Where have all the manual transmissions gone?

Ashful Posted By Ashful, Jun 20, 2013 at 10:31 PM

  1. Ashful

    Minister of Fire

    Mar 7, 2012
    As my Dodge 1500 approaches the decade mark, it's time to start looking and thinking about what I'm going to replace it with. It's a pretty basic Quad Cab 4x4 1500 SLT... with one less common feature: manual 6-speed transmission.

    I hate, (hate, (hate(!!!))) driving automatic transmission vehicles, particularly in any kind of bad weather. I've acquiesced on this a few times, and have regretted every moment of owning each of my automatic transmission vehicles. This hatred of the automatic transmission (possible bane of our society!) is actually what forced me to switch to Dodge in 2005, when I was trading in my '95 Chevy 1500 4x4 Laramie, also with manual transmission. Chevy had stopped offering manual transmission in 4x4 1500's years earlier.

    Unfortunately, I see that none of the American pickup truck manufacturers offer a manual transmission in a 1/2 ton these days. I figured it was finally time to switch over to Toyota, based on this, but I see they've stopped offering manual as well! Seems the only real option left for manual transmission is a Dodge 2500 or a Ford 250 both in diesel.

    I'm forever up against the weight limit on my 1/2 ton trucks, so I could argue myself into justifying a 3/4 ton chassis, but driving barely 5000 miles per year... I cannot really justify the added cost of going diesel ($8000 on the Dodge). I priced the Dodge SLT with manual at $47,000 MSRP. !!! I paid $26k for my current Dodge, and less for the Chevy.

    I have an office job, so I don't use it for work, but I spend my evenings and weekends playing carpenter / logger / mason / plumber / electrician. I use my 1/2 ton trucks pretty hard, hauling heavy loads of wood and construction materials in the bed, and often pulling various trailers. I have considered going the SUV + trailer route, but it just seems so much less... convenient. Also, you get no respect at the building supply places when you show up in an SUV. :p Also, I like to rent a heavier tandem axle for hauling wood, and take the trailer off-road into the wood lot... no good with a 3500 lb. SUV.

    Options? I had really planned to keep the next truck purchase closer to $30k, and I just don't see a manual transmission option out there in that price range. If I try to justify the added cost of the 2500 based on wood hauling (the activity where I hit the weight limit most frequently), I'm bound to be reminded that we're doing all this work of heating with wood to save money, "right?"
    Jack Fate and BoilerMan like this.
  2. pen

    There are some who call me...mod.
    Staff Member

    Aug 2, 2007
    N.E. Penna
    How much do you like your current truck? How much $$$ would it take to make it near new again?

    In the late 90's I pulled into our town's NAPA and there was the most perfect early 80's chevy pick-up sitting in the lot. I walked to the door at the same time as it's owner did. I asked him if he had turned that into a stock/show truck. His response "F-no, that's a working SOB and since I can't find a new one to do what I want any better than this, the 9k I spent making it new was a no-brainer."

    I caught a glimpse of that truck time to time as it worked daily and gained work bruises for another 10 years or maybe more of service. I think he made a good investment.

    I'm at the point where in the next year or so, I'll have to decide if I want to do this with my beloved '96 f-150 (manual trans)

    Mike Fromme likes this.
  3. MasterMech


    While a manual trans is fun and I grew up driving lots of manual trans work trucks, there is good reason they've gone auto. (cost of ownership/repair, frequency of service, etc.) Even in the 3/4 ton+ camp, the autos have gotten MUCH beefier and more versatile. Even the old 3 speed auto in my C3500 is a fantastic "working" transmission. The Allison transmissions that sit behind GM's big engine options (3/4 ton+) pretty much sqashed any claims of superior durability of the 6 speed.

