It's Fine To Start Off In Second Gear Only Sometimes

Illustration for article titled Its Fine To Start Off In Second Gear Only Sometimes
Photo: Kristen Lee (Jalopnik)

You might have heard that first gear isn’t necessary when accelerating from a stop. You might have heard that you can start just fine in second. Well, it’s okay to do that, but only sometimes. Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained is here to tell us when and why.


Taking off in second in an automatic transmission, for example, is just fine. This is because an automatic uses a fluid coupling, so you don’t have to worry about wearing anything down while spinning the torque converter.

In a manual transmission, however, things are a little different. That’s because the wheels will be spinning up the clutch disc, reducing the difference between its rotational speed and the engine’s RPM, yielding less clutch slip compared to if the car were stationary.


But! If you’re starting from a standstill, it’s better to use first because you need to slip the clutch up to a much lower speed in order for it to fully engage, rather than a higher speed for second gear. Not to mention, the first gear ratio will assist the engine in getting the car going from a standstill, meaning less load on that clutch.

Fenske assures us that clutches can definitely handle this longer duration of slippage from a second-gear start, but it’s still more ideal to use first. First gear, after all, is designed to make taking off from a start easy.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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Real drivers start in 4th.


And then stall immediately when they let the clutch out.

True story.