Manual skills should be mandatory
HOW is it we have become such lazy drivers? The topic came up when a colleague said she had just bought a Mazda2. No surprise there. It’s a good little car but it was specified with a manual gearbox, something that was a highlight of her purchase.
But the bulk of cars sold in Australia, particularly the mainstream machines, are automatics.
The oft-used excuse of traffic congestion is served up but, if you drive to the conditions, it doesn’t involve a large number of gear changes.
Generally speaking, automatics use more fuel, add weight to a vehicle and take some of the fun out of driving.
Even the double-clutch automated manuals, as good as they are getting, are still no substitute for a well-sorted manual drivetrain.
We are just getting lazy behind the wheel but I believe driving a manual is still a skill that should be mandatory for those getting a driver’s licence.
Buy an auto afterwards and never step on a clutch pedal again for all I care but learn to drive one, just in case.
An unlikely but not impossible scenario is being stuck in the passenger’s seat of a manual car with an incapacitated driver – heart attack or stroke, there’s no mobile phone coverage, no roadside assistance and no passing traffic.
In the words of Dennis Hopper in Speed do you do . . . . what do you do?’’
If you once learnt the skills, they would come back in an emergency but if you’ve never driven one, then it’s probably not the ideal time to practise.
Our conversation turned to changing a flat tyre and our manual driver threw her hands up at that point but it’s probably also a skill you need to acquire.
Even simple things like putting a brick or rock behind a wheel to prevent the car rolling away if you’re jacking up one of the wheels that is used by the handbrake.
Or taking some of the weight off the car wheel – but not all – so the wheel doesn’t spin while you’re trying to undo a stiff wheel nut.
It’s the same when putting the spare wheel back on – doing the nuts up but not working around the circle, gently tightening opposite nuts instead, with the final tightening completed when some (but not all) of the weight is back on the wheel.
It’s all well and good to ring roadside assist or the RAA but Australia is yet to get full mobile coverage on all major arterial roads between capitals and there are still plenty of black spots.