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Old 11-01-2017, 11:00 AM   #1
cpy911
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1996 SC2
Default How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

I have a '96 SC2 with 90K on the clock with automatic and has gotten a record of almost 35MPG in the summer. I appreciate the automatic with the traffic I deal with. Bought it from my neighbor about a year ago for real cheap at 81K. It needed new temp sensor, engine mount (TAM) and had some damage to passenger door due to accident and bad A/C compressor. I have since fixed everything and added cruise control. This "old" little car takes me 60 miles round trip everyday now to work. I am really impressed with these little cars! They have some sort of character...maybe it is the plastic panels?

Anyhow, I am interested in collecting another one! I would like to get a manual transmission S-series version for fun. I see these cars for so cheap that I cringe as to why people don't snatch them up.

My question is how smooth is the clutch and shifter combo? My only frame of reference is a '01 Honda civic, which has a very smooth clutch and gear shift. How would it compare? Clunky? Average? Smooth?

Thanks!

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Old 11-01-2017, 12:33 PM   #2
Waiex191
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1999 SL2
Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Mine shifts very well. I really liked the stock clutch, but would not get a high performance clutch again. Too grabby, and impossible to be smooth.

...
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'99 SL2, owned since new
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Old 11-01-2017, 12:36 PM   #3
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Mine shifts just fine also. Moderate throws, but accurate. Third gens have a softer clutch pedal. Some like it, some don't.

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Old 11-01-2017, 12:41 PM   #4
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

I own 2 manuals, and both shift loose and are great for daily driving. I regretfully don't have much experience shifting other makes/models, but I was/am surprised by how smooth the S Series manuals operate.

...
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Old 11-01-2017, 12:42 PM   #5
cpy911
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Got it. Third gens for the tranny smoothness win! I like softer pedals, eases pressure on the knees.

Thanks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BV22 View Post
Mine shifts just fine also. Moderate throws, but accurate. Third gens have a softer clutch pedal. Some like it, some don't.

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Old 11-01-2017, 01:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

I preferred my 2nd gen's clutch, and will eventually be swapping the hydraulics from that car to my 3rd gen. Been driving my 3rd gen for over almost a year and it's rare that I am happy with my clutch work.

The 3rd gen shifter is OK; I plan on putting a delrin shifter bushing in and lubing with powdered mica per OldNuc's advice.

I attribute some of my 2nd gen's smoothness to the shifter bushing (I used the included Teflon powder last time) and some to the Transynd ATF. Hoping to get some of that in my 3rd gen.

My 2nd gen is almost Honda-smooth (had an '87 Honda Civic CRX). Saturn did well to get there.

...
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11/2016 red 2002 5 spd SC2 124k DD
7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
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Old 11-01-2017, 02:51 PM   #7
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Here's another two/three cents. I never drove an S-series manual so my opinion may not be accepted as I describe other manual xmission cars. I bought and loved a '77 280Z 5-speed with rear wheel drive. It was only my second manual but I drove until the front chassis cracked after ten years of NYC driving. My nephew allowed me to drive his '09 Cadillac CTS-V (supercharged 550hp Corvette engine) 6-speed. I did drive a manual Mustang once to deliver it to someone and was a little rusty at clutching on hills but once learned, manual shifting is all about the driver, not the car. I am intimidated by large amounts of hp so it did take some practice but clutching a supercharged 550hp Vette engine is no different from my 180hp 280Z from years ago. The driver has to have it in his or her mind to shift and clutch correctly. Although seldom driven, I feel comfortable clutching in 1st gear in the Caddi, even from my steep driveway. I had a piece of 4x4 lumber that I kept from my 280Z days and repurposed it again for wheel chocks for the Caddi, making for less clutch slipping when coming out of an inclined driveway. I can use as little power without slipping the clutch when moving the car.

In my mind, 1st gear is always the most difficult to clutch as its usually from a standing stop. Once overcoming the initial feel of engagement, a manual on one car is almost the same in other cars. All other shifts are no brainers since the car is moving. I forgot about NYC stop and go traffic with a manual and went to shiftless xmissions due to rowing gears all the time. Being allowed to drive the Caddi lets me enjoy manuals once in awhile.

