Problems With Manual Transmissions (6 Common Issues)

We know automatic transmissions have higher demands in the market, but do not underestimate the benefits of a manual transmission.

One notable difference that a manual transmission offer is reliability and fuel efficiency. If you are at a crossroads at which to buy, we say buy what makes you happy.

However, there’s still a long list of drawbacks of both transmissions, but in this article, we would focus majorly on manual transmission and what to do to remedy these problems.

What Is a Manual Transmission? 

A manual transmission is a multi-speed motor transmission that requires manual effort by the driver to select the gears using the clutch. This enables the driver to choose between different ratios.

Generally, a lower gear ratio means less speed but a higher torque, while a higher gear ratio means a high speed but less torque.

Automakers have improved on this manual selection as it allows cars to select any gear ratio at will. For example, it could go from gear 2 to gear 4.

However, most manual transmissions will only allow the driver to select the next higher or next lower gear. 

Furthermore, explore some problems with automatic transmissions.

Problems Associated With Manual transmissions

It is often not the case that a manual transmission develops problems because of high mileage or low maintenance.

Most issues come from the transmission itself and its connected parts like the clutch assembly, linkage, or driveline. Below are common issues found in manual transmissions. If you’d like to avoid these problems, you may prefer SUVs without transmission problems.

1. The Fluid May Leak

This is a general phenomenon in all cars, but modern manual cars have the tendency to leak more. Older manual cars used cables to control the clutch, but the new ones produced are hydraulic and can leak.

It is recommended to change the transmission oil every 45,000 to 60,000 miles, according to

Any damage done to this part may need to be completely replaced.

2. The Clutch May Slip

Slipping clutch comes as a result of wear and tear. If you drive your car so frequently, over time you may notice that the vehicle isn’t responding as it should.

A slipping clutch should be treated with urgency because it can wear other parts of the transmission.

Most times, the repair might involve little adjustments to some components of the clutch, like the bearing, pressure plates, disc, and flywheel.

Thankfully, the repair for a slipping clutch is relatively cheap and simple. One way to avoid a slipping clutch is to reduce its usage by avoiding excess strain on it.

A strain on the clutch affects its health and may have you experiencing sudden problems. In addition, some common signs and symptoms of a slipping clutch include:

  • Squeaking noises when pressure is applied to the clutch 
  • Poor acceleration and performance 
  • A burning smell when revving the engine
  • Difficult in changing gears

3. Trouble Staying In Gears

This is another challenge with manual transmissions, as the vehicle may slip out of gear when driving and could even go as far as entering the neutral gear.

The BMW M3 is notorious for having this problem. This is a serious problem, as it could lead to sudden collisions and accidents. One common cause for this is a worn-out shift linkage.

A shift linkage is a cable connecting the gearshift to the gear selector. A transmission mount can break this linkage, causing the vehicle to move out of its gear.

It can also be caused by a broken spring within the rail. This spring linkage is part of the spring-loaded ball that locks the transmission into the gear.

If the ball slips out of its place, the transmission may slip out of the gear. The third cause could be a bad pilot bearing.

The pilot bearing allows for a speed difference between the transmission shaft and the crankshaft. Once this part goes bad, it causes the input shaft to vibrate.

Other common causes include:

  • Misaligned transmission
  • Loose shifter covers 
  • Misaligned clutch housing
  • Worn gear tooth

4. Poor Response While Engaging the Clutch

People often notice this when they press their foot on the clutch, but it comes up slowly or not at all.

For older vehicles, this problem was mechanical, but with new hydraulic clutches, it simply means the cylinders are not building enough pressure, which often results from leaking hydraulic fluid.

A sticking clutch problem usually means that the clutch plate isn’t releasing from the flywheel. The job of the flywheel is to provide consistent torque and stabilize the engine movement.

In this situation, you simply cannot drive the car. A mechanic will have to fix and maybe replace the clutch.

One major way to avoid this problem is to reduce skipping gears and monitor the pattern of your vehicle anytime you change gears. This problem is often seen in Dodge models produced from 2009 to 2016.

Despite these problems, there are reasons manual cars are more expensive.

5. Gears May Not Engage in Cold Weather

It is common for manual transmission not to perform well when the temperature nears zero. It happens for hydraulic clutches or if the engine is not lubricated properly.

A simple hack to solve this is to find a lighter oil and apply it where necessary. If there are no changes, take it to the repair shop.

6. Transmission Makes Scratching Noises

Transmission scratches happen for various reasons. The first reason is bad gear synchronizers. This component wears out faster because they do the rough job.

Their job is to prepare the next gear for their set speed. If they go bad, the transmission makes a scratching noise. The second reason that could bring a scratching noise is if you lubricate with the wrong type of fluid.

To prevent these issues, please use quality and recommended oil to prolong the health of your transmission. The third reason could be a broken dog tooth in the transmission itself.

This dog tooth is used to lock two gears together in the ring box. However, the best way to find out the root of the problem is to take your car to the mechanic. 

Please also read our article about whether automatic or manual cars are faster.

General Pros and Cons of a Manual Transmission

We earlier established that a manual transmission has its own benefits and drawbacks. Therefore, we have compiled a list of its pros and cons to help you make a good choice.


  • Lower purchasing price
  • Lower maintenance cost
  • Total control of the gears


  • Slightly inconvenient
  • Harder to learn
  • Lesser demand
  • Hard to maneuver in traffic

Related: Do Teslas Come With Manual Gears? (Explained)

What Do the Review Say?

Even with the many benefits of a manual transmission, the demand has fallen significantly over the years. According to data from Edmunds, just 41 out of  321 new cars produced in 2020 come with manual transmission.

If calculated in percentages, just 13% are equipped with a manual transmission. This is a sharp fall from the last decade, as in 2011, 37% of cars still came with manual transmissions.

However, reviews also point out that manual cars may not become extinct in the near future because some die-hard drivers still prefer the sense of control while driving a manual car.

Related: Are American Rental Cars Automatic Or Manual? (Checked)

What Is the Resale Value of Cars With a Manual Transmission?

Many manual cars, even the late or classic models, are still holding their value till today. Some even carry more resale value than their automatic counterparts, especially for sports cars.

For instance, the 2015  manual Holden Commodore SS V Redline has a purchase price of $53,990, while the automatic Redbook has a purchase price of $56,190.

Currently, the Commodore retains up to $33,800 in the market while the Redbook has a resale value of $33,500.

This shows that the transmission of a vehicle is immaterial to what its resale value will be. Some manual cars are better investments than some automatic cars.

Related: 6 Electric Cars With Manual Gears & Transmission (With Pictures)

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