Automatic transmissions suck

I had a 1991 Nissan pickup truck with 230,000 miles on it, abused to hell, since I started driving.  Nice truck, but for the past couple years I’ve spent a lot of time under the hood trying to make it work right.

The car worked, but irritated me with some sort of engine issue.  When accelerating hard, it made a lot of noise and slowly gained speed; you’d think if you hit the gas and the engine made a lot of noise it’d go somewhere right?  I fixed a hole in the exhaust, dumped all kinds of crud in the engine, replaced fuel pressure regulators and fuel injectors and even added a high flow air filter, but to no avail.  Eventually the damn thing leaked a lot of oil and bent a connecting rod so that’s that.

New car!  2008 Chevrolet Cobolt LS with an automatic transmission.  I wanted a manual so I could shift the gears myself, but parents (cosigners) coerced me and a salesman (we’ll call him Dan) at Koons Chevrolet White Marsh said that the engine would peak out in 5th gear at highway speeds and burn a ton of gas, getting horrible mileage (Dan also said it had a 2.4L engine and anti-lock brakes, but we’ll ignore those two misrepresentations for now; I don’t like ABS anyway).  So now I have a car with an automatic transmission.

The car does the same damn thing.  It’s just as broken as my old truck and it’s still irritating the fuck out of me.  I went online and asked some car technicians, and the question came up:  is this an automatic or a manual transmission?  To be blunt, the verdict I got was that automatic transmissions are shit and lose a lot of power in the torque converter, especially when accelerating.  It’s not broken, it just drives like shit by design. And by the way, Chevrolet says the manual gets better mileage on the highway.

A torque converter uses a ball of goop to transfer engine power.  Think of it like cake batter:  when you turn high the mixer (engine) on the bowl (wheels) starts spinning slowly even though the mixer gets to full speed almost instantly; after several seconds the bowl gains a good bit of speed and settles at a fast rotation rate, but the batter’s still getting beat.  The mixer can keep spinning if you stop the bowl too, just like how you can hit the brakes and stop yet the engine stays at around 800RPM.

In a manual transmission this doesn’t happen; instead you’re driving the car.  You hit the gas, the throttle opens and the engine goes faster.  If the engine spins any faster, the transmission necessarily must spin faster or else gears snap, and the wheels must spin faster or else the axle snaps.  Of course it also stands to reason that if you hit the brakes fast, the engine must stop and thus stalls out; brakes and clutch at the same time, please.  You also actually have to shift gears with a manual.  On the plus side, you can use the clutch for stunts or, even better, to get better gas mileage and better control in snow by disengaging the engine from the transmission and removing the engine braking effect; and of course, better acceleration and fuel economy.

800 miles and I want to sell it, I don’t want it, it’s based on really bad design principles and feels like shit driving it (just like every other automatic transmission).  I really don’t want to take the financial hit but I’m getting rid of the car as soon as I can.  I’m not happy about the salesman lying to me either; the dealer sent me a customer satisfaction survey, in which my extra comments included a recommendation to “send him to Hell.”  Enough of this shit.


~ by John Moser on May 28, 2008.

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