All manual xmissions to date use hydraulic actuated clutches, deadening the feel of clutch engagement. The only way to understand the difference between hydraulic operated clutches and non hydraulic is to drive an older car without hydraulics in a clutch system. You'll know immediately. Older drivers know as they grew up with zero hydraulics and had to adjust cable operated clutch systems periodically as the clutch pedal dropped when a clutch wears. Most drivers can't tell when a clutch is worn because hydraulic operated clutches are self adjusting just like disc brakes. Non hydraulic operated clutches provide more feel when engaging a clutch.

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Old 11-01-2017, 03:25 PM   #8
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1998 SC2
Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
I preferred my 2nd gen's clutch, and will eventually be swapping the hydraulics from that car to my 3rd gen. Been driving my 3rd gen for over almost a year and it's rare that I am happy with my clutch work.

The 3rd gen shifter is OK; I plan on putting a delrin shifter bushing in and lubing with powdered mica per OldNuc's advice.

I attribute some of my 2nd gen's smoothness to the shifter bushing (I used the included Teflon powder last time) and some to the Transynd ATF. Hoping to get some of that in my 3rd gen.

My 2nd gen is almost Honda-smooth (had an '87 Honda Civic CRX). Saturn did well to get there.
The hydraulic active components are identical, it is the clutch cover that is different.

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Old 11-01-2017, 03:28 PM   #9
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1998 SC2
Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
Mine shifts very well. I really liked the stock clutch, but would not get a high performance clutch again. Too grabby, and impossible to be smooth.
Time and practice, they have to be broken in and that takes time. Yes, it is a big step from the little old lady gen-2/3 clutch to a stage 2 clutch.

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Old 11-01-2017, 07:32 PM   #10
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Compared to auto, I would have to say they are close. We have a 99 Sl2 AT, 97 Sl2 MT, and a 94 Sl2 MT. If you wind out 1st and 2nd gear to about 3k, then give it some more gas while letting the clutch out into the next gear, it is silky smooth. Or if you just get through 1st and 2nd gear, shifting at about 1750-2k, no gas is needed for the next gear engagement to make it smooth. If all shifting is done properly and you learn the happy places between the car gas and clutch, it is very nice. I am used to my brother's 97 with a replacement clutch that has about 75k on it all stop and go back roads, so getting the handle on my 94 with 53k on the original clutch is taking some time (a lot stiffer and grabs a whole lot earlier). But, having a manual sure beats the autotragic in our 99. I am hoping the auto lets go (not when I am driving it), and that maybe I could convince my father to keep it and put in a manual trans.....

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Old 11-02-2017, 07:30 AM   #11
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1998 SL2
1997 SL2
Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

That reminds me, the '87 Honda was mechanical clutch. I remember adjusting it. All my other manual trannies were hydraulic ('82 and '85 Plymouths, '79 and '86 Porsches, '80 Mazda RX7, '96 Pontiac, '97, '98, '02 Saturns). The Mazda had the best stick feel.
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
The hydraulic active components are identical, it is the clutch cover that is different.
Huh. Thanks, I could have sworn I'd read something a while ago that said swapping the hydraulics changed the feel to 2nd gen.

If I have to change the clutch cover, that will wait until I need a clutch, or I get really bored and antsy with nothing to do (which won't be for a looooonnnng time ). It's more of an occasional annoyance than anything.

I keep forgetting but it may also be related to a TPS that is starting to go bad. Got traditional but intermittent symptoms. After I get used to a car, I'm not really looking at the tach for rpm/matching and shifting, going more by feel, sound (when I can hear engine), and muscle memory. RPMs may be not where expected. Got one sitting on my desk waiting for me to have time.

2 1/2 weeks ago, the van developed a brake fluid leak at the left rear. Then one of my best friends (best man) got t-boned by a garbage truck (broken ribs, injured wrists, some PTSD type effects), a horse ran out into the hwy and my wife hit it (she's OK, horse had to be put down, waiting to hear on van damage - I'm guessing it won't be worth repairing), and then two days ago, someone destroyed our mailbox.

