one on the output shaft. However, whereas all the forward gears are always meshed together, there is a gap between the reverse gears. Moreover, they are both attached to their shafts: neither one rotates freely about the shaft. What happens when reverse is selected is that a small gear, called an idler gear or reverse idler, is slid between them. The idler has teeth which mesh with both gears, and thus it couples these gears together and reverses the direction of rotation without changing the gear ratio.
In other words, when reverse gear is selected, it is in fact actual gear teeth that are being meshed, with no aid from a synchronization mechanism. For this reason, the output shaft must not be rotating when reverse is selected: the car must be stopped. In order that reverse can be selected without grinding even if the input shaft is spinning inertially, there may be a mechanism to stop the input shaft from spinning. The driver brings the vehicle to a stop, and selects reverse. As that selection is made, some mechanism in the transmission stops the input shaft. Both gears are stopped and the idler can be inserted between them. There is a clear description of such a mechanism in the Honda Civic 1996-1998 Service Manual, which refers to it as a "noise reduction system":
Whenever the clutch pedal is depressed to shift into reverse, the mainshaft continues to rotate because of its inertia. The resulting speed difference between mainshaft and reverse idler gear produces gear noise [grinding]. The reverse gear noise reduction system employs a cam plate which was added to the reverse shift holder. When shifting into reverse, the 5th/reverse shift piece, connected to the shift lever, rotates the cam plate. This causes the 5th synchro set to stop the rotating mainshaft.
A reverse gear implemented this way makes a loud whining sound, which is not normally heard in the forward gears. The teeth on the forward gears of most consumer automobiles are helically cut. When helical gears rotate, there is constant contact between gears, which results in quiet operation. In spite of all forward gears being always meshed, they do not make a sound that can be easily heard above the engine noise. By contrast, most reverse gears are spur gears, meaning that they have straight teeth, in order to allow for the sliding engagement of the idler, which is difficult with helical gears. The teeth of spur gears clatter together when the gears spin, generating a characteristic whine.
It is clear that the spur gear design of reverse gear represents some compromises (less robust, unsynchronized engagement and loud noise) which are acceptable due to the relatively small amount of driving that takes place in reverse. The gearbox of the classic SAAB 900 is a notable example of a gearbox with a helical reverse gear engaged in the same unsynchronized manner as the spur gears described above. Its strange design allows reverse to share cogs with first gear, and is exceptionally quiet, but results in difficult engagement and unreliable operation. However, many modern transmissions now include a reverse gear synchronizer and helical gearing.
 Design variations
 Gear variety
Manual transmissions in passenger vehicles are often equipped with 4, 5, or more recently 6 forward gears in conventional manual transmissions with a gear stick, and up to 8 forward gears in semi-automatic transmissions. Nearly all have one reverse gear. In three or four speed transmissions, in most cases, the topmost gear is direct (i.e., a 1:1 ratio). For five speed or higher transmissions, the highest gear is usually an overdrive gear, with a ratio of less than 1:1. Older cars were generally equipped with 3-speed transmissions, or 4-speed transmissions for high performance models and 5-speeds for the most sophisticated of automobiles; in the 1970s, 5-speed transmissions began to appear in low priced mass market automobiles and even compact pickup trucks, pioneered by Toyota (who advertised the fact by giving each model the suffix SR5 as it acquired the fifth speed). Today, mass market automotive manual transmissions are essentially all 5-speeds, with 6-speed transmissions beginning to emerge in high performance vehicles in the early 1990s, and recently beginning to be offered on some high-efficiency and conventional passenger cars. Some 7-speed manual-derived transmissions are offered on high-end performance cars, such as the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, or the BMW M5. Both of these cars feature a paddle shifter. Recently, even 8-speed transmissions were being offered, such as in the Lexus IS F.
 External overdrive
On earlier models with three or four forward speeds, the lack of an overdrive ratio for relaxed and fuel-efficient highway cruising was often filled by incorporating a separate overdrive unit in the rear housing of the transmission. This unit was separately actuated by a knob or button, often incorporated into the gearshift knob.
