I’ve been shocked by the rapid disappearance of the manual transmission — even supercars are mostly automatic these days. Automobile Magazine’s Lawrence Ulrich went in search of a manual new model Ferrari, and had to go clear across the country to Washington state to find one.

“In 1980,” Ulrich reports, “one in three new cars in America had a manual transmission. Today it’s fewer than one in 10. In the Porsche 911 — the 911! — the PDK automatic outsells the manual 4 to 1.” Shocking, isn’t it? Do you know anybody who can handle a stick?

putting gas in the tank

This guy actually found the right place to put the gas! (Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr)

And this is hardly the only area in which we’re deficient. According to British car leasing company Flexed, less than half of all motorists (49 percent) know how to change a tire, and 63 percent — a significant majority! — couldn't check the oil if their life depended on it. C’mon, you pull out a dipstick!

Litle girl checks tire on her wagon

Here's at least one citizen who cares about her tire pressure! (Photo: Elizabeth/flickr)

It doesn’t get better:

  • 31 percent don’t know how to check tire pressure
  • 29 percent are unable to fill the windshield wiper fluid bottle
  • 58 percent don’t know how to add oil (if they somehow managed to find the dipstick)
  • 1 percent don’t know to refuel the car
Flexed’s Mark Hall says, “Millions of us drive every day, but it turns out that huge numbers know very little about the machine they’re operating.” Hall knows from personal experience that the 1 percent of clueless refuelers is real. “I’ve got a friend who openly admits that he doesn’t know which hole to put the petrol in his car. It’s a wonder he even passed his test.”

stick shift on an Audi A5

That stick is intimidating to 95 percent of the population. This is an Audi A5's six-speed manual transmission. (Photo: Maria Parma/flickr)

Sad to say, British tests are more rigorous than American. Ignorance about the hole for the gas wouldn’t disqualify a U.S. citizen from getting a license.

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Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.