Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Driving an automated or handbook motorhome- which is healthier?

Pondering of shopping for or renting a motorhome? Uncertain whether or not an automated or handbook motorhome is healthier? Right here’s what you’ll want to know

Shopping for a motorhome or campervan is difficult sufficient… however you then uncover there are automated choices for gearboxes. And issues get simply that little bit extra difficult.

Right now, we’ll take a look at handbook vs automated motorhomes, and which one is likely to be higher for YOU.

Automated or Guide Motorhome?

As with the whole lot about selecting a motorhome, whether or not you go for an automated or a handbook mode is private choice.

Nevertheless, there are just a few key issues which could enable you select which kind is greatest for yot.

For us, we do 2 very particular issues after we’re touring Europe in a motorhome:

  • we tow motorbikes on a trailer
  • we journey to the mountains. Loads.

For each of those causes, we want the security of getting correct gears so we will management our engine breaking (which proved lifesaving when our brakes failed on our motorhome!)

Having stated that, automated gearboxes are continually evolving and enhancing, so trendy autos can simply do each of these things- and extra!

In case you’re renting a motorhome or searching for one to purchase, right here’s the present data you’ll want to know.

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Watch video of handbook vs automated motorhomes

Wish to watch the video as a substitute of studying? Right here you go:

Kinds of Automated gearboxes for motorhomes or vans

There are 4 important sorts you’re prone to come throughout when automated motorhomes or campervans,

Torque converter automated

This mannequin has 2 important parts- a torque converter and a gearbox. Like a handbook gearbox, an automated additionally has separate units of gears to differ the ratios, however how the gears change is completely different.

This expertise has been round for the reason that Thirties and is pretty dependable. In (quite simple as a result of I’m not a mechanic) phrases, the torque converter is a big, fluid-filled drum related to a collection of channels. At excessive speeds, the fluid is pressured into completely different channels.

The automated gearbox is related to the engine by way of the fluid-filled torque converter, making it gentler on the drivetrain and may shift gears nearly imperceptibly.

Torque converter automatics are designed to ‘creep’ forwards when you might have each ft off the pedals. In visitors, you merely have to ease off the brake to maneuver ahead.

Torque converter automatics will typically additionally maintain the automobile in place on a hill– typically needing a bit of throttle on steeper slopes – to stop rolling backwards.

This is among the largest upsides to an automated gearbox- no extra hillstarts and it’s a lot kinder to knees and legs in heavy visitors.

CVT – Repeatedly variable transmissions

These have been utilized in early sawmills and on motorbikes from the 1910s onwards. They’ve additionally been utilized in vehicles, plane and scooters.

Reasonably than utilizing gears, CVT makes use of two pairs of cones linked by a belt. If the cones get nearer, the belt is raised, decreasing the gearing.

CVT-equipped autos can really feel odd to drive because the engine revs usually are not instantly associated to the velocity of the automobile they usually’re not a very talked-about methodology for automated motorhomes.

Automated handbook

Also referred to as – DSG, SMG, ASG, ETG, semi-automatic, electro-hydraulic shifting, energy shift, and so forth.

These use friction plates and a hydraulic or digital actuator. It’s also possible to get a twin-clutch model for smoother and sooner gear shifts (typically referred to as dual-clutch automatics.)

The twin-clutch variations may give quick gear shifts and are simply as environment friendly on gasoline as a handbook gearbox. The draw back is that they are going to want alternative clutch plates and they are often costlier to take care of.

Remember to verify if the automobile is in or out of producer guarantee before you purchase and both purchase with care or take out an prolonged guarantee.

Some trendy CVT and automatic handbook gearboxes do characteristic a degree of creep (just like the torque converter) and may maintain the automobile on a hill begin (typically utilizing a ‘hill-hold braking methods’) however it’s undoubtedly one thing to ask whenever you’re trying.

Robotised handbook

This can be a transformed handbook gearbox, fairly than a gearbox that was at all times designed to be automated. Electro-hydraulic controls combine with a pc to take over the clutch and gearshift.

As with a handbook gearbox, they use gears and a single clutch plate. Examples embrace Fiat’s earlier Consolation-Matic system and the Renault QuickShift.

Execs of a robotised handbook are that they are often as gasoline environment friendly as a handbook gearbox and don’t weigh way more (essential in your motorhome payload.)

The draw back is that they’ll require a barely completely different driving approach to verify the experience isn’t ‘jerky’.

Are Automated Motorhomes simpler to drive?

I LOVE automated vehicles. They. Are. Straightforward. Driving them is a pleasure. Driving an automated motorhome is the same- particularly should you do a number of motorway miles.

So sure, an automated motorhome might be simpler to drive by way of comfort- for any drivers with mobility or leg points, it could actually make an enormous distinction. For any driver, not having to make use of the clutch in heavy cease/begin visitors is an actual bonus- particularly if hills are concerned!

Previously, automated gearboxes had much less gears than handbook gearboxes and tended to jerk when altering, however this isn’t the case with trendy vans. Now, identical to with an automated automotive, they modify gears with out you noticing.


All automated gearboxes have some type of kickdown (when the motive force’s foot is difficult down on the throttle, inflicting the gearbox to vary down a gear, offering a burst of acceleration.) That is helpful for overtaking or when climbing a hill.

Guide gear choice

All automatics have some technique to manually choose the gear – both by shifting the gearlever to a particular place or by utilizing paddles behind the steering wheel. That is additionally helpful to maneuver between gears with no need to make use of the clutch.

