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Proper way to drive a 80 years old car in traffic


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I dislike to downshift, somehow I feel it is too stressful for an 83 year old transmission.

In traffic when I have to stop I usually first use the breaks then step on the clutch till I stop then put the car in neutral to stop. then in first to start up and son on. 

Is this poor practice????

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With some of the 1931 and earlier cars, that is common practice with no synchros in the transmission. "Double clutch" technique works for some.

I think most makes of cars were non-synchromesh until about 1934 or 1935 the exception being at least some GM makes. GM seemed to be a leader on that technology. For example, my '33 Plymouth has sliding dog clutches but no synchronizers.

 

The answer is to learn to double clutch. With practice is can become second nature.

 

One of the biggest things that make shifting hard in my car is trying to shift it at the RPMs and car speeds you'd expect to shift a modern car. In normal driving you ought to be in high by about 20 MPH. For downshifting, you probably don't need to shift until you are under 15 MPH. Practice double clutching at those lower speeds. . . The hard ones to double clutch are when you are climbing a steep grade and need to get into 2nd from high at 25 or maybe 30 MPH but practice will get you those too.

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Frank , two questions. One : What make car are you talking about ? Two : When stopped ( at a light , for example ) , in neutral on level ground , does the transmission grind when you depress the clutch and place the trans in first gear ? - Carl

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I always leave mine in 2nd or 3ed, whatever I was in when I start slowing down, until I come to a complete stop. Then all the gears have stopped spinning, since they are still engaged. Once stopped, you can easily slip it into 1st (or reverse if you're going to back up) with no gear clash, even if your clutch drags a bit.

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Sounds correct to me. Drivers didn't go in for a lot of downshifting back then. You did all your driving in high gear or in some cases, second. Second only used for driving slow or going up (or down) a steep hill.

 

No synchro on low because you only used it to get going. There was no need for a lower gear than second unless you were stopped.

 

Cars were prized for their ability to slow down to a walking pace in high gear and pull away without stalling or bucking. By the twenties this was demanded of all cars, even the cheapest.

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I think everyone is missing the point of the OP's question. He is asking for opinions about downshifting and engine braking being too stressful on the 83 year old trans and engine.

 

I don't think it would be too stressful if he is driving at reasonable speed for that car and downshifts and engine brakes at speeds that are low enough to not over rev the engine. This is assuming that the trans and clutch are in good condition. I believe that engine braking was normal driving procedure in the day as brakes weren't the best and anything that helped stop the car was used short of throwing out an anchor.

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I dislike to downshift, somehow I feel it is too stressful for an 83 year old transmission.

In traffic when I have to stop I usually first use the breaks then step on the clutch till I stop then put the car in neutral to stop. then in first to start up and son on. 

Is this poor practice????

It is poor practice

This can heat up your brakes , and lessen the effectiveness. If you need to stop suddenly, with hot brakes, you'll have a hard time stopping

 

You should down shift .and let the engine slow you down as you use your brakes at the same time. 

Also have the trans in a lower gear as you descend hills. 

 

If your car requires double clutching. Learn to downshift double clutch.This requires matching the engine speed to the transmission. 

It takes some foot work and hand coordination. 

But you can learn it

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My car is 85 years old and I up and down shift without the clutch most of the time. Only use the clutch to start off from a stop. Ocassionaly I double clutch without thinking about it.  It all depends on circumstances.  I only use the brakes for the final stop.  This has worked for me for 400,000 miles of my driving (the car had 99,000 when I started in 1959) with only one new clutch and I get about 85,000 miles out of a set of brakes.  Upshift 1-2 at about 5mph and 2-3 at 10 mph unless traffic is heavy and I need to keep up and then I upshift 1-2 at 20 mph and 2-3 at thirty mph.  Normaly I would come down 3-2 at 15mph and 2-1 at 10 mph. It certaianly has not hurt my car.

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Here's my own take on this, agreeing with most of you: (See my cars owned)

 

Leave the car in the gear you're in when slowing for a stop. Depress the clutch JUST BEFORE the car would otherwise start to buck, and slow to a stop.  You're using sufficient engine braking for that.  If it will be a momentary stop, as at a stop sign, leave the clutch depressed and shift to first.  If it will be a long light, you can use neutral to ease your left (clutch) leg, but remember that you cannot immediately shift to first without grinding, as in a syncromesh first gear.  You might try just starting to shift to second, then back all the way into first--this works if you have helical gears or some form of syncro.

 

Please do NOT try the sports car approach of downshifting 4-3-2 before coming to a stop.

 

I completely agree with Tinindian on upshift speeds EXCEPT for early Ford V8s (and H-series V12s), which don't have as much low-rpm torque as sixes and should be wound up a little more before each upshift.

 

If lugging around a corner, just don't lug so hard the car bucks.  Long-stroke straight 8s and large-displacement 6s do this reasonably well.

 

When driving a non-syncro, don't be in a hurry to get into your "destination" gear (i.e., next gear up).  Double-clutching is half-science, half-art, and each make of tranny is a little different in its individual gear ratios which affect both timing of shifts and desirable shift speed.

