Man­ual skills should be manda­tory

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE -

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.

– ‘‘what

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