 Shaft and gear configuration
On a conventional rear-drive transmission, there are three basic shafts; the input, the output, and the countershaft. The input and output together are called the mainshaft, since they are joined inside the transmission so they appear to be a single shaft, although they rotate totally independently of each other. The input length of this shaft is much shorter than the output shaft. Parallel to the mainshaft is the countershaft. There are a number of gears fixed along the countershaft, and matching gears along the output shaft, although these are not fixed, and rotate independently of the output shaft. There are sliding dog collars, or dog clutches, between the gears on the output shaft, and to engage a gear to the shaft, the collar slides into the space between the shaft and the inside space of the gear, thus rotating the shaft as well. One collar is usually mounted between two gears, and slides both ways to engage one or the other gears, so on a four speed there would be two collars. A front-drive transmission is basically the same, but may be simplified. There often are two shafts, the input and the output, but depending on the direction of rotation of the engine, three may be required. Rather that input shaft driving the countershaft with a pinion gear, the input shaft takes over the countershafts job, and the output shaft runs parallel to it. The gears are positioned and engaged just as they are on the countershaft-output shaft on a rear-drive. This merely eliminates one major component, the pinion gear. Part of the reason that the input and output are in-line on a rear drive unit is to relieve torsion stress on the transmission and mountings, but this isn't an issue in a front-drive as the gearbox is integrated into the transaxle.
The basic process is not universal. The fixed and free gears can be mounted on either the input or output shaft, or both.
The distribution of the shifters is also a matter of design; it need not be the case that all of the free-rotating gears with selectors are on one shaft, and the permanently splined gears on the other. For instance a five speed transmission might have the first-to-second selectors on the countershaft, but the third-to-fourth selector and the fifth selector on the mainshaft, which is the configuration in the 1998 Honda Civic. This means that when the car is stopped and idling in neutral with the clutch engaged input shaft spinning, the third, fourth and fifth gear pairs do not rotate.
In some transmission designs (Volvo 850 and V/S70 series, for example) there are actually two countershafts, both driving an output pinion meshing with the front-wheel-drive transaxle's ring gear. This allows the transmission designer to make the transmission narrower, since each countershaft need only be half as long as a traditional countershaft with four gears and two shifters.
Main article: Clutch
In all vehicles using a transmission (virtually all modern vehicles), a coupling device is used to separate the engine and transmission when necessary. The clutch accomplishes this in manual transmissions. Without it, the engine and tires would at all times be inextricably linked, and any time the vehicle stopped the engine would stall. Without the clutch, changing gears would be very difficult, even with the vehicle moving already: deselecting a gear while the transmission is under load requires considerable force, and selecting a gear requires the revolution speed of the engine to be held at a very precise value which depends on the vehicle speed and desired gear. In a car the clutch is usually operated by a pedal; on a motorcycle, a lever on the left handlebar serves the purpose.
When the clutch pedal is fully depressed, the clutch is fully disengaged, and no torque is transferred from the engine to the transmission (and by extension to the drive wheels). In this uncoupled state it is possible to select gears or to stop the car without stopping the engine.
When the clutch pedal is fully released, the clutch is fully engaged, and practically all of the engine's torque is transferred. In this coupled state, the clutch does not slip, but rather acts as rigid coupling, and power is transmitted to the wheels with minimal practical waste heat.
Between these extremes of engagement and disengagement the clutch slips to varying degrees. When the clutch slips it still transmits torque despite the difference in speeds between the engine crankshaft and the transmission input. Because this torque is transmitted by means of friction rather than direct mechanical contact, considerable power is wasted as heat (which is dissipated by the clutch). Properly applied, slip allows the vehicle to be started from a standstill, and when it is already moving, allows the engine rotation to gradually adjust to a newly selected gear ratio.
Learning to use the clutch efficiently requires the development of muscle memory and a level of coordination analogous to that required to learn a musical instrument or to play a sport.
