Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

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zajn
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Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by zajn » Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:43 pm

Hi all! Not sure how active this forum is these days, but I've gotten so much good information here from browsing threads over the past year. I hope you all can give me some pointers on what I might be doing wrong.

I bought my first manual (2018 Mazda 3 GT) almost a year and a half ago now, and sadly still don't feel like I've mastered it. I don't have to drive frequently, and I've got just under 10k miles on it. I pretty regularly will just go out and drive for a bit to try and practice, but there are still a lot of things I just can't seem to get down correctly in this car.

I rarely get a good 1-2 shift, especially if I have to start on a hill. I can do it better on flats, but where I'm from (Southwestern PA), hills are everywhere. I've tried a few different strategies, but the revs seem to drop inconsistently and I either haven't figured out the pattern or I'm unable to predict it. I tried to stay in 1st longer, until maybe 3-3.5k, but then the revs falls so slowly that I can't get into 2nd without a lurch or a long wait. I've tried to slip the clutch longer on this upshift, but I can't even seem to get that right. I've tried shifting sooner out of 1st too, but on a hill, I seem to lose momentum before I can re-engage the clutch. There have been a few times now where a car behind me has gotten way too close for comfort because I didn't get into 2nd quickly enough.

Even on flats sometimes I get this engine braking effect after shifting 1-2, where it's clear that I let the clutch out too slowly. I can't seem to get the shifter in gear quickly enough sometimes. It feels like there's resistance, which I think would be the synchros spinning up, so I have to wait a little bit and give some slight pressure until it slides in. But by the time that's happened, I've lost momentum and my shift suffers.

I'm also really awful at downshifting. I can get it right sometimes, and even have had some success attempting rev matching, but there's almost never a time where I feel nothing while downshifting. I've ridden with friends who downshift normally (i.e., no throttle blip to rev match), and their shifts are smooth as butter. But I don't understand. Even when I try to slip the clutch on a downshift, I still get a little bit of a lurch when the clutch is fully engaged. Am I supposed to hold it at the engagement point until the revs are where they should be at? Or should I be slowly letting it engage more and more? The latter seems like the better option, but I almost always get some kind of lurch.

The highways around here are quite hilly, and I never understand if I should downshift when approaching a hillier section or not. My car seems to produce decent power starting around 2.5k rpms, which is right about 70mph in 6th gear. I'm not really pressing the gas that much to keep it there, but I feel like I have to push a little deeper on the gas pedal to keep it at 70 up a hill. Am I making the engine word too hard by doing that? I've tried downshifting instead, usually to 5th, and it feels like it pulls a little better, but then I'm keeping the engine around 3.1k for the duration of the hill. It feels wrong to do that, but I have no basis for saying why I feel that way. Plus it's hard for me to get the downshift right, which makes me less inclined to do it sometimes.

I really want to love this car, but it frustrates me. For as long as I've driven it now, I would have expected to be so much better at it. I've started to consider just trading it for an auto, but I don't want to give up just yet.

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tankinbeans
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by tankinbeans » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:13 pm

2.5 liter or 2.0?
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zajn
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by zajn » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:22 pm

tankinbeans wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:13 pm
2.5 liter or 2.0?
It's the 2.5L Grand Touring.

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watkins
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by watkins » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:42 pm

Sometimes it takes a while, especially with newer cars, but eventually you'll realize that you've stopped thinking about driving and it will be easier.
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tankinbeans
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by tankinbeans » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:48 pm

zajn wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:22 pm
tankinbeans wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:13 pm
2.5 liter or 2.0?
It's the 2.5L Grand Touring.
Very nice.

One major suggestion might be to adjust your seat so you're closer to the pedals. It sounds silly, but sometimes having that extra leverage makes all the difference in the world.

I have more experience with that particular drivetrain in my Mazda6. You're off to a good start taking it out occasionally to practice, but I would recommend more of that (you knew that though). I've found the easiest way to get smooth shifts on your 1>2 is to depress the clutch and wait for a microsecond. These particular cars are more apt to lose revs pretty fast and then blip up versus hanging. If you don't believe me, watch the tach in between shifts when you're in a safe spot. It'll go down and then bounce back up.
zajn wrote:Hills are difficult.
Luckily you won't roll unless you linger too long since the car has hill start assistance. Stay in gear a bit longer then shift. Again, depress the clutch fully and then shift. That'll allow your revs to drop much more quickly. The car makes peak torque at 3250 rpm so you shouldn't need to downshift much for hills unless they're long and wandering. I'll typically rev-match into 4th if I know the hill is going to be a long one and will just ride it up. No sense in having the engine struggle. For this car a revmatch is easiest, at least to me, my hitting the brake and smashing the throttle with the right side of my foot. I can usually get it close enough for horse shoes and hand grenades. Just keep practicing. You'll get there.

