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Author Topic: Spicer - Easy for an experienced stick shift user?  (Read 3751 times)
pickpaul
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« on: December 04, 2008, 04:36:36 PM »

My daily driver is a stick and I have driven them most of my life and enjoy it. I would consider buying an MCI 8 or 9 with a spicer if the right deal was to be had. My only worry is whether the spicer is more difficult. I had heard stories growing up in England that old buses had manuals without syncromesh (sp?) and that you had to double de-clutch on every shift. Is that true? How much of a difference to driving a car with a stick is it?

Cheers, Paul.
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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2008, 05:27:17 PM »

Well, Paul it is a whole different world. It will save you a couple of MPG though and if I didn't have an Allison probably would not want another one. The Spicer is not hard to learn, you just need good information and or a good teacher and you will be just fine. It takes some miles to get good with the Spicer and its hard to get any help with the driving although if its flat, you can change seats while moving and someone can drive along ways across the flat country so you can get a little rest.

If you can shift your stick without a clutch it will give you an idea of what you are up against, but not a real good idea, because the diesel does not turn many RPM like a car. The idea is to shift with the governor, both up shifting and down shifting. My old Eagle would be at the gov at 67 MPH in 3ed gear. So that is when you shift to 4th. To shift down, you want it to pick up the hole at 67 MPH so you down shift at about 69 and as it slows down it will slide right in. Same for 2nd and 1st, you need to know the speed and use the governor to make each shift and always use a slight speed cushion when down shifting. To shift up, when you hit the governor, you have used all of that gear up, so you take it out and wait for the engine to lose enough RPM to shift to the higher gear. Have fun!
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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2008, 05:38:37 PM »

No problem Paul!

And it might help improve your technique in the car.

See RJ's article here:

http://www.busnut.com/bbs/messages/12262/16204.html?1167073154

Very most important that you DO NOT use any throttle as you engage the clutch.

Bad habits from cars cost you a clutch in short order in heavy vehicles.

My preference would be a 5 speed in an MC9. It was 4 gears and a solenoid reverse up to the first or second years of the MC9 and prior.

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2008, 05:59:27 PM »

Paul,

To answer your questions directly;

It is nothing like an auto or pickup.

It is nothing like any other truck either!!  I had driven about every vehicle on wheels from an eighteen wheeler on down to a Jeep and my 4104/w a four speed Spicer was a revelation. I finally learned but had to unlearn most of what I had known before.

Upshifting I don't use the clutch but downshifting while climbing hills I double-clutch. Downshifting on level ground or downhill I don't.

I've never found it necessary to use the clutch except when starting from a stop and as noted above.
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PD4107-152
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2008, 06:02:56 PM »

For some reason I always found it easier to teach someone who had never driven a manual to drive a truck. That said it really isn't very hard. Yes double clutching is the way to go if you can't slip shift it (shift without the clutch). It is like anything else...it will just take practice. One of the biggies to remember is that the only time you push the clutch to the floor is when you are stopped and putting it into either1st or reverse. When the pedal is to the floor you are actually on the "clutch brake". This stops things from rotating in the tranny so you can put it in gear. thing = something highly scientific in the tranny  Grin That said you between gear changes should be made with about 1/2 pedal application of the clutch.
I don't know if you have ever heard a truck or bus grind it into gear when stopped but that is what happens when the clutch brake wears out.
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2008, 06:09:20 PM »

Letz,

My 4104 has no clutch brake and I don't think many other buses have them - may be wrong about that though.
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2008, 06:27:54 PM »

no clutch brake in the buses until you come to relatively modern times, the 7 speed spicers I think?

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2008, 07:49:39 PM »

The four speed spicer in the MC-5 and MC-7 do not have a clutch brake either. Slip shifting is the way to go unless you mess up then double clutch it. I've gotten quite used to it but I was raised driving farm trucks, some of which did not have synchros.

My recommendation would be to find a coach with an auto. It brings along a host of issues as well, but at least you can have others drive it. I don't think I could even stand riding along with an inexperienced person driving my MC-5 with four speed. As NJT said above, you're hard pressed to put the wheel in anybody else's hands if you have a spicer. My wife would drive it but she can't disengage the clutch. And the clutch is new and the air assist works! I've driven coaches with automatics and its a far more pleasureable experience.
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Fred Thomson
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« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2008, 08:17:19 PM »

pickpaul....I would not worry about it.  Double clutching is easier to learn (then forget that you are doing it) than chewing gum and walking at the same time.  Really.

It's actually easier to learn and employ than riding a bicycle, swimming, learning to type (er..keyboard), running a thinkum-dinkum computer thing, balancing your checkbook,

making an omlet or crape things, leaning gun control, (hitting your target) field dressing game birds, delivering babies, (human) flying an airplane, (kinda) much easier than

operating heavy construction equipment,  giving a speech, (yikes!) operating a fire engine, saving the fat lady, winning an argument with your lady friend, plus

a whole bunch of stuff YOU CAN ALREADY DO SO WELL!  Don't worry.  Learning to double clutch is fun...you can learn how.  I for one would have fun Bus Conversion hunting.   HB of CJ Smiley Smiley Smiley



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pickpaul
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« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2008, 08:22:22 PM »

Fascinating stuff but in that case I'm sticking to an Allison just for resale issues!
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2008, 08:47:05 PM »

Depending on fuel prices, that could be a loser, too!