A rider of a highly-tuned motocross or off-road motorcycle may "hit" or "fan" the clutch when exiting corners to assist the engine in revving to the point where it delivers the most power.
Note: Automatic transmissions also use a coupling device; however, a clutch is not present. In these kinds of vehicles, the torque converter is used to separate the engine and transmission.
 Gear shift types
 Floor-mounted shifter
Main article: Gear stick
A 5 speed gear lever
In many modern passenger cars, gears are selected by manipulating a lever connected to the transmission via linkage or cables and mounted on the floor of the automobile. This is called a gear stick, shift stick, gearshift, gear lever, gear selector, or shifter. Moving the lever forward, backward, left, and right into specific positions selects particular gears. An aftermarket modification of this part is known as the installation of a short shifter which can be combined with an aftermarket shift knob or Weighted Gear Knob.
A sample layout of a four-speed transmission is shown below. N marks neutral, the position wherein no gears are engaged and the engine is decoupled from the vehicle's drive wheels. In reality, the entire horizontal line is a neutral position, although the shifter is usually equipped with springs so that it will return to the N position if not moved to another gear. The R marks reverse, the gear position used for moving the vehicle rearward.
This layout is called the shift pattern. Because of the shift quadrants, the basic arrangement is often called an H-pattern. The shift pattern is usually molded or printed on or near the gear knob. While the layout for gears one through four is nearly universal, the location of reverse is not. Depending on the particular transmission design, reverse may be located at the upper left extent of the shift pattern, at the lower left, at the lower right, or at the upper right. There is usually a mechanism that only allows selection of reverse from the neutral position, or a reverse blockout that must be released by depressing the spring-loaded gear knob or lifting a spring-loaded collar on the shift stick, to reduce the likelihood that reverse will be inadvertently selected by the driver.
This is the most common five-speed shift pattern:
This layout is reasonably intuitive because it starts at the upper left and works left to right, top to bottom, with reverse at the end of the sequence and toward the rear of the car.
This is another five-speed shift pattern, which can be found in BMWs, some Audis, Volvos, Volkswagens, Opels, Hyundais, most Renaults, some diesel Fords, and more:
Dog-leg first shift patterns are used on many race cars and on older road vehicles with three-speed transmissions:
The name derives from the up-and-over path between first and second gears. Its use is common in race cars and sports cars, but is diminishing as six speed and sequential gearboxes are becoming more common. Having first gear across the dog leg is beneficial as first gear is traditionally only used for getting the car moving and hence it allows second and third gears to be aligned fore and aft of each other, which facilitates shifting between the two. As most of the gearboxes are non-syncromesh there is no appreciable delay when upshifting from first through the dog leg into second.
This gear pattern can also be found on some heavy vehicles in which first gear is an extra-low ratio for use in extreme standing-start conditions, and would see little use in normal driving.
This is a typical shift pattern for a six-speed transmission:
Though eight-speed transmissions do exist, six forward speeds is widely considered[who?] to be the maximum that can be contained within a variation of the "H" shift pattern. In such a case, Reverse is placed outside of the "H", with a canted shift path, to prevent the shift lever from intruding too far into the driver's space (in left-hand drive cars) when reverse is selected. This is the most common layout for a six-speed manual transmission.
Most front-engined, rear-wheel drive cars have a transmission that sits between the driver and the front passenger seat. Floor-mounted shifters are often connected directly to the transmission. Front-wheel drive and rear-engined cars often require a mechanical linkage to connect the shifter to the transmission.
Historically, four-speed floor shifters were sometimes referred to as "Four on the floor", when steering column mounted shifters were more common.
 Column-mounted shifter
Column mounted gear shift lever in a Saab 96
Some cars have a gear lever mounted on the steering column of the car. It was common in some countries in the past but is no longer common today. However, many automatic transmissions still use this placement.
