Off-Roading and Manual Transmissions – What Killed Off This Match?


Manual transmissions are what most people involved in off-roading have relied on for ages, primarily because they allow you to have better control ascending and descending hills or when rock crawling.

Unfortunately, truck manufacturers have dropped most of their truck models with manual transmissions and only offer them with automatic transmissions, which is a pretty significant change in a class of vehicles that’s traditionally been more manual than automatic.

Due to the gradual change in demand, the manual transmission has gone by the wayside, at least with the Big 3 manufacturers and it was recently noted that the best theft prevention for your truck is a manual transmission!

What brought on the disappearance of manual transmission trucks?

Here are a few reasons why the demand changed and collectively, it’s become cost-prohibitive for truck makers to keep selling manuals.

The Convenience of An Automatic

The first factor in the dying trend of manual transmissions in pickup trucks is simply the fact that today’s drivers don’t want to do manual shifting anymore.

Convenience and comfort in passenger trucks have won out over the added control of the stick shift, partly due to improved transmission design as well as a broadening customer base of truck purchasers.

The desire for a truck that’s just easier to drive has driven sales of automatics up while the demand for manuals has fallen dramatically in the past few years.

Improvements In Automatic Transmission Design

Automatic transmissions have always been more convenient than manuals, yet for a long time many opted against them because of their sluggishness, lower power ratings, and other performance issues - they simply couldn’t compare to the powerful manuals out there.

Now there has been an about-face as more interest in automatics has spurred an increased investment in the development of stronger, faster, and more powerful automatics that are computer-controlled and offer more than the old automatics ever could.

The automatics in many pickup trucks are now just as or even more so capable than the best manual transmissions ever were.

Durability is where manuals used to be stand out over most automatics and that too has changed as new automatic truck transmissions are as durable as standard versions.

Higher Power Ratings Than Manuals

Another reason why manual transmissions in pickup trucks have become less desirable is the lower power ratings many have while automatic power ratings continue to climb.

Though manual transmissions have traditionally been known as the more powerful option of the two, the higher demand for automatics has resulted in an unwillingness to develop better manual transmissions.

With automatic power ratings continuing to climb higher than those of what remaining standard transmissions are still out there, this only drives the demand for automatics higher.

Fewer Choices for Off-Roading with A Manual Transmission

With the Big 3 automakers suspending production of manual transmissions in their trucks, it leaves off-road enthusiasts looking for a new truck with two options:

  1. Consider a mid-size truck rather than a heavy duty one as a few brands including Toyota and Nissan are still offering mid-sized trucks with manual transmissions and the new Jeep Gladiator has delighted diehard Jeep fans who appreciate a manual transmission with a standard transmission version.
  2. The second is to suck it up, try that automatic transmission, and see just how capable it is on the trails as well as up and down the hills.

You may be pleasantly surprised and there’s no right or wrong answer here, just the one that suits your needs best!

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