Tom Caffrey
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« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2008, 10:53:07 PM »

If you have an Allison equipped bus and follow a manual transmission bus and accelerate at the same rate as the manual bus, you'll find that the fuel mileage will be within about .5mpg of each other.  Where the Allison really takes a nose dive is that Allison equipped buses are so much fun to drive, most just floor it from a stand still to get maximum acceleration-course that also gets maximum fuel burn.  Personally, after 21 years and 1.3 million miles of driving on the road, I really enjoy my Allison equipped bus.  My truck currently has a 13 spd single overdrive transmission in it that I'm going to change out to an Allison HT740.  With the 3.55 ratio rear axle, 11R24.5 rubber, my cruise speed at 65 mph will be 1820rpm-just about right for a Cat 3406B mechanically injected engine.  Once you've had an Allison transmission, you'll never want to go back to a manual-no matter the fuel savings.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2008, 04:58:57 AM »

no clutch brake in the buses until you come to relatively modern times, the 7 speed spicers I think?

happy coaching!
buswarrior

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« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2008, 01:51:45 PM »

Here is a video I did some time back showing me double clutching....

It is easy once you get the rythem down. And I do have air assist on my clutch..





.
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« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2008, 02:40:39 PM »

I don't agree with HB that the 4 sp is that easy. The theory is simple but the application is not so easy. By that I mean shifting without grinding gears. It is not difficult to shift, it is just difficult to do smoothly. .

It is possible that had I not ever driven anything manual before the bus I would have not found it difficult. However, there is a world of difference between other manual trans and this one and the extra long linkage probably has a lot to do with it. The comparison to others was actually Paul's question

I would love an AT, just because of the too high Spicer first gear if nothing else.
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PD4107-152
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« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2008, 06:12:38 PM »

I for one am really happy and satisfied that each new generation in this great country has it easier and better than the older one.  Yeah, yeah, we have all heard the stories about how the snow gets deeper and the walk to school gets longer.  All up hill tooss....both ways.

Well, it's true.  Kinda.  Young people simply cannot, for the most part, even be expected to drive any type of automotive contraption nowadays that has a MANUAL transmission.  Oh, how quaint.....a stick shift.  "Duh...kind sir, I can't drive that pickup truck....it has a manual tranny."

How many times have we heard that before?  Some of our cool Bus Conversions are of an era that crash boxes were the rule rather than the exception.  I for one think that is great and kinda the point of all this.  Some/most of us are from an older generation, which is also cool.

No need to expand upon this.  Jimmie (Gimmie?) 4104 and 4106 Busses had crash boxes.  So did most if not all of the nearly other GREAT models of coaches.  Part of the fun of doing the Bus Conversion thing is that we have a CHOICE of deciding upon the type of transmission, which is also cool.  HB of CJ Smiley Smiley Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2008, 06:53:11 PM »

I like the crash box, makes me pay attention.  I'm with Gus on this, definitely the hardest thing I have ever shifted and I have never owned a vehicle with a slush box.  That being said as I read the the threads about the 740 etc.. it appears that the bus auto trannies have some good engineering and maybe one day I'll have a bus with one.
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« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2008, 04:56:07 AM »

Over time, I have actually grown fond of my 4104's 4 speed Spicer. In the first year or two of owning my bus, I had dreams of one day converting it to auto.  But those thoughts have changed.  I don't know why, but I now view the manual shifting as something that adds to the enjoyment of driving my bus.  There is something about stirring through the gears that holds my attention and gets me more involved in the experience.  Today, I think if someone offered to convert it to an auto for free, I would decline the offer.   Sure, there are times when I am stuck in traffic and my left leg gets a workout, but I'll trade that for the improved fuel mileage.  Now if someone offered me a 5 or 6 speed manual, or a two speed rear, those would be something I'd have to consider..  Cheesy
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« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2008, 09:37:09 AM »

WEC,

If anyone offers to switch out your Spicer for free, just give him my email.  I would let them do it.  I have had this for about a year now and am okay with it, I think I would prefer the auto though.  My preference is not so great that I would pay much for it, hence my interest in your Tranny Godmother.

I think I would also be quite happy with a 5 or 6 speed manual with synchro.
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pickpaul
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« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2008, 10:26:50 AM »

Isn't a Tranny Godmother a dude in bad makeup dressed in a pretty frock holding a wand? Kiss
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« Reply #20 on: December 06, 2008, 11:13:50 AM »

You mean like J. Edgar Hoover?  Anyway, that's fine with me as long as he knows how to install the tranny.
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« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2008, 12:41:35 PM »

I am becoming fonder of my crash box, just wish the gearing was different in first and reverse! Wink

You think driving one of these manual trannies is difficult try driving from the other seat. I am working here in Northern Ireland for a couple of week and it's just plain weird.

