Abstract Idle gear rattle is associated with the characteristic noise that unselected impacting gears radiate to the environment. It is induced by engine order vibration in the presence of backlash in the unengaged gear pairs, resulting in oscillatory response within their backlash range. A tribo-dynamic model of a front wheel drive manual transmission has been developed to study idle rattle, considering the hydrodynamic contact film reaction and flank friction. The model includes the torsional motions of the idle gears and the lateral motions of the supporting output shafts. The hydrodynamic lubricant film formed between the gear teeth under light impact loads behaves as a nonlinear spring-damper mechanism, whilst the inclusion of the shafts’ bearing compliances introduces additional nonlinear terms, which are modelled as piecewise linear functions. The aim of the paper is to extend the existing methodology reported by the authors on idle rattle investigations of geared lubricated systems, based on torsional vibrations only, by considering the system response, which is eventually transferred to the gearbox case through the bearings. These are preliminary results found, which conform closely to experimental measurements taken from a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission of the same type.