Does Downshifting Hurt the Transmission?

by Dennis Lee Chapman

With the advent of the automatic transmission in the 1970s fewer people are driving manual transmissions and yet, with both automatic and manual transmissions, downshifting is an important part of driving your car. In short, downshifting does not normally hurt your transmission as long as the resulting RPMs are within the design specifications.

Downshifting for Increased Power and Speed

Downshifting provides greater traction for your car when offroading.

Downshifting increases speed and performance when variables such as wind, hill incline and towing weight impact on the car's performance in higher gears. Under these conditions, downshifting provides a boost in performance but will put more strain on your transmission. This will only hurt your transmission if you regularly abuse a specific gear to gain nominal increases in performance.

Downshifting for Breaking

When driving down steep mountain raods breaks can overheat and fail.

Downshifting for breaking purposes will extend the life of your breaks and reserve your breaks for emergency stops. Downshifting for breaking purposes is especially useful for going down steep inclines as it is harder for your car to reach greater momentum speeds due to the positive relationship of friction to high RPMs.

Unsafe Downshifting

Your RPM gauge is the best way to know if downshifting is safe.

Unsafe downshifting will harm your transmission. Look at the RPM gauge in your car and if the needle is near or in the yellow and/or red zones -- 5,000-7,000 RPMs on most cars -- then you are putting stress on that particular gear and risk overheating your transmission leading to catastrophic failure of your transmission.

About the Author

Writing professionally since 2001, Dennis Lee Chapman is a politics scholar who currently lectures students in London on subjects of pop culture, politics and the British workplace. With a Bachelor of Arts in English and music, a Master of Arts in comparative politics and a Doctor of Philosophy in international relations, Chapman is a multi-disciplinary writer and teacher of scholarship and life.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera New car engine gearboxes image by Christopher Dodge from Fotolia.com