Manual or auto

Submitted: Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 14:26
ThreadID: 104448 Views:2438 Replies:10 FollowUps:2
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Still continuing my planning for 2014. Wondering if a manual or auto is best when towing a caravan. I invisage going on tracks like Gibb, Birdsville, Oonadatta and Savannah way with caravan and off road without the caravan with a roof top camper.
All opinions are welcome, I am open for any. Planning to do above in the good season and hope for no flooding etc but if does it does.
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Reply By: Rick (S.A.) - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 15:11

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 15:11

Best for everything - and I say that having driven manuals for 40 years, but having just got into one.
Have a look at this link which has a good explanation from Peter Aawen about the benefits of auto.

AnswerID: 518641

Reply By: Member - David 221160 - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 15:26

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 15:26
Thanks Rick (S.A)
That made interesting reading and some very sound advice and cleared up some of my queries.
AnswerID: 518644

Reply By: Rockape - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 17:30

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 17:30
With modern vehicles, the auto is the go. They have come a long way from years gone by. The only place they don't do as well is down steep decents. In all other places they shine. This is very much the case with turbo engines that develop their torque a little higher in the rev range. No slipping clutches when taking off on inclines, and for some drivers, less damage through the vehicles transmission train. Diffs/transfer/tailshafts and axles.

I don't believe we will see many heavy haul trucks using manuals in the future. The europeans have the autos down to a fine art and the Americans are trying to follow. Many operators are going to the eaton fuller roadranger manual/auto gearboxes, this is because they know the reliability of the boxes and the price is cheaper, plus parts are very easy to come by.
AnswerID: 518652

Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 17:49

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 17:49
Hi David,
Here is another vote for the auto.
I can't speak for other makes but the Landcruisers have an enviable reputation with their auto Boxes.
When towing heavy caravans an auto is the only choice in my opinion as the infinite control over power application is a huge bonus in many situations.

Lock up torque converters make them every bit as good on engine braking as manuals these days and are terrific for steep decent towing especially with diesel engines and their renown engine braking.

As RA said, they have come a long way since the old days.

Cheers, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Reply By: Member - David 221160 - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 18:38

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 18:38
Thanks "Rock" and Bruce C (NSW).
So far it looks like and auto.
I am from the old school Manuals you drive and auto's you steer but times they have and are a changing.
Your never too old to learn from others and the old saying "if in doubt ask"

Thanks again
AnswerID: 518655

Reply By: Robin Miller - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 20:51

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 20:51
I don't think to many of those supporting autos have roll started there cars recently.

I find the whole subject of differences between cars quite interesting and very hard to get to the real advantages and disadvantages of different setups.

This is mostly I believe because people often don't compare the same things with only the one variable like transmission for example, usually they compare something they once owned with something they now own and often its even a different make or model.

We have some 4.8 lt GU Patrols in manual & auto and the differences are real and one isn't necessarily better or worse - its more a matter of matching the vehicle to your requirements.
We have driven ours in all conditions.

In comparing the above GU patrols its obvious that the manual is easier to live with it the bush, its just simpler , less electronics , can be roll started , doesn't use as much battery power if you have an alternator failure and need to drive on the battery alone.
You can even drive the car for 50m + just on the starter motor if you have a fault that prevents the engine starting (like faulty ignition key).

In short mechanically its easier to maintain and fix these Patrols in manual.

Water crossings - well a breather hose broke once an water went into gearbox - but it can be drained and filled on side of the road - try that in the auto !

Really deep water crossings - pity they mounted the autos trasmission computer in the engine bay !

Fuel Consumption for my driving pattern is about the same - the auto uses a lot more in say a Simpson crossing , but uses less cruising on the long journeys to the outback so this variable is basically neutral.

Power to the ground - well manuals are 5-10% more efficent by design but this is only good if you can realise this.
I.E. The auto and its inefficent torque converter but faster gear changes will get the auto Patrol to 100kmh in about 1 second less than the manual , however if towing a van and you need to overtake from say 80-110kmh then it the manual you select the right gear and you will overtake in almost 2 seconds less time.

Slow going like crossing a dessert - well in the manual you can idle along at 20 kmh forever whereas in the auto it will be swapping gears all the time and uses a lot more fuel.

