Stan Doubt opined that one shouldn’t downshift in “normal driving”. I pointed out that many drivers “normally” encounter circumstances that DO warrant downshifting, provoking the following:
A twofer! ( poor analogy and an ad hominium attack) I’d have taken it to the pit if I was interested in responding in kind. I’m not. I am aware that my views on downshifting border on religious, and are certainly debatable.
At risk of taking a rehtorical question literally, the answer to SD’s question is: I don’t pore over every post. SD’s presumed definition of “normal driving” doesn’t apply to myself, anyone in my immediate family, or any of my close friends or neighbors. It doesn’t apply in any place I’ve ever resided. (two Rocky Mountain states, and the Tirol region of Austria) Of the four cardinal directions, only if I went south would I reach the next city without traversing a grade that warranted downshifting.
Yes I am aware that my experience places me in a minority. My concern is that “normal” drivers don’t/won’t/can’t recognize “not normal” cirmumstances that warrant downshifting.
In the Rocky Mountain US, it is common to see not only “flatlanders”, but locals who really should know better, riding thier brakes for 10-15 miles while decending a pass. I can smell the brakes, sometimes I can see the smoke coming off them. In recent years (perhaps the last 15-20) , in my observation, it is becoming rare to see a driver that is NOT abusing thier brakes to some degree; Which I define as relying on thier brakes to control average speed. They are on the brakes more than half the time/distance. They are on the brakes for EVERY turn. They are on the brakes to avoid overrunning traffic that was visible a half mile back. Most of the folks pulling large trailers seem to have something of a clue, but even among those there notable and frightening exceptions.
I can ascribe such dangerous (IMO, obviously) driving only to ignorance. Those folks can’t know any better, or they would use the damn shift lever. Certainly brakes have improved greatly in the last 20-30 years. The increased margion of safety this should have provide seems to be offset by the complaciency it engenders.
European drivers mostly DO downshift on mountain grades. I attribute this largely to the relative rarity of automatic transmissions there, though the driver education and licensing are also much more severe than US standards. Manny tranny drivers shift as a matter of course. Even a European driving a luxury car with a slushbox was most likely raised driving with a clutch.
I doubt many will argue for riding thier brakes down long grades.
Yet I have never limited my downshifting to long grades. The practice of downshifting as a vehicle slows (Stan Doubt’s normal driving) seems to draw more critics:
A cite from the GQ thread:
Ray, of NPR’s “Cartalk”: “The problem is that downshifting is murder on clutches! If you downshift through all the gears every time you stop (like your hubby does), you’re effectively doubling the number of shifts you make, and thereby cutting the life of your clutch in half!”
If the cite above were correct, then the “normal” life of a clutch in my '86 Ford must be around 500,000 miles, as it has gone over 220,000 miles and still has a fair amount of lining left…it has been downshifted at essentially every opportunity during it’s entire life. By “murdering” my clutch I’ve only gotten twice the clutch live vs. what many people seem to think is the life of a car.
I agree that a “simple” downshift is hard on clutches. I cringe when I experience such as a passenger. I maintain that manually sychronized downshifting (double clutching) puts minimal wear on a clutch. If I seldom downshifted, I would likely not have this skill when needed.
Brake linings for one wheel, one time certainly are cheaper. Pads/shoes for all four, turning the drums/rotors makes it about a wash. Based on getting around 100-120K miles on a set of brakes, compared to around half that for people who I know don’t downshift, and my experience with clutch life, I claim I can probably save 3 sets of brakes by the time I wear out a clutch. I don’t know when the clutch would have worn out without all my downshifting. Three sets of brakes do not appear represent a savings over one clutch. If you don’t do the work yourself, then you can factor in an extra 2-3 trips to the shop worth of lost time and hassle.
By the time I clean and repack the wheel bearings (why wouldn’t I?) brakes/clutch is getting close to a labor wash on a RWD vehicle. (FWD or 4WD normally complicates clutch access considerably) By the time I pull the Iron, take it to the machine shop, wait or return when finishied, and re-install, I have burned a Saturday. Changing a clutch, even on a 4WD burns the same Saturday. Frankly, neither represents my preferred way to burn a Saturday, and if I thought I was experiencing anything below normal wear, I’d damned sure change my ways.
Cost and hassle aside, a failed clutch is seldom a safety concern. A natural consequence of burning through brakes twice as fast is that you are twice as likely to be driving with brakes at/near thier end of life. By not downshifting you are going to be relying on them as your sole means of deceleration if/when they fail. Wear issues aside, You are also more likely to warp a rotor, boil the fluid, or suffer other ills related to severe braking.
It’s moot to me though, I don’t downshift in “normal” driving to save the brakes. I downshift in order to to be in the correct gear to accelerate when the reason I was slowing down goes away: Red light becomes green, turn is behind me, car in front of me finished turning into driveway, whatever. This is my main objection to automatic transmissions.
Finally, I’ve been accused of being a Mario wannabe. (and one of the Tappet bros. alludes to this in the above cite) Ain’t so. Heavy braking is the way to get around a racetrack quickly. If you ain’t accelerating, and you ain’t braking, then your coasting. Coasting doesn’t cut your lap times.