Manual cars are slowly becoming rarer, but there are still many drivers out there who prefer this type of vehicle over today's automatics. There's no doubt that driving a manual can be a fun experience, but it's one that drivers need to be smart about. Every year, people unknowingly do damage to their manual transmissions due to their poor or misguided driving techniques.
One big reason for these poor techniques is the number of myths that surround manual transmissions. Most people learn how to drive a stick shift from a friend or relative, and so they'll simply believe whatever the friend or relative said. In turn that person learned from a non-professional as well, so it's easy to see how myths get passed down over time.
Perhaps the most common poor technique used by manual drivers is "riding" the clutch. This is when a person half-presses the clutch rather than releasing it or pushing it fully down. Keeping the clutch caught between engaged and disengaged is a good way to wear it out over time. It can be tempting to ride the clutch in order to make things a little bit easier, and some people have this habit ingrained in them from years of driving.
However, those who care about the long-term maintenance of their manual transmission would do well to adjust their driving strategy. The simplest way to think about it is that the clutch needs to either be fully pressed down or completely disengaged. Any time it's not like this, warning bells should be going off in the driver's head. Obviously, you might need to ride the clutch just a little when moving between pressed down and releasing the clutch pedal. It's not a good idea to jam on the clutch or let it go too quickly, but try not to ride it for too long.
Another very popular driving technique is to use the clutch to slow down rather than the brakes. Many drivers who do this say they do so because they want to "save their brakes." Well, it's true that using the clutch to slow down will probably make your brake pads and rotors last a bit longer. But drivers ultimately need to ask themselves - what costs more, new brake pads or a clutch plate? Almost without exception, brakes are easier to replace than damage to the manual transmission.
Thus using the clutch to help bring the vehicle to a stop is really not doing anything other than costing drivers money. If you're a good downshifter, you can do multiple downshifts while releasing the clutch in order to slow down. However, most drivers consider this to be more trouble than it's actually worth, and they're probably right. The brakes on a car are there for a reason - if the clutch was intended as a braking device, there'd be no reason to have brakes in the first place.
Speaking of downshifting, many drivers might notice that their car lurches forward when they do so. It's not uncommon for those teaching stick shift to simply say "oh, that's normal," the first time it happens. Actually, drivers can prevent this by learning how to rev-match. This technique involves raising the car's RPMs as you release the clutch in order to keep the engine speed and rear-wheel speed close together. Next time you downshift, give the engine some gas as you release the clutch. After practicing a few times, you should notice that the car has stopped lurching. Eventually it will become second-nature, your downshifts will be smoother, and most importantly there will be less wear on your transmission.