Automatic or Manual Transmission for Expedition Use?

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
As someone else as pointed, I would be more concerned with the RHD than the transmission type.

Expect problems in El Salvador, and 50%-50% chances of problem in Costa Rica. Some have gone through and some haven't. If you don't make Costa Rica then you don't make Panama either.

The Panam Facebook group is probably your best place for latest information, although not many people are overlanding right now in Central and South America.


Not worth the risk it in my opinion (and I have driven down to Panama a few times..). I would think about this carefully before you buy.
 

MOAK

Adventurer
The 80 series LCs are .



Comparing a non-synchronized truck transmission to a regular car or SUV transmission is not entirely fair. While floating gears in a regular synchronized transmission is very possible in some conditions, recommending it to be done regularly would be downright irresponsible.
Notice please that I did say that the clutch is to be used to "help" shift gears in a regular vehicle, meaning of course that a good driver will speed match a bit, by default. If you are shifting properly, using the clutch to assist, the "speed matching" is kind of a by product of shifting properly. This is an interesting discussion and I find that most people just don't shift properly, nor use the clutch properly, hence, pre-mature wear. the truck transmission remark was an afterthought, not a comparison
 

MOAK

Adventurer
Ya can't float gears on a drag strip, jeep trail, while burried in a mud hole, or while fully loaded going up/down a hill.

Also "big trucks" are on a different level than a regular vehicle.
never suggested anyone "float gears" on their personal vehicle. I only stated that the clutch is to be used to assist in shifting. That's what it is designed to do. Premature wear of any two moving surfaces will occur if a bit of speed matching of those two surfaces is not happening at the time of mating. This happens almost automatically with a good driver. We don't even think about it. Ride with a driver sometime that has a history of clutches going out on them. It is quite obvious why they go through them after a very short ride. As I stated previously, the big truck reference was just an afterthought. I was not attempting to analogize, I was only pointing out the difference in crash boxes.
 

SoyBoy

Member
As someone else as pointed, I would be more concerned with the RHD than the transmission type.

Expect problems in El Salvador, and 50%-50% chances of problem in Costa Rica. Some have gone through and some haven't. If you don't make Costa Rica then you don't make Panama either.

The Panam Facebook group is probably your best place for latest information, although not many people are overlanding right now in Central and South America.


Not worth the risk it in my opinion (and I have driven down to Panama a few times..). I would think about this carefully before you buy.
If it can't drive across - put it on a flat deck and move on.
 

Cav 3724

New member
I love this topic. Back in the day, 60's and 70's, autos were not as robust as today's autos. Manuals were the most prevalent transmissions off road. I started working in my dads auto repair shop and towing business when I was 12. I quickly learned the art of replacing clutches. My dad once told me, 'clutches don't break, they get broken'. How true. Most people don't realize that the friction material in a clutch is very similar to car brakes. Ever smell a smoked clutch and overheated car brakes ? Same smell. The clutch is a disconnect between the engine and the transmission. Push the clutch while in gear the clutch plate and engine usually spin at different speeds. Let the clutch out fully and they spin at the same speed. Clutch wear happens when the clutch is used to start from a stopped position and then to allow shifting between gears. Difference in rotating speed between the clutch plate and the engine is what wears a clutch. Now take a person who is okay driving a clutch on the road. Put that same person behind the wheel off road with a clutch and they don t do so well. The clutch is usually what suffers. Trying to make the manual an automatic by slipping the clutch kills it, or wrong gear selection. You an easily kill an automatic if you abuse it or don't how to drive it. Heat is the biggest killer of automatics. Bottom line is, whatever you drive, auto or manual, know what you are doing. Know your limits and that of the machine you are driving. Learn what it takes to cause a failure and try to avoid it.
 

