How To Drive Stick
Whether you're a new driver, buying your first car equipped with a manual transmission or just finally willing to take your driving skills to a new level, this guide will teach you how to drive a manual car smoothly. We’ll go over everything, including gear shift patterns, and we'll even give you some stick shift tips and tricks so you can walk away confident you know how to drive a stick shift.
You will learn proper manual shifting methods, how to use a clutch and many other valuable skils to make sure you are ready to tackle driving a stick shift!
How To Drive Stick Shift Like a Pro
Even though fewer newer vehicles come with a proper manual transmission (you know, with a clutch and manual shifting), driving a manual transmission is one of the best things to know how to do. Not only will it give you the knowledge and confidence to drive just about any vehicle, but driving a manual transmission also makes you a valuable driver for various industries such as trucking, delivery services, or even specific jobs that use heavy machinery. These all become available to you once you know how to drive a stick shift.
And let's be honest; driving a manual transmission creates a better overall experience than an automatic. If you're a true auto enthusiast, you're driving a stick shift.
If possible, you should have someone experienced driving manual transmission in the passenger seat along with you to ensure you are properly executing the correct steps, with the proper touch and the right timing. Find a wide-open area that is away from any obstacles you may crash into if you lose control of the car.
Before learning to drive a stick shift, practice the movement with your feet and hands to help them move in unison and shift at the right time. Doing this before actually driving will help you feel how the gears slide into place and where to shift them.
Gear Location When Manual Shifting
Keeping the emergency brake on while you get situated to start driving is crucial. If the emergency brake is off, the vehicle could roll in either direction, and you will have to push the brake to stop it before applying the emergency brake again. Whether you need to shift up or down, moving the gear and pushing the clutch is essential to shift smoothly.
In a standard four-speed (four-on-the-floor) setup, first gear is forward in relation to neutral position, second gear is back, third is diagonally up and to the right from second gear, and fourth gear is directly down from third, forming an 'H' pattern. If your vehicle has a 5th gear, it is generally diagonally up from the fourth gear location.
To slow down from either gear, use the clutch to open the gear shafts and the brake to help slow the vehicle. Reverse the pattern to lower the gears as needed.
Using the Clutch Properly When Learning How To Drive a Manual Car Smoothly
When using the right foot for the brake pedal and the left foot for your clutch, press the clutch pedal down to start the vehicle. There is no parking option in manual transmissions, just the brake pedal and the emergency brake while the gear shaft is in the neutral position (the middle of the gear shafts) for parking.
With the clutch pushed down, slowly lift your foot off of the brake pedal and, with your right hand, push the gear upwards towards the first gear. The clutch itself is what you press when you need to shift gears, whether you’re shifting down or up, in unison with the brake pedal if necessary to control the vehicle's speed.
For example, if you are in third gear and need to slow down into second gear, press your foot on the brake pedal and listen to your engine. As it revs down, press the clutch in and move the gear shifter diagonal down to the second gear, then let go of the brake and the clutch slowly to continue going.
Steps To Driving a Manual Transmission
Manual shifting is easy when you get the hang of the timing. When you can hear it, the timing and sound of the engine help give you the cue to shift up or down. After you put the car in first gear as mentioned above, let off the brake first. After that, slowly release pressure with your left foot off the clutch and add gas to the equation with your right foot.
You will notice the vehicle gain power, and you will feel it in your feet and hands as you time all the movements correctly.
When you press the clutch in for too long, and don’t let up on it as you enter another gear and apply gas, you will rev the engine but not go anywhere. Essentially when you keep the clutch pressed in, you’re keeping the vehicle in a state of the neutral position.
Alternatively, when you are shifting up and let go of the clutch too soon, you could jerk the car or kill it entirely. If this happens, you will have to start back in first gear to start the car again. If you shift your gears up too soon, the vehicle will gain minimal momentum and possibly chug along the road. This is essentially telling you to downshift and get your speed up more before shifting into that higher gear. If you downshift too early, you will hear the gears grinding and sometimes shake a little. If you hear this sound, immediately push the clutch in and go back to the higher gear.