 

And I completely agree that brakes are much cheaper than transmission repair! 

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"sports car approach"????  I think that's how you drive any full-synchro transmission.  Certainly what I do on the daily driver, as it keeps the engine at a better rev level besides using compression braking. 

 

There's nothing terribly wrong with "coasting down" as the OP describes, so long as the brakes are not getting overheated/fading.  It was a feature of a higher end car to be able to drive with a broad torque range to minimize shifting.

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bkazmer:  This thread is not about a full-syncro transmission--the subject car is 83 years old.  Further, my errand truck is a 1995 Mazda with full-syncro 5-speed, and I for one do not downshift thru the gears to come to a routine (stop sign or traffic light) stop.  If I were driving a Jag XK-120 or Corvette, I might drop a gear or two for the fun of it, but only for that reason, and certainly not to preserve my brake material at the expense of clutch material.

 

Enos:  Overdrive procedure:  depends on whether you have an OD which goes into freewheeling at a governed speed (e.g. Borg Warner mechanical and electric ODs) or which retains full connection to engine all the way to stall (e.g., the Mitchell OD I have in my 1925 Pierce with 4.89 gears).

 

* The Mitchell OD is syncro (although the trans is a crash box) and separate shift lever controlled, so it's easy to downshift to 3rd direct, but I rarely find that desirable.

 

* BW OD:  (Short version) If you're on level ground, I'd stay in OD and just use brakes a little more.  If you're on a long downgrade, you may wish to go out of OD and back to direct.  You can't pull the handle and get back into direct while moving unless you are in direct (and you are while freewheeling).  This can get very hairy on a long downgrade above the threshold--one must kick down (electric OD only) and accelerate in direct for a second, then de-clutch and pull the handle out.  It is very counterintuitive to accelerate to get to a lower gear when you're trying to DEcelerate.  Purely mechanical BW ODs as used on 1936-38 Pierces, 1934 to approx. 1937 Chrysler products, Studes, and Nashes, are more difficult and would require a much longer explanation. 

 

The original question was about coming to a stop in traffic.  Some posters have addressed downshifting for long downgrades.  We had two interesting examples of that on last month's outstanding AACA Western Divisional Tour out of Santa Rosa, CA.  These demonstrated to me that we drivers of pre-war machines need to practice and be adept at downshifting at speed.

 

* On the first day, we had a first-gear descent down a 1.5 lane winding road to the CA Hwy 1 along the Pacific Ocean.  Either stop and shift to first or double-clutch into it.

 

* On the second day, driving from the Petrified Forest to the Geysers on CA Hwy 128, we encountered 1,5 miles of a 12% downgrade while then eased to about 3 miles of 5-6% downgrade. 

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Back 83 years ago drivers did NOT downshift all the time. Any car that demanded a lot of upshifting and downshifting would have sat on the sales lot, unsold. There were no automatics and most motorists didn't like shifting all the time then, any more than they do now.

 

They left it in HIGH as much as possible, downshifting for hills. The rule was, to go down a hill in the same gear you used to go up. This meant you did not ride the brakes into oblivion and have a crash at the bottom of the mountain.

 

Other than that, downshifting and engine braking was for emergencies not for everyday driving.

 

I thought I was clear on this but evidently not.

 

PS this did not apply to sports cars of the European type, which were practically unknown in the US until the fifties. They started the whole business of rowing your car like a rowboat using the gearshift lever. Modern cars with 4, 5 or 6 speed trannies would have been totally unacceptable 80 years ago and would be today if there were no automatics. Manual transmissions today are for a tiny minority of car buyers, less than 10%.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Back 83 years ago drivers did NOT downshift all the time. Any car that demanded a lot of upshifting and downshifting would have sat on the sales lot, unsold. There were no automatics and most motorists didn't like shifting all the time then, any more than they do now.

 

They left it in HIGH as much as possible, downshifting for hills. The rule was, to go down a hill in the same gear you used to go up. This meant you did not ride the brakes into oblivion and have a crash at the bottom of the mountain.

 

Other than that, downshifting and engine braking was for emergencies not for everyday driving.

 

I thought I was clear on this but evidently not.

 

PS this did not apply to sports cars of the European type, which were practically unknown in the US until the fifties. They started the whole business of rowing your car like a rowboat using the gearshift lever. Modern cars with 4, 5 or 6 speed trannies would have been totally unacceptable 80 years ago and would be today if there were no automatics. Manual transmissions today are for a tiny minority of car buyers, less than 10%.

 

 

.Excellent summary.  I drive a 74 year old car - in 2nd and 3rd almost all the time. And pull from low rpms.

 

Most older sports cars had narrow torque peaks - hence the rowing was needed

 

I drive a modern manual - often downshifting on decelleration to keep the engine revs in a good spot for torque, although the torque curves are fatter now.  It's not really a brake pad vs clutch lining thing - I've not had to replace a clutch in a cars driven over 125 kmiles.  If you are part of the <10% buying a manual , one assumes it's to use it! 

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