My wife and I have been driving Japanese cars with manual transmissions for decades. They’re fun to drive, more fuel-efficient, and they never break. Plus, the once-in-a-lifetime clutch repair is a fraction of the cost of repairing an automatic transmission, if the horror stories I’ve read are any indication. My wife has started to look for another vehicle to replace her aging Subaru Forester, and we both are stunned to find that:

(1) It’s hard to find cars with manual transmissions now.

(2) They’re more expensive.

(3) They aren’t as fuel-efficient as modern automatic continuously variable transmissions.

So, our big question is this: If we go with an automatic transmission this time, what regular maintenance will we have to do in order to avoid those very expensive transmission repairs? Thanks for your help.

Nothing. You might need to do a fluid change at 100,000 miles. And the best thing you can do is drive your car gently.

Automatic transmissions have improved so much that transmission rebuilds now are far less common than clutch jobs. Sure, it happens. There are automatic-transmission failures. But it’s once in a blue moon that we see an automatic transmission go bad in a car with fewer than 100,000, or even 150,000, miles.

Thirty years ago, problems were more widespread. Plus, back then you’d pay an extra $1,000 to buy a car with an automatic transmission.

These days, automatic transmissions come standard in most cars. And you have to request or special-order a car with a stick shift. Hey, maybe it’s time to start calling automatics “standard” transmissions.

I haven’t seen cases where they charge more for a stick, but they certainly won’t give you a $1,000 discount anymore either (most manufacturers, if they offer one, call a stick shift a “no-cost option”).

Plus, as you say, gas mileage actually is better on modern automatics than on manuals. That’s because they’re more efficient than ever, and modern six-, seven-, eight- and nine-speed automatics have a greater variety of gear ratios. Not to mention the infinite number of ratios in the CVTs that companies like Subaru offer.

So the only legitimate reason for driving a stick shift these days is that you find it fun — which is an acceptable reason. But there’s no longer a financial or environmental reason for doing so.

So, your wife may want to get with the times and make her next car an automatic. Good luck.

Lithium-ion batteries are now smaller and more efficient than ever. Would it be possible for a front-drive, fully electric car to use a generator where the differential normally would be on a rear-drive car, and have that generator be powerful enough to use the rear-wheel rotation to recharge the battery, giving us an electric car that needed no fuel or recharging at all?

Only if you added a main sail and a consistent, 50-mph tailwind.

What you’re proposing is called a perpetual motion machine. Your fellow tinkerers and wackos have been trying to invent one since the Middle Ages.

But no machine can produce as much energy as it consumes from a finite source and run indefinitely.

The primary problem is that some energy always is lost to friction. You can reduce the losses to friction, but you can never eliminate them.

And on a theoretical level, the problem is that a perpetual-motion machine violates both the first and second laws of thermodynamics, which are fairly well-established.

But maybe a President Trump will simply cross out those two objectionable paragraphs, and then you’ll be all set.

Write if you figure it out. I’ll be ready to invest.

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