(Driving Stick: Learn How to Drive a Stick Shift)

Learning how to drive a stick shift/manual transmission has many benefits:
  • Longer life for your brakes (due to engine braking).
  • More control in the snow.
  • Generally better fuel efficiency over an automatic of the same model.
  • Can start a car with a dead battery without a jumpstart.
  • Cheaper to fix and maintain.
  • More control over the car as a whole.
  • Manual cars usually cost less than their automatic counterparts.
  • Having the ability to drive every car on the road.

    Before attempting to drive a car with a manual transmission/stick shift, take the time to sit inside and get a general feel for the controls, clutch, and gear shifter. One of the main issues with new manual drivers is they don't know how to work the gear shifter. Get a feel for which position equates to which gear. Generally newer cars come in 5-speed transmissions. Below are two diagrams of what your shifter may look like:
    Although the position of the Reverse gear is different, they are both 5-speed transmissions.

    How to practice changing gears:
    With the ignition turned off and parking brake on, push the clutch in (the pedal to the left of the brake) with your left foot, as it is pushed in, change your gear. Once you are in the gear you wish to be in, disengage your foot from the clutch. (Practice shifting gears starting from 1st to 2nd to 3rd to 4th and then to 5th.)

    Generally with newer cars it is not required to engage the clutch to start the car but it is a good safety option to use even if your car does not require it. To start your car make sure the car is in neutral (the center of the shifting console, where the shifter can be easily moved around) Push the clutch in and turn the ignition and slowly remove your foot from the clutch.

    Alternatively you can start the car while in gear, simply put the car in gear and with the clutch held down and turn the ignition.

    A flat and empty parking lot is probaly one of the best places to start practicing how to drive stick. In order to get a feel for the clutch, it is best to start learning without using the gas pedal. The main issue with new manual drivers is that they don't know where the friction point of the clutch is. The friction point (approximately the half way point between the clutch being fully pushed in and when you're off the clutch) is felt when the car starts to move slowly on its own. At this point many new drivers disengage the clutch too quickly and stall the engine. (Don't worry, no damage will be done to your car.)

    How to get moving (without using the gas):
    Once the car has been started, make sure the parking brake is not engaged, push the clutch in all the way and leave your foot there. Now put the car in first gear and slowly ease your foot off of the clutch. At the halfway point you should feel the car start to move forward (do not remove your foot from the clutch at this point). Simply get a feel for this friction point.

    If you remove your foot off of the clutch too much, you will stall the engine. If you do this, just restart the car and try again.

    Once you get this step, you are more than halfway through being able to fully drive a car with a manual transmission.

    How to gain speed (using the gas):
    Using the same procedure as above, get the car moving but now add in the gas pedal. Simultaneously push in the gas and remove your foot from the clutch. Once you gain speed and wish to go faster simply take your foot off of the gas, push in the clutch, change the car into second gear, pull out the clutch and simultaneously push the gas pedal. A general reference point is to shift up to the next gear every time your car hits 3000 rpms, but for the best fuel economy and vehicle efficiency refer to your owner's manual.

    How to slow down/stop:
    If the car starts to lose power, because you are slowing down or if you need more power while going up a hill, push in the clutch and shift to a lower gear.

    You can use your brakes in any gear that you are in, but once you get down to around 10 mph or below shift into Neutral and freely apply the brakes. Alternatively you can shift to neutral and freely apply the brakes from the start if you know that you'll be coming to a complete stop. If there is a time where you need to brake quickly when you are in gear, push the brake and clutch in at the same time, if you don't your car will stall out by the time you come to a complete stop.

    You can also downshift, to slow down, which puts less pressure on your brakes as a whole, allowing them to have an extended life. To downshift without using your brakes, simply let off the gas and wait until your speed decreases. Once this happens, push in the clutch, and downshift to a lower gear. Continue to do this until your speed has dramatically decreased. Downshifting should only be done once you have a good grasp on which speed corresponds to which gear. Also, it is best not to downshift without your brakes, as it does not give the person who is behind you warning that you are slowing down.

    When driving a car with a stick shift, you must become very vigilant in your use of the parking brake, especially when parking on an incline. Also, make it a habit to place your car in gear when parking, as it will stop your car from rolling if the emergency brakes gives out. It is best to place your car in first or the reverse gear.

    Traffic Lights
    When you are at a traffic light, avoid holding down on the clutch for an extended period as it can prematurely wear out the clutch, instead shift the car into neutral.

    Hills can be tricky, especially for beginners. Because of the incline, if you don't react fast enough your car will roll backwards. If you are having trouble on a hill, engage the parking brake. Shift into first when the light turns green and slowly release the clutch and step on the gas pedal, when you feel the car begin to get into gear release the parking brake and continue as normal.

    Disclaimer: This website is to be used as an informative guide. DrivingStick.com is not responsible for any actions carried through by its readers.

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