Tips, Tricks & Trends

Is an Automatic-to-Manual Transmission Swap Really Worth the Effort?

Does your current daily driver have an automatic transmission? If so, are you tired of that boring “slushbox” and want to feel the power and control of rowing through the gears yourself? In that case, you can do an automatic to manual transmission swap. But is taking on such a project really worth the effort?

What is an automatic-to-manual transmission swap?

An automatic-to-manual transmission swap is exactly what you think it is; the process of converting a car originally equipped with an automatic transmission to a manual transmission. Why would anyone want to take on such a project? Because it’s fun and if you happen to have a powerful car, like an older Ford Mustang or perhaps a Japanese tuner car, then the end product can be even more fun.

Aside from that, being able to shift the gears whenever you want can lead to a faster car in racing applications. And it possibly even lead to more horsepower since manual transmission components rob less power on the way to wheels than their automatic transmission counterparts.

A shifter on a 2004 Peugeot 407. | (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

RELATED: Do Americans Hate Manual Transmissions?

Which cars can be automatic-to-manual swapped?

If you’re into modifying cars, then chances are that you currently own a make and model that can be converted from an automatic to a manual transmission. However, with the right amount of money, time, and tools, you can technically convert any car.

However, dream platforms aside, automatic-to-manual transmission swaps are popular in a variety of tuner cars like Honda Civics and various Nissans and Toyotas, in addition to American cars like Ford Mustangs and Chevy Camaros.

What goes into an automatic-to-manual transmission swap?

While the actual swap process and parts can vary greatly depending on your car’s make and model, there is typically a lot that goes into this kind of swap. To give you an example, here is a list of general parts needed to swap an S13 Nissan 240SX from an automatic to a manual transmission, courtesy of TuningBlog.eu:

  • A manual transmission
  • A manual transmission ECU (engine control unit)
  • Clutch pedal with clutch master cylinder including expansion tank
  • Clutch slave cylinder
  • Process the narrower brake pedal from the MT or the old pedal so that it fits
  • Shift boot with cover for the hole through which the shift lever extends into the interior release bearing
  • Matching screws for flywheel
  • Sealing plates in two parts at the switch
  • Pilot bearing or support bearing, bearing puller to remove the old bearing
  • A good hydraulic line with a length of 1,50m for the connection from the master cylinder to the slave cylinder
  • The front part of the drive shaft (differs from the MT on the AT)

This is a pretty general list for an automatic-to-manual transmission swap, however, it does cover the basics for almost every compatible platform. Do note, though, that some applications can require cutting the frame or bodywork in addition to aftermarket engine or transmission mounts.

The cost to do this type of swap can vary greatly as well, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for parts and labor to get the job done. But that is a rough estimate.

RELATED: Can You Change Your Transmission’s Gear Ratios?

Is it really worth it to do such a swap?

If you were to ask professional YouTube mechanics like Scotty Kilmer and Eric the Car Guy; no, it’s not worth it to do this swap. Considering the amount of mechanical and electrical work, in addition to any custom modifications, you’re usually better off buying a car with a manual transmission from the get-go.

But if you have the time, patience, and money to take on such a project, then it could be worth it for the added benefit of shifting your own gears and taking advantage of the engine’s full power potential.