Column shifters are mechanically similar to floor shifters, although shifting occurs in a vertical plane instead of a horizontal one. Column shifters also generally involve additional linkages to connect the shifter with the transmission. Also, the pattern is not "intuitive," as the shifter has to be moved backward and upward into R to make the car go backward.
A 3-speed column shifter, nicknamed "Three on the Tree" began appearing in America in the late 1930s and became common during the 1940s and '50s. Its layout is as shown below:
First gear in a 3-speed is often called "low," while third is usually called "high." There is, of course, no overdrive. Later, European and Japanese models began to have 4-speed column shifters and some of these made their way to the USA. Its layout is shown here:
However, the column manual shifter disappeared in North America by the mid 1980s, last appearing in the 1986 Ford F-150. But in the rest of the world, the column mounted shifter remained in production, and was in fact common in some places. For example, all Toyota Crown and Nissan Cedric taxis in Hong Kong had the 4-speed column shift until 1999 when automatic began to be offered. Since the late 1980s or early 1990s, a 5-speed column shifter has been made in some vans sold in Asia and Europe, such as Toyota Hiace and Mitsubishi L400.
 Console-mounted shifter
Newer small cars and MPV's, like the Suzuki MR Wagon, the Toyota Matrix, the Chrysler RT platform cars and the Honda Civic Si EP3 feature a manual or automatic transmission gear shifter located on the vehicle's instrument panel. Console-mounted shifters are similar to floor-mounted gear shifters in that most of the ones used in modern cars operate on a horizontal plane and can be mounted to the vehicle's transmission in much the same way a floor-mounted shifter can. However, because of the location of the gear shifter in comparison to the locations of the column shifter and the floor shifter, as well as the positioning of the shifter to the rest of the controls on the panel often require that the gearshift be mounted in a space that does not feature a lot of controls integral to the vehicle's operation or frequently used controls, such as those for the car stereo or car air conditioning, to help prevent accidental activation or driver confusion, especially in RHD cars.
More and more small cars and vans from manufacturers such as Suzuki, Honda, and Volkswagen are featuring console shifters in that they free up space on the floor for other car features such as storage compartments without requiring that the gear shift be mounted on the steering column. Also, the basic location of the gear shift in comparison to the column shifter makes console shifters easier to operate than column shifters.
 Sequential manual
Main article: Sequential manual transmission
Some transmissions do not allow the driver to arbitrarily select any gear. Instead, the driver may only ever select the next-lowest or next-highest gear ratio. Sequential transmissions often incorporate a synchro-less dog-clutch engagement mechanism (instead of the synchromesh dog clutch common on H-pattern automotive transmissions), in which case the clutch is only necessary when selecting first or reverse gear from neutral, and most gear changes can be performed without the clutch. However, sequential shifting and synchro-less engagement are not inherently linked, though they often occur together due to the environment(s) in which these transmissions are used, such as racing cars and motorcycles.
Sequential transmissions are generally controlled by a forward-backward lever, foot pedal, or set of paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. In some cases, these are connected mechanically to the transmission. In many modern examples, these controls are attached to sensors which instruct a transmission computer to perform a shift—many of these systems can be switched into an automatic mode, where the computer controls the timing of shifts, much like an automatic transmission.
Motorcycles typically employ sequential transmissions, although the shift pattern is modified slightly for safety reasons. In a motorcycle the gears are usually shifted with the left foot pedal, the layout being this:
The gear shift lever on a 2003 Suzuki SV650S motorcycle.
6 5 ┘ 4 ┘ 3 ┘ 2 ┘ N 1
The pedal goes one step–both up and down–from the center, before it reaches its limit and has to be allowed to move back to the center position. Thus, changing multiple gears in one direction is accomplished by repeatedly pumping the pedal, either up or down. Although neutral is listed as being between first and second gears for this type of transmission, it "feels" more like first and second gear are just "further away" from each other than any other two sequential gears. Because this can lead to difficulty in finding neutral for inexperienced riders most motorcycles have a neutral indicator light on the instrument panel to help find neutral. The reason neutral does not actually have its own spot in the sequence is to make it quicker to shift from first to second when moving. You will not accidentally shift into neutral. The reason for having neutral between the first and second gears instead of at the bottom is that when stopped, the rider can just click down repeatedly and know that they will end up in first and not neutral. This may also help on a steep hill on which high torque is required. It could be disadvantageous or even dangerous to attempt to be in first without realizing it, then try for a lower gear, only to get neutral.