...
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7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
12/2008 eBay silver 1998 SL2 5 spd 102k, now 201k+ miles

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Old 11-02-2017, 11:20 PM   #12
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Last year, I was driving my Vue daily, but still would take the 96 SL out usually on weekends. The Vue shifted "OK", but when I would get in the SL, I felt like I was going to drive the clutch pedal through the floor, or rip the shifter out of the console. It was so much smoother, I actually could just "flip" between gears with it.

Long story short ... get ya one, you wont regret it.

...
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Old 11-03-2017, 12:04 PM   #13
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Thanks for the comments! Manual shift for the win!

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Old 11-03-2017, 01:47 PM   #14
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

If you thought your automatic was cheap - a manual will be cheaper. Nobody knows how to drive stick any more so there is less demand overall

and some of us who do know how to drive stick are getting stiff knees, etc., and thinking maybe an auto is the way to go

...
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Old 11-04-2017, 01:29 PM   #15
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Yes, I actually am happy to have an automatic for all the traffic I deal with driving into the city. I live 33 miles one way from work. About the last 10 miles ends up being traffic, stop and go. I can only imagine the amount of clutch action I would have to do. My knee would be very, very sore.

I enjoy driving my daughters civic on occasion, very nice manual, but could not imagine battling traffic everyday in it. Driving a manual gives so much control over the car and is the real driving experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aordofchaos View Post
If you thought your automatic was cheap - a manual will be cheaper. Nobody knows how to drive stick any more so there is less demand overall

and some of us who do know how to drive stick are getting stiff knees, etc., and thinking maybe an auto is the way to go

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Old 11-04-2017, 09:29 PM   #16
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

My 98 SL1 is extremely smooth in all temperatures. I put a LUK 04115 clutch in a few years back with Amsoil Torque Drive. The grab point is perfect and exactly like stock OEM. The shifter throws are pretty long, but the advantage is it just goes into the gear you want it to every time - specifically on upshifts. I've shown several women and teenagers on how to drive a manual in these cars because it's that easy and smooth even for novice drivers.

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Old 11-04-2017, 09:39 PM   #17
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

^ That's the best testimonial about a Saturn allowing everyone to learn how to drive a manual.

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Old 11-07-2017, 10:45 PM   #18
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

So most of the cars I've driven in my lifetime have been manuals. I started out on my dad's little 1991 Toyota Pickup and I have driven all kinds of horrible things like a 1968 VW Microbus that did not enjoy shifting into 1st and a 1970 Toyota Landcruiser that belonged to my dad; and had no power steering, and hubs you had to lock, etc.

Basically anything is better than that Landcruiser as far as smoothness and ease, let me tell you; even though that thing could go ANYWHERE, which was awesome.

My favorite manual that I ever owned / drove was my 1991 Mazda 626; very smooth and easy to drive, especially for a novice stick driver, which at the time, I was (I owned that car from age 16 to 20).

I have owned one 1st gen manual (my 1995 SW2), and two second gen manuals, and I enjoy the way the second gen shifts best. Honestly, I think they are very easy manuals to drive, and they even have an indicator light which I think can be helpful to people who are just learning how to drive a stick.

My husband picked up driving it really quickly; like in a few days, so I would say that's a good testament to how easy / nice it is.

It is a little annoying in city traffic; so when I have to go up to Portland to work I always say I feel like I'm doing a dance in heavy traffic, ha ha. But it's still really not that bad.

...
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Old 11-08-2017, 06:44 AM   #19
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

Quote:
a 1970 Toyota Landcruiser that belonged to my dad; and had no power steering, and hubs you had to lock, etc.
I owned a '69 Jeepster Commando with those same features, except it was mine and not my dad's. Its three speed transmission was smooth, but there was no rushing it. It never got stuck in the snow, except for the two times that it did.

...
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'99 SL2, owned since new
5 speed manual
Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!

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Old 11-09-2017, 12:58 AM   #20
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Default Re: How smooth are manual trannies and clutches?

That's pretty awesome!! I love those safari type vehicles. I have memories of that Land Cruiser. I grew up way out in the sticks where the road would wash out and my dad had a big winch on the front and would pull other cars out of the mud.

...
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1997 SL1 - Cinnamon - 265K

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