    If you haven't tried a pickup with an auto trans since '95, I say take a second look. The new 6 and 7 speed transmissions are just as versatile/strong as your manual box and nearly as obediant. ;)
    Ralphie Boy and TreePointer like this.
  4. Augie

    Feeling the Heat

    Nov 8, 2012
    North Of Canada
    Why not spend 30k on a project, you could build one hell of a truck for 30k. If that is an option...
  5. mithesaint

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 1, 2011
    NW Ohio
    Does it have to be new? If you're only putting 5K a year on something, why not a diesel that's a few years old with a few miles on it. You'll save 20-30K up front, still get the truck you need, and it should last plenty long, especially if you only drive 5K per year.
  6. If you want a manual don't cave and get an auto. I did on my last truck and have regretted it ever since.

    The original transmission let go at 36,500 miles. The free replacement (I paid labor) made it to 80k when it caught on fire (make sure you have a fire extinguisher in the back seat.) Had it rebuilt and at 100k the 'electronic control pack' went bad. It kept thinking the transmission was overheating 2 minutes after I started the truck. I'm at 120k now and am waiting for it to fail again...
    Mike Fromme likes this.
  7. HittinSteel

    Minister of Fire

    Aug 11, 2008
    Northeastern Ohio
    I understand where your coming from. I'd love to have a manual transmission truck. My current '02 Ram 1500 hunts all over the place when towing my camper/boat through the hills.

    I was either going to get a tuner (good idea?) and set a tow tune or start looking for a good used 3/4 ton diesel.
  8. clemsonfor

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 15, 2011
    Greenwood county, SC
    I was gonna say keep it too! Heck its just the age were I'd buy it. My newest truck is 23 my old one is 33. Get the seats redone. Fix the annoyingbroken things. Drive it till something happens and just replace motor and trans. You prolly want to redo the front end but just keep it
    U only drive 5k a year it will last forever. If u want new get a commuter car.
    Mike Fromme and (deleted member) like this.
  9. lukem

    Minister of Fire

    Jan 12, 2010
    As much as I like manual transmissions, I'm not sure I'd give up the 6-speed auto in my F-150. It always seems to be in the right gear. When loaded/towing the tow/haul mode works great. It holds gears longer, downshifts on descents when you tap the brake, and pretty much stays out of 6th unless I'm running 65+ MPH.

    Some of the very new half-tons have shiftable auto's (let you electronically shift gears).

    They aren't the old slush boxes they used to be.
    TreePointer likes this.
  10. jlightning

    Burning Hunk

    Feb 28, 2011
    Southeast PA
    Make the switch to a lightly used 2500 diesel that has a stick. I made the switch to diesel and am not going back any time soon. As far as the need for stick goes it sounds like a preference but I say give a newer auto diesel a test drive and use the manuel gear selector that the new Chevy auto trucks have. You can choose your top gear while in the manual mode. In tow mode the truck will automtically down shift if you are hitting the brakes which I find to be a great feature while towing my fifth wheel.
  11. velvetfoot

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 5, 2005
    Sand Lake, NY
    Not a truck owner here, but have driven stick all my life. It's a lot easier driving an auto with a banged up appendage or two, like a knee, or foot, or arm. The situation has come up lately for me, and both are cars are stick.
  12. Ashful

    Minister of Fire

    Mar 7, 2012

    Truck still looks and drives like new, with only 60k miles. Never a breakdown, and I have no complaints for it, yet. However, I've owned enough restored old vehicles to know an old truck will never have the near-100% reliability of a new truck, despite any and all work you put into it.

    I can't argue anything you said, MasterMech. However, you're ignoring two factors:

    1. I enjoy driving manual, and I don't like driving auto. This is amplified in bad weather, and even applies to the well-behaved 7G-Tronic automatic in the Mercedes. I just don't like it.

    2. I usually save $2000 by going manual. Every car I've ever purchased has been $1800 - $2400 more for automatic.

    Reliability and dealer support more important than cost, to a point. I am looking for a truck that never requires an unscheduled trip to the shop.

    Not a bad idea, assuming there is such a thing! I imagine most 2500 diesels see professional use.

