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Is it bad to skip gears when downshifting manually, e.g. from 4th directly down to 2nd etc?

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If your car is slowing down, and you are at a "safe" speed for 2nd gear, then its perfectly normal to skip gears. If you're going the wrong speed and the engine RPMs aren't even close to what they need to be, the syncros might have a hard time lining everything up and you could hear a little grinding, and cause a little wear, but it still shouldn't cause any major damage if you only do it accidentally a few times.

This is most noticeable in many cars when trying to shift into 1st while the car is still moving because it's expected that you won't need 1st unless you come to a stop. This matches up with what I mentioned about matching speed/RPM.

Related posts:

Gearbox impact of skipping gears driving downwards

Is it OK to skip gears on a motorcycle?

  • Semi-related to the second paragraph: Is this why some cars don't let you shift into first gear while the car is moving? My 2000 Renault Laguna prevented that, but the 2006 Volvo V70 is happy to let me (of course then you have to make sure to not release the clutch pedal at the wrong moment, or I'm sure there will be wear on various moving parts). I found it incredibly annoying in the Renault as I couldn't "pre-shift" into first gear approaching a red light or stop sign even if I knew I wanted first gear, but had to wait until the car had stopped completely. – a CVn Oct 20 '16 at 13:06
  • @MichaelKjörling, yes, the transmission has something called "synchros" that allow you to easily change gears while everything is in motion. Like this question shows, some cars make it very hard to shift into first while moving. The ability to easily shift into first while in motion would add parts and complexity, so that ability is not planned for. I guess it's possible that a transmission would make it impossible, but I'm not sure. – JPhi1618 Oct 20 '16 at 14:32
  • Except that in my case, the clutch pedal was fully in, so intuitively, there shouldn't have been more things moving when switching from 2nd to 1st gear than when switching from 1st to 2nd gear. I don't think I ever tried to actually force it, but it was at least distinctly more difficult shifting into 1st gear than into any other gear when the car was not at a full stop. Maybe I'll ask a full question on this later. – a CVn Oct 20 '16 at 14:42
  • @MichaelKjörling, sounds like a good question. – JPhi1618 Oct 20 '16 at 15:33
  • 1st is sometimes not even synchro, and even if it is, it is hard to "spin up" to the necessary rotational speed. – mckenzm Oct 21 '16 at 3:34
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It's a recognized advanced driving technique and is called "Block Shifting" or "Block Changing". Provided you are proficient in matching RPM and don't rush the 'box, it's not only fine but there are times when it's preferable.

Some more information from the Bristol arm of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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