Is there any benefit to starting the car with the clutch pedal depressed?  Does it save the starter at the expense of something else?

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Yes you will skip the launch mode, .... you turn the key with it in gear and it will launch forward   Just kidding. 

I did this as an emergency-type thing to get my car home Sunday (see other thread), but I can't think of a single other reason to do it. It's horrible on the starter, besides being very strange.

Another one is to up-shift and down shift without using the clutch. It works easily when the engine rpm is manually synchronized to car speed as the transmission sees it. Some of the old 3 axle trucks with a "brownie box"  (made by Brown-Lipe) were recommended to be shifted this way. A VW transaxle is a easy one to do this with. It's not nice to the little brass synchro's but if the clutch cable or levers should fail, the car can be driven home easily.............Bruce

@aircooled, thanks for the tip.  I had no idea you could do the matching rpm trick.  I actually lost my clutch cable on a drive, but I was able to hobble to the side of the road.    I hope I never have to use that tip.

@aircooled, thanks for the tip.  I had no idea you could do the matching rpm trick.  I actually lost my clutch cable on a drive, but I was able to hobble to the side of the road.    I hope I never have to use that tip.

When I was a kid, my mom, little brother, and myself set out to drive from Utah to Arkansas in our 67 Bug to spend the summer with my mom's family. Just outside Vernal Utah our clutch cable broke. My mom, being the born and bred farm girl that she was, drove all the way to Denver (the nearest VW dealer) without using the clutch. 

Of all the cars I've driven, VW/Porsche transmissions seem to be the easiest to do this with. VW's even have the shift points marked on the speedos.

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Last edited by dlearl476

The trick is.  When accelerating and you reach the desired shift point, put a little constant pressure on the shift lever, take your foot off the accelerator and pull a little harder on the lever. You will feel the lever nearly pull itself  into the next gear without grinding the gears,  then accelerate to the next shift point and do the same thing.

Down-shifting  is a little more tricky. You have to put a little pressure on the shift lever with the intention of going out of gear and into neutral. At the same time, you remove your foot from the accelerator. The shift lever will come out of the gear and you will be in neutral. You then put a little pressure on the shift lever towards the lower gear you select and gently/slowly bring up the engine RPM until the shift lever jumps into the gear you selected.

All of this works because you're using the shift lever to gently move those little brass synchro rings into position to bring the two gears you want into engagement when they reach the same RPM. Of course none of this is pertinent unless you are moving down the road in the first place. To get going down the road you will need to start the car in low gear and allow it to actually start while moving forward either by using the starter or someone pushing you while in gear.

You can practice this a little to get the feel for it by just cruising down the road. Put a little pressure on the shift lever to pull it into neutral, take your foot off the accelerator and the lever will nearly move itself into neutral.   Just a little note....NEVER drive with your hand resting on the shift lever. You may very well be putting pressure on those little brass synchro rings and wearing them out prematurely.

Information is power.................Bruce

@aircooled posted:

The trick is.  When accelerating and you reach the desired shift point, put a little constant pressure on the shift lever, take your foot off the accelerator and pull a little harder on the lever. You will feel the lever nearly pull itself  into the next gear without grinding the gears,  then accelerate to the next shift point and do the same thing.

Down-shifting  is a little more tricky. You have to put a little pressure on the shift lever with the intention of going out of gear and into neutral. At the same time, you remove your foot from the accelerator. The shift lever will come out of the gear and you will be in neutral. You then put a little pressure on the shift lever towards the lower gear you select and gently/slowly bring up the engine RPM until the shift lever jumps into the gear you selected.

All of this works because you're using the shift lever to gently move those little brass synchro rings into position to bring the two gears you want into engagement when they reach the same RPM. Of course none of this is pertinent unless you are moving down the road in the first place. To get going down the road you will need to start the car in low gear and allow it to actually start while moving forward either by using the starter or someone pushing you while in gear.

You can practice this a little to get the feel for it by just cruising down the road. Put a little pressure on the shift lever to pull it into neutral, take your foot off the accelerator and the lever will nearly move itself into neutral.   Just a little note....NEVER drive with your hand resting on the shift lever. You may very well be putting pressure on those little brass synchro rings and wearing them out prematurely.

Information is power.................Bruce

As I posted previously, VW & Porsche transmissions are the easiest to do this with, almost like a sequential gearbox on a motorcycle. With one notable exception: my 968 transaxle just doesn't like it. Lift the accelerator, it almost pops out if gear with the most gentle touch, but it just doesn't like to go into the next gear, rpm match be damned. 

Good write up, I thought about posting it, too, but I definitely couldn't have explained it as well as you did. 

@jncspyder posted:

all serious drivers learn to "HEEL & TOE"...a great skill once learned & mastered...just sayin'

I was a little worried when I replaced my VW pedal cluster with CNC pedals because the tunnel in my Beck really limits the space.  The bad news? I pretty much have to wear very narrow shoes to drive it now.  The good news? I don't even have to "heel and toe." I can blip the throttle with the outside of my foot while applying the brake. Somehow the throw of the pedals worked out perfectly. 