    Yeah, it's been a problem a few times here, as well. Luckily, parents on both sides of our family have multiple automatic vehicles, so we're usually able to make a temporary trade. That's how I get to drive things like Mercedes 7G-Tronic's... way out of my own price range.
  13. MrWhoopee

    Minister of Fire

    Sep 27, 2011
    Shingletown, Northern California (elev. 4000 ft.)
    Stick shift for me! If something goes wrong, which it doesn't, I can fix it where I am. Purchase price $1500, upgrades/repairs after purchase $1000, registration $185 (3/4 ton weight fees), insurance $80/yr, Smog $0. If it has to go to the shop, which it hasn't, the savings have already paid for the repairs. It's not my daily driver/commuter or work truck, so the potential inconvenience if it needs to go to the shop is just that, an inconvenience. I know it's not for everybody, but I burn wood to SAVE MONEY. Even $20k for a hauler is out of the question, especially if there is a monthly payment attached.

    Truck & plow.jpg
    EMB5530 and (deleted member) like this.
  14. gzecc

    Minister of Fire

    Sep 24, 2008
    There are also very few sticks in SUV's. My wife wanted one, and really could only get a subaru forester. Not really an SUV. Nobody wants them any more.
  15. peakbagger

    Minister of Fire

    Jul 11, 2008
    Northern NH
    Sticks are usually more difficult to certify for emissions than autos plus the manufacturer has to certify both versions.
    BoilerMan likes this.
  16. Giles


    Nov 25, 2011
    N.W. Alabama
    As a mechanic, years ago, I repaired Automatic transmissions. What really Pi++ed me off is that, back then, you had to pay extra---$600?- for an automatic transmission. This was evidently because more manual transmissions were called for and an automatic was "special order" or whatever.
    This was in the late 50s and I was in repair business in the 60s and 70s. At that time, many vehicles had automatics but the cost was still there!
    Not many years ago, a truck came with a standard shift trans.---soooooooooo---you give them back the standard, along with the other components, and paid extra for the automatic.
    Now here is my opinion and reply to your post------I think it is more profit for the manufacturers in an automatic because a six speed cluster gear will probably cost more then a complete automatic transmission!
  17. Ashful

    Minister of Fire

    Mar 7, 2012

    It seems that is not the case, whenever I bring up the subject. Perhaps the dealers don't want to deal with them anymore, but there are many fans of the manual transmission. I don't believe it's a manufacturer issue, except perhaps with regard to USA emissions laws, as most cars available with manual trans in other countries are only available with auto trans in this country.

    Yep... seems there are plenty of people who prefer to buy manual!
  18. Highbeam

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 28, 2006
    Cascade Foothills, WA
    Diesel 2500 or 3500 are not mostly commercial owners. They are bozos like me that need a truck that is up to the task of hauling/towing but want the high mpg of a diesel.

    I would have preferred a manual but I found a good truck with an auto, the auto trans as Ford built it was a pain. I added a performance tune and what I noticed even more than the added power was the much much better way that the transmission shifted and acted. The tune that I added is actually selectable between tow/daily driver/performance and each setting has very different shifting strategies.

    A properly programmed modern automatic trans is lots of fun to drive. I no longer miss the manual. Now in a car or motorcycle, it is totally different. I like to choose gears in those lighter vehicles.

    So yeah, truck transmissions will be auto from now on. It's about time. Soon will be OTR trucks and dump trucks. They are out there, just gaining acceptance.
    MasterMech likes this.
  19. BoilerMan