This may be helpful when descending a steep hill so you may management the velocity by utilizing engine braking or when the next gear is required (to scale back wheelspin.)

Towing with an automated

Previously, automated gearboxes haven’t been in a position to tow the identical capability as their handbook equal, so verify to see what the utmost towing restrict is. Don’t overlook, producers could have to lower the utmost towing restrict as a result of different concerns, such because the elevated weight of an automated gearbox.

That stated, on the brand new torque converter auto on the Fiat Ducato, the towing weight is equivalent to the handbook gearbox. With the extra gears (9 as a substitute of 6), the automated model ought to be capable of tow with no downside.

See our full motorhome towing information right here

Are Automated motorhomes gasoline environment friendly?

It was the case that automated motorhomes or campers have been much less fuel-efficient than handbook ones (as a result of fewer variety of gears). And in older fashions, that’s most likely nonetheless true. However newer automated motorhomes and campers can have as much as 8-speed gearboxes, so that they’re much more environment friendly than they was.

How dependable are automated gearboxes?

Reliability of automated gearboxes is much like that of handbook gearboxes and they need to final simply as lengthy.

The ‘robotised’ handbook gearboxes, resembling Fiat’s earlier automated gearbox Ducato mannequin, the Consolation-Matic, may have alternative clutches occasionally, however not as steadily as an everyday handbook gearbox.

Additionally, automated autos have a tendency to wear down entrance brake discs extra steadily than handbook autos.

Are automated motorhomes lined by insurance coverage?

Yep. Actually, they’re typically deemed to be a safer danger than handbook gearboxes by many insurance coverage corporations, so that you would possibly get your motorhome insurance coverage even cheaper.

Downsides to Automated motorhome gearboxes

There are a few downsides to automated gearboxes:


The largest draw back to purchasing a motorhome or campervan with an automated gearbox is the preliminary cost- identical to with vehicles, they’re significantly costlier.


Typically, automated gearboxes have minimal upkeep – maybe simply an oil change on a torque converter mannequin (in the event that they’re not sealed).

Historically, many autos have been “sealed for all times” and didn’t include servicing directions – despite the fact that they’d a built-in oil filter. If the oil turns into contaminated, it’s normally as a result of there’s a problem.

Nevertheless, right here is the issue. You probably have an issue- solely a important supplier or automated gearbox specialist will be capable of repair it– few native garages have the tools or functionality to rebuild an automated. This may be a problem should you’re travelling abroad along with your automobile.

It’s prompt that the gearbox oil and filter is renewed on each third service (which is roughly 60,000 miles on a mean van doing 18-20,000 miles a yr.

Which producers do Automated gearboxes?

Fiat ZF automated

The Fiat Ducato base is the largest on the motorhome market, and Fiat now have a brand new torque converter automated gearbox possibility.

You may anticipate to pay round an additional £4,500 as an possibility on the 140bhp, 160bhp and 180bhp engines. It’s not presently supplied on the 120bhp base engine so that you would wish to improve to the 140hp.

The gearbox has 9 ahead gears and three driving modes – Regular, Energy (designed for totally laden autos or when ascending a hill) and Eco. It’s also possible to shift manually or maintain it in a sure gear, which could be helpful in slippery situations or when descending hills.

Different producers which provide automatics embrace Nissan, Mercedes, Renault, Ford and VW, however others are being launched recurrently.

Changing a handbook to an automated

You may convert a handbook motorhome to an automated and match an automated gearbox, however there have been a number of issues reported with doing this.

To do it correctly requires the wiring loom and ECU changing, in addition to the dashboard, gear-lever and all of the related linkages and cables. It’s not a simple or low-cost possibility. It additionally means your automobile is now ‘modified’, making it more durable (and costlier) to insure and more durable to promote your motorhome afterwards..

On trendy autos, you would take a look at having an automated clutch pedal fitted. This prices round £2,000 and converts the clutch to be triggered by way of a button on the gear knob. It received’t change gears for you mechanically, however does imply you don’t want to make use of your leg to push the clutch pedal. Different drivers can nonetheless select to make use of the clutch pedal as regular, and you’ll want to keep the gearbox as a handbook gearbox.

Suggestions for driving an automated motorhome

There are just a few essential issues to learn about driving an automated gearbox.

  • Solely change from drive ‘D’ to park ‘P’ or reverse ‘R’ when the automobile is totally stationary. You’ll put on out the clutch should you do it whereas shifting.
  • All the time choose drive ‘D’ earlier than making use of energy.
  • Not all automated autos could be towed and gearbox harm will happen in the event that they’re flat towed. Remember to verify in your automobile handbook.

All automatics require you to be extra delicate with the throttle than you’d be with a handbook gearbox.

Additionally, if its your first automated automobile, it’s VERY straightforward to confuse the brake pedal for the clutch (which isn’t there). Study to drive with only one foot, retaining your different effectively out of the way in which to keep away from urgent the accelerator and the brake on the identical time!

The decision on automated gearboxes

As talked about at the start, it’s completely a private selection, however there are some enormous advantages to automated gearboxes. Numerous it is going to depend upon what kind of motorhome holidays you need to have. In case you assume it is likely to be for you, head to your native supplier and ask for a check drive and see what you assume!

Subsequent steps

In case you’d like some extra assist determining what automobile to get (and how one can purchase the RIGHT one for you), seize a replica of our Full Inexperienced persons information to Motorhome Shopping for right here– a course of movies, downloadable eBook and worksheets that will help you make the BEST determination for YOU!

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