Revving at 3100 up a hill is not a problem. Your engine is designed to rev; that's its job. As long as you're not bouncing off the rev limiter, you're not doing any damage whatsoever. You need more gas to overcome gravity and friction. It's normal.
zajn wrote:Friends don't revmatch; downshifts are smooth as butter.
Watch what they're doing. Chances are they're riding the clutch and letting it take up the slack, or they're revmatching and you don't notice. If nothing else, ask them what they're doing. Since you have your own car, they'll likely be more than willing to at least tell you. Riding the clutch on the downshift is one of those topics that different people have different opinions about; who'da thunk it. I wouldn't say it's necessarily bad unless you're holding it for an excessively long time. Again, keep practicing.
zajn wrote: I really want to love this car...
You'll get there. My first manual, and you can read my trials and tribulations within these hallowed...er...pages if you're so inclined, was so difficult to drive I never made it more than a week without stalling. I about gave up. Since I got into a Ford, and later a Mazda, it got much better. Just keep at it, you're not going to be perfect over night, especially if you don't drive often.
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zajn
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by zajn » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:54 pm

watkins wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:42 pm
Sometimes it takes a while, especially with newer cars, but eventually you'll realize that you've stopped thinking about driving and it will be easier.
I hope that's the case! :D

zajn
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by zajn » Tue Jul 02, 2019 5:27 pm

Thanks for taking the time to write all that! Apologies if I sound like a broken record; I know there are a lot of threads on this very subject already.
One major suggestion might be to adjust your seat so you're closer to the pedals.
I sit pretty close right now. I think I picked that up browsing through here one day actually!
These particular cars are more apt to lose revs pretty fast and then blip up versus hanging. If you don't believe me, watch the tach in between shifts when you're in a safe spot. It'll go down and then bounce back up.
I'm definitely gonna give that a try. I've never actually noticed them blip back up, but I feel like I've certainly noticed a hang when I shift out of 1st higher than 3k. I've definitely noticed that if I'm on the brakes, and in gear with the clutch disengaged, the revs blip up briefly when I take my foot off the brake. I assume this is some kind of stall prevention assist.
Luckily you won't roll unless you linger too long since the car has hill start assistance. Stay in gear a bit longer then shift. Again, depress the clutch fully and then shift. That'll allow your revs to drop much more quickly.
Yeah the hill start assistance is great! I'm not too worried about roll-back thanks to that, but the problem I have is after I'm taking off and trying to upshift to 2nd. I can't seem to get in gear quickly enough while keeping it relatively smooth, and without losing a bunch of speed. For example, last night I was out and first in line at a red light on a hill. I got a decent start, but as I was upshifting to 2nd, I couldn't seem to get it in gear fast enough to stay accelerating, and I could see the car behind me getting awfully close. I know I'm likely to always be slower than an automatic, but I hope I can get to the point where I'm not at risk for getting rear-ended because I'm a slow shifter.
You'll get there. My first manual, and you can read my trials and tribulations within these hallowed...er...pages if you're so inclined, was so difficult to drive I never made it more than a week without stalling. I about gave up. Since I got into a Ford, and later a Mazda, it got much better. Just keep at it, you're not going to be perfect over night, especially if you don't drive often.
Thanks for saying that! I'd be interested to read some of your early posts. In a way, it's comforting to see that other people have also been where I'm at and struggled with this. Most forums I read, with the exception of this one, seem to be full of people who've somehow mastered driving a manual in 2 hours or less and have a hard time empathizing with someone who isn't as quick of a learner.

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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by Rope-Pusher » Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:49 am

To reduce the force required to shift quickly, make sure you are fully depressing the clutch pedal.

Just as a rule of thumb, the clutch should not start to engage until the pedal pad moves maybe 25-25 mm up from the downstop. If it grabs sooner than that, there may be an air bubble in the hydraulic clutch release system.

When the outdoor temperature is cold, the trans fluid will not clear from the synchronizers so easily and shifting will require more force. After you drive a bit, the fluid temperature will increase and those symptoms will abate.

While you are accelerating in gear, inertia is resisting and you body seems to be pulled back into the seat. When you push in the clutch and shift to the next gear, the vehicle is coasting and the seat will stop pushing forward on your body.

To increase smoothness, let up on the accelerator pedal a bit to reduce acceleration just before you push in the clutch pedal and let off the accelerator pedal completely to start shifting to the next gear. This way,the transition between acceleration and coasting will not be so abrupt.

Same goes for accelerating in the next gear. After the clutch is engaged, accelerate in the new gear at a lesser rate for a second, then tip into the throttle to resume accelerating at the desired rate and again reduce your acceleration just before starting to shift to the next gear.

This is similar to braking - if you hold the brake pedal at a certain position, you will decelerate the car and your body will seem to be pitched forward. If you keep the brake pedal at this position until the vehicle is completely stopped, there will be a sharp transition between deceleration and being at rest. It will seem as if the brake pedal had been pressed harder at the last moment. If instead you ease up on the braking just before the vehicle comes to a standstill, the transition will not be as abrupt.
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tankinbeans
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by tankinbeans » Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:49 pm

You could always drive it like you hate it. Hehehe
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Re: Frustrations of a new-ish first timer

Post by ClutchFork » Sat Jul 06, 2019 12:04 am

zajn wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:54 pm
watkins wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:42 pm
Sometimes it takes a while, especially with newer cars, but eventually you'll realize that you've stopped thinking about driving and it will be easier.
I hope that's the case! :D
Yes, it is the case and even after driving stick for 42 years I am not always perfect--in fact, I am rarely perfect, but do have fun :lol: .

Also, if I try to drive someone else's stick it takes a little getting used to before it is smooth.

I do agree with the suggestion to try moving the seat forward some. Leg angle can make a difference especially when learning.

Of course you have driven enough to know that the whole leg goes up and down with the clutch pedal, not just levering the foot with heel on floor like with the accelerator pedal.

I didn't hear anyone suggest a different transmission fluid so I'll leave that one alone, but in my '95 F150 which had a mazda built transmission specifying ATF, the shifting was notchy, but when I put Redline Manual Transmission Lube in it the shifting improved noticeably.
Stick shiftin since '77
theholycow wrote:Why in the world would you even want to be as smooth as an automatic? Might as well just drive an automatic...

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