SoyBoy

Member
C-3224 said
"Know your limits and that of the machine you are driving. Learn what it takes to cause a failure and try to avoid it"

Well, put. Can be applied to the whole vehicle and for that matter a life lesson.
 

lugueto

Adventurer
Notice please that I did say that the clutch is to be used to "help" shift gears in a regular vehicle, meaning of course that a good driver will speed match a bit, by default. If you are shifting properly, using the clutch to assist, the "speed matching" is kind of a by product of shifting properly. This is an interesting discussion and I find that most people just don't shift properly, nor use the clutch properly, hence, pre-mature wear. the truck transmission remark was an afterthought, not a comparison
In that case, I agree 100%.
 

nickw

Adventurer
One thing people overlook as a benefit with manuals is the far superior engine braking and control you can get from a manual. It's so much nicer to drive in really mountainous terrain and off road. It's possible to barely need the brakes while descending steep grades and just need to tap the brakes at the sharpest switchbacks. Autos are really hard on the brakes in this scenario. Newer electronic 10 speed stuff can mitigate this somewhat but in older stuff it's night and day difference.
Offroad downhills *may* benefit manuals....but the opposite is true going over technical terrain and steep uphills, autos just make it easier to drive and easier on the drivetrain.

Many of the newer rigs have hill descent control and / or the nifty offroad crawl modes that do an excellent job at keeping things slow with minimal input up or down.
 

roving1

Well-known member
Offroad downhills *may* benefit manuals....but the opposite is true going over technical terrain and steep uphills, autos just make it easier to drive and easier on the drivetrain.

Many of the newer rigs have hill descent control and / or the nifty offroad crawl modes that do an excellent job at keeping things slow with minimal input up or down.
I was not claiming anything about technical. That is true a lot of times especially when the pressure is on.

Hill decent is great for a short period but it's just using the abs and the brakes. You're either going to overheat the brakes eventually or mow through your pad life if you have to use it constantly. You can't hill descent/crawl mode your way down a mountain pass for 6 hours. Especially on a higher speed road braking for switchbacks all the time.
 

nickw

Adventurer
I was not claiming anything about technical. That is true a lot of times especially when the pressure is on.

Hill decent is great for a short period but it's just using the abs and the brakes. You're either going to overheat the brakes eventually or mow through your pad life if you have to use it constantly. You can't hill descent/crawl mode your way down a mountain pass for 6 hours. Especially on a higher speed road braking for switchbacks all the time.
Meh - autos do it all the time, what's the difference between putting my Ranger 10 speed tranny in 1st (4.69:1) vs a modern cruiser with a H55f (4.84)? It really has more to do with gear ratios than anything, right....not unique to manual vs auto, what am I missing?

Using the hill decent is just as easy brainless way to go about it, I thought it was stupid at first but after having it it's actually pretty nice.
 

SoyBoy

Member
One advantage of an automatic is if the driver gets hurt on the expedition. It is much easier to drive an automatic with certain types of injuries
Great point - Sport20 - way to think outside the box.

As it happens I was fell on my shoulder mountain biking a couple of months ago. I was driving a manual and could not put it in reverse with my right hand so I used my left. If it had been worse I would not have been able to drive away very easily. What are the chances of that happening on a trip - not likely but what if, or if you have to have a sip of a latte mid-shift?
 

nickw

Adventurer
One advantage of an automatic is if the driver gets hurt on the expedition. It is much easier to drive an automatic with certain types of injuries
Its a great point that I've thought about before, I broke my collarbone really bad 4 years ago and driving stick would be difficult. Forget about it if you had a leg injury....
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
Our only mission critical failure on the Heffalump was a broken clutch linkage that connects to the fork. I don't recall if it was Chile or Peru, but it was pretty remote. I went for a gear change and the clutch pedal fet like it was welded in place. We were on a downhill so I put it in neutral and stopped and shut down. The problem was not visible so we bump started and limped into the next village. I saw a heavy truck on the side of the road and stopped behind him. In my halting spanish I asked if there was a mechanic in the village. The dreaded south american response " no ai"(sp?), not here. Turns out the heavy truck had broken down, the mechanic turned up 4 hours later, found the problem and brought the correct part back the next day. Planning is great, luck is better!
We carry a spare clutch cable, the most likely point of failure, you can't bring an entire spare vehicle. Even with an inoperable clutch you can still drive a standard.
That is "No hay." It has a cousin, "Si hay, pero no tenemos." (Yes, there are - that is, the thing you need exists, but we don't have it.) ;) (Lotta years in Latin America.)
 
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