On motorcycles used on race tracks, the shifting pattern is often reversed, that is, the rider clicks down to upshift. This usage pattern increases the ground clearance by placing the riders foot above the shift lever when the rider is most likely to need it, namely when leaning over and exiting a tight turn.
The shift pattern for most underbone motorcycles with an automatic centrifugal clutch is also modified for two key reasons - to enable the less-experienced riders to shift the gears without problems of "finding" neutral, and also due to the greater force needed to "lift" the gearshift lever (because the gearshift pedal of an underbone motorcycle also operates the clutch). The gearshift lever of an underbone motorcycle has two ends. The rider clicks down the front end with the left toe all the way to the top gear and clicks down the rear end with the heel all the way down to neutral. Some underbone models such as the Honda Wave have a "rotary" shift pattern, which means that the rider can shift directly to neutral from the top gear, but this is only possible when the motorcycle is stationary for safety reasons. Some models also have gear position indicators for all gear positions at the instrument panel.
Some new transmissions (Alfa Romeo's Selespeed gearbox and BMW's Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) for example) are conventional manual transmissions with a computerized control mechanism. These transmissions feature independently selectable gears but do not have a clutch pedal. Instead, the transmission computer controls a servo which disengages the clutch when necessary.
These transmissions vary from sequential transmissions in that they still allow nonsequential shifts: BMWs SMG system, for example, can shift from 6th gear directly to 4th gear when decelerating from high speeds.
In the case of the early second generation Saab, a 'Seletronic' option was available where gears were shifted with a conventional shifter, but the clutch is controlled by a computer.
 Benefits and drawbacks
Manual transmissions generally offer better fuel economy than automatic torque converter transmissions; however the disparity has been somewhat offset with the introduction of locking torque converters on automatic transmissions. Increased fuel economy with a properly operated manual transmission vehicle versus an equivalent automatic transmission vehicle can range from 5% to about 15% depending on driving conditions and style of driving. Manual transmissions do not require active cooling and generally weigh less than comparable automatics. The manual transmission couples the engine to the transmission with a rigid clutch instead of a torque converter which slips by nature. Manual transmissions also lack the parasitic power consumption of the automatic transmission's hydraulic pump.
Manual transmissions also generally offer a higher selection of gear ratios. Many vehicles offer a 5-speed or 6-speed manual, whereas the automatic option would be a 4-speed all the way up to (more recently) an 8-speed. The higher selection of gears allowed for more uses of the engine's power band, allowing for higher fuel economy and power output. This is generally due to the space available inside of a manual transmission versus an automatic since the latter requires extra components for self-shifting, such as torque converters and pumps.
Manual transmissions are more efficient than conventional automatics and belt-driven continuously-variable transmissions. The driver has more direct control over the car with a manual than with an automatic, which can be employed by an experienced, knowledgeable driver who knows the correct procedure for executing a driving maneuver, and wants the vehicle to realize his or her intentions exactly and instantly. When starting forward, for example, the driver can control how much torque goes to the tires, which is useful on slippery surfaces such as ice, snow or mud. This can be done with clutch finesse, or by starting in second gear instead of first. An engine coupled with a manual transmission can often be started by the method of push starting. This is particularly useful if the starter is inoperable or defunct. Likewise, a vehicle with a manual transmission and no clutch/starter interlock switch can be moved, if necessary, by putting it in gear and cranking the starter. This is useful when the vehicle will not start, but must be immediately moved e.g. off the road in the event of a breakdown, if the vehicle has stalled on a railway crossing, or in extreme off-roading cases such as an engine that has stalled in deep water.
