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Skip Shifting gears

Skip shifting gears

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Skip shifting is the practice of selecting a sequence of gears where one or more gears are omitted from the sequence.
This is regarded with horror by older drivers who were largely taught to "save their brakes" by using the gears to do the slowing, assisted by the brakes when necessary.

The reliable brakes of a properly maintained modern car are well up the task of handling normal driving situations.
In modern systems of car handling, brakes are used before the gears (the opposite of earlier systems where the driver reaches for the clutch & gear lever when about to slow down).

Note: an article about down-shifting and the origins of the "Hendon System" on the Driving Academies of Australia Pty Ltd website is worth reading.
It's interesting to note from the article that despite being suited to modern cars, skip shifting is not a modern idea.


  • Pros: The main emphasis of wear is on the brakes instead of the engine, clutch, gearbox and differential.
    Brake pads are replaced when necessary during regular servicing - much cheaper than repairing drivetrain components.

  • Cons: Brakes are given "harder than normal use" when slowing from very high speeds, or bearing or towing a load - in these situations the driver should consider using gears.
    Old vehicles with weaker, less-reliable brakes will benefit from using all gears although many advocates of skip shifting would even debate this.
  • Pros & Cons: This is closely linked to component wear (see above).
    Note: modern brakes are less likely to fade under normal driving conditions and are remarkably reliable if scheduled servicing is performed correctly, but be aware of the situations where your brakes are given extra loading (see above).
  • Pros: Apart from cheaper maintenance costs (see above), skip shifting uses less fuel.
  • Pros - other traffic: Skip shifting allows the driver to concentrate on smooth approaches when slowing for a corner etc (see 3-stage braking) and the brake lights are displayed early and continuously, with benefit to traffic behind.

  • Pros - tyre traction: Less gear changing means less chance of losing traction due to mis-handling the clutch accelerator brakes and gears, especially on slippery surfaces.
    Apart from all-wheel drive vehicles, the engine only works on two of the wheels.

  • Pros - driver distraction and hazard response: Skip shifting places less workload on the driver, giving more time to concentrate on aspects of defensive driving such as hazard detection & avoidance (see note below).

NOTE: an interesting comment from the Driving Academies of Australia Pty Ltd article mentioned above states:
"Drivers who shift down through their gears during braking are more likely to react badly when faced with a sudden emergency than those who train their mind to use brakes and gears separately."
Skip shifting is also a requirement of the NT's DTAL (Driver Training And Licensing) program, it is even taught by some heavy vehicle trainers.

"Full" skip shifting (skipping every intermediate gear) should not be used on every occasion though, there may be situations where selecting one or more of the intermediate gears may be appropriate.
E.g. when approaching red lights: coming down from 5th gear directly into 1st gear, results in the need to get the clutch down early to avoid stalling, whereas changing down to 2nd at the appropriate time will allow the clutch to be kept up longer, for better control.
Also, many drivers like to select intermediate gears when approaching "stale" red lights that are likely to change to green.

There are occasions when skip shifting while accelerating can be done, although this is not common.
E.g. when descending a hill where acceleration is required and gravity is doing a lot of the work.
Occasionally, I might accelerate strongly up to cruising speed when turning onto a 80km/h road in heavy traffic to maintain a good safety cushion, then when nearing 80km/h I go directly from 3rd into 5th as acceleration is backed off and high engine revs are no longer needed.
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