You sit on the right side with the steering wheel, you drive on the wrong side of the road, you shift with your left hand, turn signals on the right, Thank God the gas pedal, brake and clutch are in the correct position or I'd really be in trouble! Grin Then you come to a round about, now that's for the sadist, you almost play bumper cars to jockey for position! Roll Eyes

Can't wait to get back home to drive our Eagle with a manual crash box and sit in the proper drivers position and where everyone drives on the correct side of the road. Wink

I'll never whine again about shifting these beasts!!!

Paul
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« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2008, 01:05:18 PM »

Yep, ain't driving on the right-hand side of the road fun!?!!  Had the same experience in New Zealand last year.  How about going into a shopping center parking lot without any stripes?  Sure have to concentrate to keep left.  On the rental car we had it had a sticker in front of the drive "Keep Left"! 

Thought I'd have problems when we got home and had to drive on the "correct-side" again.  None at all.  Guess after the 13 hour flight home I forgot all about the right-hand side.

Speaking of New Zealand, those Volvo buses with the 12-speed auto with manual shifting are really neat.  They literally "haul".  And, can they corner!  We had a great driver.
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« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2008, 04:04:41 PM »

I own a bunch of antique vehicles, a few of which are big trucks with manual trans. I also own two old fire trucks with Allisons. I have to admit that the AT are better for a couple of reasons. One is that low gear is infinite and the other is backing into very tight spaces. A diesel clutch cannot be slipped and this makes tight backing a real pain. Otherwise the manuals are no problem and even fun.

I have a couple of gassers with 5/2 trans and one big diesel tractor with a 10sp which is a joy, wish I had one on the bus.

I would like an AT for the 4104 but understand that it saps too much power from a 671 so I'll live with what I have. I like the 671, always did prefer straight sixes no matter what kind. If ever I should buy a bus with a V6/8 it would be with AT only, no question about that.
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« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2008, 04:18:41 PM »

After a year in Thailand driving American vehicles on wrong side of road I came home and felt comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road until I came around a hard left curve and met a semi . I quickly realized that he was right and I was wrong.  I got corrected before anything bad happened but WOW it was close. My ears are still burning as Blue Blazes were coming out of the cab as he went by.  Rod
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« Reply #25 on: December 07, 2008, 12:45:04 AM »

Paul -

It's always amusing to me reading other busnut's thoughts on shifting manual transmission-equipped buses.  Obviously, some love it, and some say phooey.  And that's ok.

Just like any other skill, some folk pick it up easily, others struggle.  I had to let a lot of beginning transit drivers go during their early training because they couldn't get the feel of driving a 40-foot coach, even with an automatic transmission, around the obstacle course in the bus yard, let alone on the street.  OTOH, when he was 17, one year after getting his driver's license, I let my son try driving my stick-shift GMC 4106.  After 30 minutes, he had no trouble at all going up or down thru all four gears as we ran around town, including a little freeway work.  (He now runs practice laps around the Nuremburg race track in Germany behind the wheel of a German 5-spd BMW M5 in his spare time. . . go figure.)  Everybody's different.

Learning the mechanics of shifting a coach is not that difficult.  Learning to shift smoothly, however, such that your passengers aren't aware of the shifting action, is something else again.  Mostly practice, but again, not everyone can do it.  And again, that's ok.

It is sort of sad that the real art of driving a manual transmission is fading with time and automation. . . nowadays it's mostly "stab-n-steer" jockeys.

I, personally, love driving the stick-shift in my 4106. . .

BUT -

I will not hesitate to recommend to 99/9% of the folk interested in a bus for RV use to buy one already equipped with an automatic transmission.  For the same reasons that the commercial carriers also use automatics, it takes one more thing out of the equation so the driver, theoretically, can concentrate more on driving.  That plus it's easier to train them, there's less downtime for blown clutches, and so forth.  In addition, in RV use, it's a whole lot easier to wiggle into a campsite with the automatic, or your spot at the stadium for the weekly tailgate party - not to mention easier to sell if or when the time comes to do so.

FWIW & HTH. . .

 Wink


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« Reply #26 on: December 07, 2008, 05:00:09 AM »

Great post RJ.  I would like to add that your significant other is probably more like to driving you coach if it has an automatic.  This could be very important should a medical emergency occur while you are on the road.  Jack
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« Reply #27 on: December 07, 2008, 10:14:17 AM »

Great post RJ.  I would like to add that your significant other is probably more like to driving you coach if it has an automatic.  This could be very important should a medical emergency occur while you are on the road.  Jack

I agree Jack to a point, cause that's why I'm sticking with a manual, my wife won't touch it unless it has an auto, can't understand why! Grin

I Love Her Dearly,

Paul
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« Reply #28 on: December 07, 2008, 03:51:07 PM »

Haven't seen it mentioned yet, but there are Spicers and then, there are Spicers.  PD4104, 06's and any of the other older GMs are a lot easier to shift than Spicer-equipped fishbowls and 4108.4905s.
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