Skipping Gears in a Manual Transmission Car: Do or Don’t?

Many drivers could argue that the days of the manual transmission are fleeting, but enthusiasts know better. There are still plenty of cars on the road today with stick shifts, and even some still in production for the newest model years. No longer taught in drivers ed, there is a lot of practices for driving manual cars that have been passed down through generations of teaching but aren’t necessarily good habits for maintaining the longevity of your transmission and clutch. Could something as common and seemingly harmless as skipping gears really be damaging your car?

What is skipping gears

The term ‘skipping gears’ means shifting between gears out of numerical order. That could mean shifting straight from 1st gear to 3rd gear or downshift from 5th gear to 3rd. Really, skipping gears can happen in any order for any number of reasons. The benefit of having a manual transmission is that the driver is in charge of gear selection at any point in time.

For a well-seasoned driver, that can mean optimizing your driving style to be more casual or more aggressive. For less experienced drivers, this can lead to improper shifting, which can wear out the car’s clutch or potentially harm the transmission. Enthusiasts would say that driving a manual transmission makes you feel more connected with the car as you drive because you are in charge of gear selection.

A Ferrari interior on display at London Classic Car Show at ExCel on February 23, 2017 in London, England
The stick shift for a manual transmission in a Ferrari | John Keeble/Getty Images

Shifting up in gears

While it seems like shifting up and downshifting are the same thing in reverse order, that isn’t necessarily true. If done correctly, there is no reason why you couldn’t skip gears when shifting up into a higher gear by, say, going from 2nd gear into 4th gear. Matching the RPMs to the gear is essential for doing this smoothly without jostling your passengers, but it won’t harm your car’s mechanical components.

A driver manipulates the manual transmission.
Driving stick shift | Motortion/Getty Images

Downshifting isn’t the same story

When downshifting or going from a higher gear to a lower gear, it isn’t as safe to skip gears. This can be useful when you are cruising at high speed, such as on the highway, and you want to pass another car, but you need to accelerate. Like upshifting, if done properly, it is perfectly okay to skip gears while downshifting. The trick comes into play where it is much more difficult for drivers to learn to downshift properly, and when done incorrectly, it can damage your car’s transmission or cause premature clutch wear.

A close-up of the 2020 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T's manual transmission
2020 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T manual transmission | Honda

What Happened To Manual Transmission Sports Cars?

Just like finding the correct gear while driving, rev-matching is important when skipping gears. Newer or infrequent manual transmission drivers who aren’t as savvy with rev-matching could potentially damage the car by not rev-matching while skipping gears, but when done properly, it is perfectly fine.