    Minister of Fire

    Apr 16, 2012
    Northern Maine
    As a fellow master mechanic I respectifully disagree. I've seen plenty of Allison (just another GM company) come apart. Granted most were used for plowing, but a manual is still hard to beat as the clutch takes most of the abuse. A properly driven, and few people know how to properly shift and drivemanual is so simple and for the most part very robust is a small package. That few manuals I've seen fail were from driver abuse, like keeping your hand on the shifter while crusing in 5th, hopping the clutch on a regular basis, or the teenage girl who can't keep her foot off the clutch and the discolored flywheel/pressure plate to show it.
    The newer 6+ speeds do work well for HD applicationas, but the planatary gearsets are multiple and the overall transmission is far more complicated making them (from past expierence) more prone to failure and misdiagnosis from ill equiped mechanics. Don't get me wrong, I love EFI (more complex) and other complex systems, but a direct mechanical drive will always be superior from an overall efficiency and reliability stsndpoint, at least in my book.
    You hit the nail on the head here. Manual trans equipped vehicles can be lugged and clean conbustion doesn't happen at low RPM and high load situations. Plus people are lazy and want to eat their BigMack while driving w/o getting that special sacue all over everything. Why do you think we have electronic throttle bodies? The more direct control the ECU (computer) has over the whole car and now you are a secondary input, the better the emmissions can be made under different torque and HP requirements.

    There is a reason we still call them slushboxes!

    fox9988 and MarkinNC like this.
  20. Todd 2

    Todd 2
    Feeling the Heat

    Sep 17, 2012
    NE Ohio
    Got my new subaru in late 2011 had been on the lot for close to 9 months cause it was a stick. The deal was so good I I bought it, sorta fun to drive and pulls light boats and my small trailer around alot better than the auto subaru I traded in. I also like the control in the winter time better than the auto, Carroll County, Ohio is like part of northern WV for hill terrain.
  21. bioman

    Feeling the Heat

    Dec 25, 2010
    Central Missouri
    I really miss my 57 GMC with the 4 speed 3/4 ton, they built some heavy duty trucks back then.
    MrWhoopee and Ashful like this.
  22. velvetfoot

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 5, 2005
    Sand Lake, NY
    Again, not a truck owner, but I put bigger injectors and revised programming in my 2000 VW TDI Beetle and the clutch started slipping. Had to put in a heavier duty clutch from a VR6. Just saying the clutch could be a problem when modifying.
  23. jeff_t

    Minister of Fire

    Sep 14, 2008
    SE MI
    The biggest plus I see is that my wife won't drive it ;lol

    The only reason my car has a manual is because that is the deal I found. I spend waaay too much time shifting gears, doing a lot of city driving in a truck.

    I never thought about the EPA aspect of it. I thought people were just getting lazier.
  24. jharkin

    Minister of Fire

    Oct 21, 2009
    Holliston, MA USA
    I know what you mean Joful... Sadly manuals never where as popular here as the rest of the world. The push for better fuel economy is probably going to kill them off altogether in everything but niche sports cars eventually. CVTs is where the future is most likely.

    Its a sign of the time when BMW sells more automatic 3 series than manuals, Infinity retired its last manual (bye bye G37) and even Porsche's can be bought with slushboxes.

    My entire family pretty much drove nothing but manuals all my life. I learned to drive on a manual. but now Im the last one still driving one, holding on to my acura coupe as long as I can. Probably going to be gone by next year, we need a usable backseat for the kids and my wife cant drive a stick :(

    Electronic throttle by wire became universal when the the safety regs mandated electronic stability control in all vehicles. I suspect they discovered softening the throttle response for economy as a happy :( side effect.
  25. Ashful

    Minister of Fire

    Mar 7, 2012
    Yep... went to look at 328i's before we bought our 2010 Volvo, and all the dealer stocked was auto or paddle shift manual valve body (can't remember BMWs clever name for it... "Tiptronic"?)

    My mom owned a Porsche 944 with auto trans in the 1980's, so nothing new there.

    I was in the same situation a few years ago, trying to convince my wife to learn, for about six years, without success. Two of her girlfriends, who had both recently learned by just buying a manual and thus forcing themselves, finally convinced her to consider it. Before she had a chance to change her mind, I sold her car with auto, and bought her an Audi 3 2.0T with manual. She hated me for the first two weeks, but then she caught onto it. By week 4 she was in love with it, and had made up her mind that she will never buy another auto.

    Yikes... never thought of that!

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