Driving a manual car is a life skill that everyone should know. Yes, automatic cars are the norm these days. But you may find yourself needing to drive a manual car every once in a while. And more importantly, cars with manual transmissions are just way more fun do drive!
This article will teach you the basics of how to drive a manual car. But getting behind the wheel of a manual transmission car is a bit tricky the first few times. Make sure to ask an experienced manual driver to help you with the process. Also, don’t start out into busy traffic until you have the basics under your belt. This article is just a starting point.
But once you get it, driving a manual car is awesome. There’s nothing like grabbing second gear after a quick acceleration onto an on-ramp. Or imagine driving a twisty mountain road, downshifting into hard corners, it’s just awesome in a stick shift. Plus, learning to drive a manual will teach you a lot about how cars work.
So if you’ve felt the allure of a manual transmission, read on, grab that stick shift, and get ready for the best driving of your life.
How to Drive a Manual Car
1. Find somewhere to practice. The first thing to do before you start learning to drive a manual car is to find a safe place you can learn. A large empty flat parking lot is ideal. You will probably find yourself stalling often. And you do not want to risk running into anything or hold up traffic.
2. Learn the pedals and gear shifter. The next thing to do is to learn the different parts of the car that might differ from your automatic car.
- The clutch: The clutch is one of the key differences between an automatic and a manual vehicle. The clutch is the third pedal on your manual car, the one on the far left. You’ll need to depress the clutch to start your car. You’ll also need to push in the clutch and then let it out slowly as you press down on the gas pedal to engage a gear and make the vehicle move under its own power.
- The gear shifter: The gear shifter probably lives in the middle of the car between the passenger and driver’s seats. It should show you where your first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and reverse gears live (the shift pattern is usually shown in a diagram on the top of the shift knob). You will move the stick shift around based on which gear you want to be in. If it is in the middle, the gearbox is in neutral.
- The brake and gas pedals: The brake and gas pedals should be in the same location as you would find on an automatic vehicle.
3. Turn on the car. Depress the clutch fully with your left foot while depressing the brake pedal with your right foot. Then turn the key in the ignition, or press the Start/Stop button on many modern cars, to turn on the vehicle.
4. Put the car in first. Continue holding down the clutch with your left foot. Put the car in first gear by moving the gear shifter to the “1” position, or into first gear.
It also can be helpful while you holding down the clutch to move the gear shifter to all of the gears to feel where they all are. Eventually, you will know where each gear is by feel. But, don’t worry if it is a bit challenging to figure out at first.
5. Start to go. Press on the gas pedal very gently until you hear the car rev a bit. Let out the clutch very slowly while you continue to press in the gas slowly. This is the trickiest part of driving a manual car. It might take some practice to find the sweet spot.
Wait until you feel the car begin to vibrate a bit, and then press down on the gas more as you finish letting your foot off the clutch. Don’t let the clutch out too fast or you will stall. You may also stall the vehicle if you don’t give the car enough gas as you let out the clutch.
6. Change gears. Once you get the car going, you will need to shift gears in order to go faster. First gear on most cars is only meant for speeds up to about 15 mph. You will hear the engine getting louder as the engine revs increase — this is a signal that you will need to shift up a gear.
To shift gears, lift your foot off the gas. Then, you will once again press in the clutch fully. While the clutch is pressed in, move the gear shifter to the “2” position, or second gear. Then, let out on the clutch while you press in the gas, just as you did to engage first gear.
This process continues as you speed up, through all of the gears.
Coming to a Stop
As important, maybe more so, as getting the car going is bringing it to a stop. In order to keep the car running, and not stall, when coming to a stop be sure to depress the clutch pedal completely as you’re breaking and about to stop. When the clutch pedal is fully depressed the gearbox is disengaged, and you are in neutral.
If you need to rest your left foot, as it can be tiring to keep the clutch pedal depressed at a long stoplight or similar lengthy stop with the car running, you can put the stick shift into the neutral position between the gears and then let off the clutch pedal. Just remember to keep the brake depressed, so you don’t roll into anything around you.
If you need to downshift, the process is the same, but in the opposite direction. Push in the clutch, shift to the desired lower gear, release the clutch, and possibly ease back on the gas, although many times you don’t need to give the car any more gas. Make sure you have slowed enough when you downshift that when you ease off the clutch your engine does not overrev.
Always put your car into reverse from a complete stop. Once stopped, depress the clutch fully with your left foot. Move the stick shifter into the “R” position, or reverse gear. Slowly let out on the clutch until you feel the gears engage. Then, fully let out on the clutch pedal smoothly. When putting your car in reverse you will need to use little to no gas and can use your right foot on the brake to control the car from going backward too quickly.