I've been 'heel and toeing' since 1963.  Learned on a Nash Metropolitan and perfected it on a bug eye Sprite. 

It's a good skill to have, for when you want/need to use it.

I just put it in neutral; the less you depress the clutch pedal with the motor running, the less the release bearing and the pressure plate wear out. I keep my foot off the clutch pedal as much as possible while driving the car.

I've never got the hang of shifting Bridget without the clutch but my old Nova (350/Muncie) liked it, which was a good thing given the propensity of the clutch cross shaft (aka Z-bar) to crack and fail on a regular basis. Like my father before me, I kept a spare one in the trunk for just such an emergency.

While I don’t make a habit of it, I have gotten home a couple of times with a broken clutch cable and yes, a VW transaxle shifts relatively easily without clutching it, if you have the right feel for it.  So does a GM truck 4-speed, a Ford 3 or 4 speed, a BMW 2002, Fuller ten speeds, etc.  

Bruce described the process (with slight variations between manufacturers) and it works, but it is an acquired “feel” for the operator and you run a very real risk of damaging the synchro rings and more if it is not done right.  It’s a bit like “double clutching” which some people think they know how to do and really don’t (unless you grew up in the past age of “crash box” non-synchro transmissions and had to live with them - Not a lot of fun, but you got used to them).  Regardless, without a lot of practice it always is hard on the internals of the transmission because of shock loads.

If you’ve never shifted without the clutch on a VW transaxle, Now is NOT the time to try it out.  It is way too expensive a thing to play with, only to discover the cost of rebuilding your clown car transaxle after you break it.

Clutch it, or leave it home.

Last edited by Gordon Nichols
@edsnova posted:

I've never got the hang of shifting Bridget without the clutch but my old Nova (350/Muncie) liked it, which was a good thing given the propensity of the clutch cross shaft (aka Z-bar) to crack and fail on a regular basis. Like my father before me, I kept a spare one in the trunk for just such an emergency.

What are you, Luke Skywalker? Are you a Jedi?

I had a Scirocco I back in the early 80s, first car I bought myself with a loan. It was a used 1977 in about 1984. The early Rabbits/Sciroccos used to eat clutch cables, I think they cost $10 to replace. I had one break on me one day and drove the rest of the way home without the clutch. It wasn't a big deal. The trans shifted great without the clutch. Not a single grind. 

I kept an extra cable back by the spare after that, it could be changed without tools. But you were screwed if you lost the little flat piece of metal(and the rubber pad) with a slit in it that rested on the clutch arm. I got replacements for those as well.......

Last edited by DannyP

Gordon....I probably should have prefaced a disclaimer before I went off with my explanation of shifting without using the clutch. Sometimes it's just nice to "know things" even if you never need to implement that knowledge.  Funny you mention a Fuller 10 speed trans. I used to work on them. Also their later 13 speed version. Before they came out with the 10 sp, many trucks used 5 speed transmissions with an auxiliary 2 speed transmission connected behind that. This required two shift levers ! Many of these set ups had double disc clutches as well. Starting with the flywheel you then had a clutch friction disc, then a floating flywheel, then another friction disc, then the pressure plate. From there it went into the transmission where it was directly connected to the countershaft (some people call this a "cluster gearshaft"). Up to this point ALL of it would continue to coast when the clutch was disengaged. Because of all the weight and inertia it would all slow down faster than you could shift. Not only one but Two transmissions had to be shifted causing the gears to clash (grind) and making your life miserable. The remedy was to "double clutch" the MF and keep the speed  (RPM) of all that gear-train moving close to the same speed to prevent gear clash.  The procedure was to disengage the clutch, shift to neutral, re-engage the clutch, then disengage the clutch and shift to the next gear. You had to do this as fast as you could. In my explanation with a 5 speed main box and a two speed auxiliary trans, the tough shift was from 5 to 6 because you had to shift the 5 speed back to first and the aux to second all while you were double clutching !

The strongest and simplest truck transmission I ever worked on was in a Mack with a Maxidyne turbocharged-aftercooled 6 cylinder engine. TONS of Torque at 1500 RPM ! That transmission had the main gearshaft surrounded by three countershafts in order to handle the torque. A very simple and brutally strong transmission ! But occasionally the torque would crack the gear case even then. It takes a lot of heavy-duty equipment to move 80,000 pounds down the road !

Allison 12 speed automatics in a Peterbuilt  is another story..........Bruce

Wow, that brings back the good old days of driving myself through college.  I worked for a small local outfit that had several Diamond REO COEs, one with the Fuller twin-stick and a couple more with the vacuum-shift thumb-knob on the disk-like shift knob to go between ranges - I believe those were 12-speed (H-four pattern times three).  Shifting the twin-stick was always an adventure in contortions.  Hold the steering wheel with your left knee, lean over to the right and shift both levers with both hands.  It wasn't so much that you needed speed, but you had to feel what was going on in the gearbox through your fingers and know when everything lined up and then slip it into gear, all without the clutch.