Getting up big sand dunes - an interesting one , conventional wisdom puts the auto in front but my experience has not been this and I'd call it equal.
While recently we put our auto up Big Red a few times and it performed brillantly we also had the embrassing incident of twice bogging down on smaller dunes - keeping this short, essentially what happens on marginal hills is that the auto can change down really fast and deliver the torque but unfortunately this sudden torque tranfer can break traction and cause the car to dig in and a driver has little control.
In the manual , well you have to pick just the right gear as changing it can stop you just as quickly.

Downhills - a traditional winner for manuals - but we had our autos valve body upgraded and drive ratios changed and well these is no real difference.

Caught Out - Well this is a winner for the auto so what do I mean. An example is
when say someone tries to cut you off or your half asleep and need to react fast well the manual requires a gear change , but auto will deliver the power faster and is unlikely to stall in an emergency.

Towing - Well apart from speed advantages above for the manual the auto does get a heavy load moving more easily but at the price of a lot more transmission heat.
In the cars I'm referring to above they both have a large amount of low down torque
and so getting off the line isn't an issue with either transmission.

So I don't pick a winner - rather just outline some real on the ground differences.

My wife would however pick the auto every time and doesn't car how much more I have to pay for the around town increased fuel use.

Robin Miller

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AnswerID: 518661

Reply By: Graeme - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 21:13

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 21:13
Dave, I would say auto as I am also a convert.
The secret to autos is you have to learn to drive them, not simply put into gear and steer the vehicle.
I have a Disco 4 with the six speed box and my wife the VW Golf with the DSG (an automated manual).
Where I live I often have to go up and down the range and have followed people down who are on the brakes all the way down and have very smelly brakes, if any, at the end. Meanwhile I select manually a lower gear and coast down with the minimal use of brakes and always have brakes for an emergency. This is applicable to both types of boxes. Most people only know P for park R for reverse and D for going forward and have no idea what happens when S or left into manual selection. It is simply not taught or simply not interested, as to get a license it is necessary simply to steer a car around the block without hitting anything. As the majority of new vehicles are auto the forgoing is the norm.
Get an auto, learn how to use it properly and you too will be a convert.
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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 22:27

Monday, Sep 23, 2013 at 22:27
I agree, I drive both my autos down hills in manual mode and they hold their gears just like a manual. My brake pads last forever. In low range first on the auto, mine idles down the steepest of slopes without the need for brakes. I'll never go back to either a petrol motor or a manual box. I once thought autos were the pits but times change. For me it's like saying I would trade my LED superhuge flatscreen internet TV that I'm sure also makes donuts, for an old black and white tube TV because the old one was really reliable and lasted over 20 years. I don't care, I'll take the new stuff because it's a lot better while it's working at least.
FollowupID: 798581

Reply By: Member -Hilton Hillbillies - Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 05:08

Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 05:08
G'day David,

Add another vote for Auto.
I can't comment on desert driving, but I have been towing a 17.5' van around now for some years.
First with 6 cyl diesel manual cruiser and now with a 4 cyl diesel auto Ranger.
I wouldn't go back to a manual, the auto does it so much easier.
Like others have said you can manually select a lower gear.
We have had both in some rough places and the auto did not let us down.
We also enjoy going to Fraser Island and the auto is much better than the manual there.

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Reply By: AlbyNSW - Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 06:31

Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 06:31
After 15 odd years I have gone back to a manual for a change and because that was all that is available in a 70 series. Whilst I am really enjoying "driving" it myself and have no regrets with my decision I still think that the auto is the way to go. They just do everything easier with less skill required by the driver, with the auto, apart from less engine braking on very steep decents in low range it does everything else with ease
AnswerID: 518671

Reply By: Tim - Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 11:49

Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 11:49
I think Robin is on the money, you have to compare apples with apples. I have driven the patrols at work in both auto and manual and the manual is a much better tuck to drive in terms of get up and go. The auto seems a bit like a slug in comparison.
I am a supporter of the manual but I can see that the days of manuals are numbered. I hate not having that slight pullback on a descent when you take your foot off the accelerator like you do in a manual as the auto slips into neutral. Just a personal thing.
AnswerID: 518682

Follow Up By: garrycol - Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 12:20

Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 at 12:20
What auto slips into neutral when you back off?? Never found that before - with modern autos with inbuilt torque converter lockup backing off retards the vehicle and modern autos no longer have the issue of wanting to run away on slopes.

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