Currently only fully manual transmissions allow the driver to fully exploit the engine power at low to medium engine speeds. This is due to the fact that even automatic transmissions which provide some manual mode (e.g. tiptronic or DSG), use a throttle kickdown switch, which forces a downshift on full throttle and causes the gearbox to ignore a user command to upshift on full throttle. This is especially notable on uphill roads, where cars with automatic transmission need to slow down to avoid downshifts, whereas cars with manual transmission and identical or lower engine power are still able to maintain their speed.
In contrast to most manual gearboxes, most automatic transmissions have a free-wheel-clutch. This means that the engine does not slow down the car when the driver steps off the throttle. This leads to more usage of the brakes in cars with automatic transmissions.
Manual transmissions place slightly more workload on the driver in heavy traffic situations, when the driver must often operate the clutch pedal. In comparison, automatic transmissions merely require moving the foot from the accelerator pedal to the brake pedal, and vice versa. Manual transmissions require the driver to remove one hand periodically from the steering wheel while the vehicle is in motion.
The NHTSA reports that manual transmissions also result in 37% fewer accidents per mile driven. Experts believe that this is due to the extra attention required while driving a stick-shift. For example, it is difficult to use a cell phone while driving a manual transmission.
The smoothness and correct timing of gear shifts are wholly dependent on the driver's experience and skill; because the driver selects each gear, it is also possible to select the wrong gear. Attempting to select reverse while the vehicle is moving forward causes severe gear wear (except in transmissions with synchromesh on reverse when the vehicle is moving backward), and choosing a low gear with the car moving at speed can overspeed and damage the engine. There is a learning curve with a manual transmission; the driver must develop a feel for properly engaging the clutch, especially when starting forward on a steep road or when parking on an incline.
Some automatic transmissions can shift ratios faster than a manual gear change can be accomplished, due to the time required for the average driver to push the clutch pedal to the floor and move the shifter from one position to another. This is especially true in regards to dual clutch transmissions, which are specialized computer-controlled manual transmissions.
 Applications and popularity
Many types of automobiles are equipped with manual transmissions. Small economy cars predominantly feature manual transmissions because they are cheap and efficient, although many are optionally equipped with automatics. Economy cars are also often powered by very small engines, and manual transmissions make more efficient use of the power produced.
Sports cars are also often equipped with manual transmissions because they offer more direct driver involvement and better performance. Off-road vehicles and trucks often feature manual transmissions because they allow direct gear selection and are often more rugged than their automatic counterparts.
Conversely, manual transmissions are no longer popular in many classes of cars sold in North America, Australia and Asia, although they remain dominant in Europe and in Latin America. Nearly all cars are available with an automatic transmission option, and family cars and large trucks sold in the US are predominantly fitted with automatics. In Europe most cars are sold with manual transmissions. Most luxury cars are only available with an automatic transmission. In most cases where both transmissions are available for a given car, automatics are an at cost option, but in some cases the reverse is true. Some cars, such as rental cars and taxis, are nearly universally equipped with automatic transmissions in countries such as the US, but the opposite is true in Europe. As of 2008, 75.2% of vehicles made in Western Europe were equipped with manual transmission, versus 16.1% with automatic and 8.7% with other.
In some places (such as the Australian state of Victoria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Sweden and the UK), when a driver takes the licensing road test using an automatic transmission, the resulting license is restricted to the use of automatic transmissions. This treatment of the manual transmission skill seems to maintain the widespread use of the manual transmission. As many new drivers worry that their restricted license will become an obstacle for them where most cars have manual transmissions, they make the effort to learn with manual transmissions and obtain full licenses. Some other countries (such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Slovenia, Brazil and Denmark) go even further, whereby the license is granted only when a test is passed on a manual transmission. In Denmark you are allowed to take the test on an automatic if you are handicapped, with such license you will not be able to drive a manual transmission.