The vacuum-shift 12's were a whole nuther thing.  Get rolling with the clutch in 1'st or 2'nd (depending on the load) and then up/down shift with no clutch after that.  I drove a summer later on in an Autocar with the vacuum 12-speed and it was like heaven.  Sweetest gearbox I remember.  The engine rpm gaps between gears were all pretty much equal so you shifted, no clutch, simply by watching the tach.  Once you got a feel for the tractor you did everything by sound/feel and reflexes.  The gearbox (at least for me) never "ground the gears" - It simply would fight against you going in to the next gear which you could feel in the shift lever and never forced it.  It would just glide into gear or it wouldn't but you never forced it and simply could not "speed shift" it.

Never drove a Mack Maxi-Dyne 4-speed, but understood that the torque band was super wide and the truck performed more like a gas job than a Diesel.  Macks and Maxi-Dynes were mostly bullet-proof and seemed to last forever.  My town had a 50 Mack that they recently sold to a collector and it was still being used by the town up until five years ago as a specialty rig.

That summer driving the A-Car was a hoot.  Some local guy sold an entire hill to the Mass. Port Authority to expand Boston's Logan airport.  He leased 8 A-Car dump semis and moved all that dirt into Boston.  If it was a good day (no flats or breakdowns) a driver could get in four trips per day (2 hour round trip plus 30 mins at the airport plus 30 mins to reload).  This is how they expanded the airport's "Terminal "B" - that entire end of the airport is built on fill, just like "Back Bay" Boston.  It got so hot that summer that the trailer tires were melting from the heat and load and would often explode the sidewall away from the wheel.  Sounded like a damn cannon going off.  One truck's tire did that right into a Chevy's rear door, severely damaging the car.

For several weeks, there was a lot of work going on on the Mass. Turnpike into Boston and they had 3' tall orange cones set up for traffic control.  We found that if you flew by at the right speed and spacing from the cones you could get them to flop over.  That, until the Mass. DPW spotted us doing that and the cops started fining us $25 per cone flopped over - Cash, on the spot, or we couldn't continue.  That stopped us right there.......

Last edited by Gordon Nichols

Gordon...Interesting comments from you on driving heavy trucks with Fuller Transmissions. It's obvious that you have the experience. More than me for sure. I was  repairing them and only got to drive them to road test them when I completed the repairs. Never-the-less, they were difficult to master the technique so you didn't grind the crap out of them while shifting. Fullers had two countershafts to handle the torque and were a pretty nicely designed gear box. There were more of those sold than any other truck gearbox.  The Maxidyne's were a pleasure to drive and really did drive like a car. One of the weird things about those three countershafts was that when you removed them, you had to record which position in the gearbox they came out of and each one had a number etched on the side of the largest gear. Number one-two or three. These numbers were, in addition, a timing mark and had to be indexed to the number etched  on the input drive gear.  In the factory school they explained that with three countershaft gears surrounding the drive gear, slight manufacturing differences in the gear diameters and differences in the centerline of the countershafts to the centerline of the input drive gear in the transmission case would cause them to bind up. So in production, they had to be lapped in at the factory to eliminate this. Thus they all had timing marks ! I thought BS and tried installing them untimed and sure enough, they bound up ! The transmission case was cast aluminum too. Later they added more external ribs on the trans case to eliminate the cracking..

Learning how to up-shift and down shift an electric two speed rear axle while shifting a five speed gearbox was fun too ! Say ...a Clark  five speed and an Eaton 2 sp rear axle ?

A nice combination and worked well. Basically you could get a 10 speed  out of it.

Two or three pick-up trucks ago, I had a Gear Vendor overdrive unit installed on the back of my Th350 trans.  Much better than a Nash unit because it used one set of  planetary gears out of a Mopar 727 automatic transmission. In this case, no gears ever changed and I had a wonderful range of ratios to play with. Great for pulling a trailer or boat..............Fun trading stories with you Gordon.............Bruce

Yup.  Did that stuff for 4 years.  Hauled lumber and potatoes out of Maine to Massachusetts in the summer and snow mobiles from Quebec to Mass. in the fall/winter.   Great way to pay college bills.  One of the Diamond REO’s was in an accident and I got to drive a leased GMC Astro 12-speed Sleeper for a couple of weeks one winter.  Like going from a Chevy to a Cadillac.   The sleeper even had TV which worked great in Quebec, except everything it got was in French!

FWIW I hauled lumber (Georgia Pacific) from Denville New Jersey into NYC including Manhattan for 19 plus years and survived, to avoid the traffic mayhem I needed to be in the city and getting unloaded by 6:15 AM . On the way out I had the pretzel Vendor trained when he saw me turning from 12th st.  for the outbound Lincoln Tunnel tube I'd hit the air horn he would run along the side of the truck exchanging $1 for a pretzel :~)  

Last edited by Alan Merklin

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