The quality of a gearbox depends highly on the previous owner(s). This means that you can find out what the general condition of a car is by just checking the gearbox. A poorly functioning gearbox can very well mean that the car in general has been treated badly. An important part which you should check in combination with the gearbox is the clutch.

Manual gearbox

If the previous owner did not use the gearbox with care, there is a high risk that the gearbox sustained internal damaged. For instance, when someone wants to accelerate quickly, he has to shift gears fast and does this probably not carefully. This can result in damage to the synchro rings. These rings make sure that a gear can be selected smoothly and noiseless while driving. When the gears are shifted carefully, these rings can do their job trouble free for at least 150.000 miles. However, is the gearbox used roughly, then the rings specifically linked to the roughly treated gears will wear out. The synchro rings of the second en third gear will usually wear the most, not in the least because these gears are used the most. A synchro ring is not an expensive part, however the labour costs will make this repair expensive.


The question is, how can I make sure that I do not buy a car with worn out synchro rings? You can check the condition of the rings by listening for noises during the gear shifting. Is one of the rings worn out, then it will reveal itself by a scratching sound. You can compare this to the sound that the reverse gear makes. The reverse gear make some extra noise because it does not have a synchro ring. It does not need one because you always select this gear while the car is stationary.

Another problem is an excessive vibrating or loose gear lever. It is normal that the gear lever moves while driving, because the gearbox is linked directly to the engine. For example: when you accelerate or take your foot of the gas pedal the engine moves slightly in its rubber support brackets. The tolerance of the brackets is passed on via the gearbox to the gear lever.


A loose gear lever is especially in the older cars a common problem. The reason can be found just below the gear lever where it is attached to the shift-shaft. The connection to this shaft is made possible by a nylon cylinder. This cylinder wears out over time, so you will need to replace it. This part is not expensive and changing it is a repair you can even do yourself.