Automatic vs Manual Transmission: Pros, Cons, and Repair Differences in Chicagoland

It’s an age-old debate — should you drive an automatic or manual transmission vehicle? Ultimately, it comes down to your specific preferences and situation. However, there are pros and cons to each that can help you decide which is best for you, including differences in which repairs you can anticipate needing over the life of your car. Whether you typically work from home, take public transport, or often deal with Chicagoland traffic, this guide can help you choose the type of vehicle that best fits your lifestyle and needs.

The Pros & Cons of Automatic Transmission Vehicles

Most cars on the road today have automatic transmissions. Over recent decades, they’ve steadily grown in popularity thanks to their ease of use and innovation that continually improves their performance. At the same time, they can be more costly to maintain, given the repairs and services you’re likely to need over the life of the vehicle.

Pro: Simpler to Drive in Traffic

The main benefit to most people with automatic transmission vehicles is their simplicity when driving. All you have to do is shift between Park, Drive, or Reverse then use the brake and accelerator pedals. Skipping the clutch pedal eliminates one step that pulls your attention and makes driving easier, especially in stop-and-go city traffic.

Pro: Greater Innovation Due to Demand

As automatic transmission cars gained popularity, manufacturers also focused on innovation that has made them increasingly efficient and more diverse in how they operate. These days, you can get an automatic vehicle that has a traditional, dual-clutch, or continuously variable transmission. With these improvements, gear shifts are smoother, acceleration is easier, and they’re more fun to drive.

Pro: Improved Fuel Efficiency

Though manual transmissions are historically known to have better gas mileage, improvements to how automatic transmissions are built and operate have made them more competitive with efficiency. Smoother and better-timed gear shifts help keep RPM low as you accelerate. However, automatic transmissions tend to weigh more than manuals, negatively impacting fuel economy.

Con: Higher Cost to Maintain & Purchase

Overall, automatic transmissions are more complex than manuals. They include gears, a torque converter, sensors, solenoids, and fluid that not only lubricates but also pressurizes the system. Each of these components relies on regular maintenance for the system as a whole to operate efficiently. The popularity and complexity of automatic transmission vehicles also increases the upfront cost of buying one.

Which Repairs & Services Do Automatic Transmissions Need?

One of the most important components in an automatic transmission is the fluid. In general, plan to have it replaced every 60,000-100,000 miles. If your transmission overheats or you put more strain on it regularly by towing heavy loads or accelerating aggressively, you may also want to have a transmission flush done. This helps remove not only the fluid but all contaminants that can cling to parts in the transmission as sludge.

As sensors, solenoids, gears, and other components wear out, they’ll have to be replaced. Because automatic transmissions are more hydraulic than mechanical, a transmission fluid leak can not only lead to damage in the system, it can also prevent proper gear engagement.

Automatic transmission vehicles use a torque converter in place of a manual clutch to facilitate gear shifts and send power out to the drive wheels. In general, this component should last the life of your vehicle. However, if it wears out or is damaged, it can be a costly repair or replacement.

The Pros & Cons of Manual Transmission Vehicles

Manual transmissions have stood the test of time. They’ve been available since before automatic transmissions were invented and many drivers continue to prefer them. While manual transmission vehicles are often cheaper to purchase and allow for greater control, it’s also true that driving them takes more effort and attention.

Pro: Greater Control Over the Vehicle

One of the first things many manual transmission drivers will say is that they enjoy having greater control over their car. The driver determines the timing of each gear shift. This allows for greater control over how much power the drive wheels have, how quickly you accelerate, and when. Not only can this make driving more fun, but it can also help with handling in snowy or other difficult driving conditions.

Pro: Cheaper to Purchase & Maintain

If you’re on a budget shopping for a new car, looking for a manual transmission may save you the most money. Fewer people know how to drive them, so they’re less in demand, lowering your initial purchase price. Their overall operation is also simpler, making regular maintenance and likely repairs cheaper and less frequently necessary.

Con: Less Safe & Takes More Attention to Drive

What you gain in greater control you lose in divided attention. Since you have to shift gears with your right hand and use the clutch pedal with your left foot, your attention is more split between driving your car and watching the road or traffic around you. And if your timing is off, you may deal with a stalled engine or sudden hesitation as you miss shifting into gear properly.

Which Repairs & Services Do Manual Transmissions Need?

Though manual transmissions are not hydraulic systems, they do rely on fluid to lubricate moving parts and minimize heat buildup. Regularly checking the condition and level of manual transmission fluid will help keep gear shifts smooth and easy, as well as extend the life of one of your vehicle’s most important systems.

The most costly common repair for manual transmissions is the clutch — the home of your car’s gears. If you’ve noticed difficulty shifting into gear or keeping the chosen gear fully engaged, it’s likely a clutch problem. At some point, your manual transmission vehicle will need a clutch replacement — but taking good care of it will help prevent early replacement.

Questions About Your Car’s Transmission? AAMCO Can Help.

No matter what type of transmission you choose, the experts at your local AAMCO Chicagoland are here to help with regular maintenance and repairs. Keep your transmission and other essential systems in your vehicle operating efficiently so you can enjoy each drive. Schedule your appointment with us today!

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