How to Drive a Manual / Standard Shift Transmission

Picture of How to Drive a Manual / Standard Shift Transmission
Hello and welcome to my new Instructable! By reading this I hope you gain the operational and technical knowledge you need to learn how to drive a standard shift car.

But first let's consider the following scenario...

You are a middle-aged paleobotanist on the island of JURASSIC PARK!! Even though things seem okay at first, some evil fat guy has shut down the power to the electric fences containing all the vicious man eating dinosaurs! You are somewhere near the T-Rex pen enjoying a cool glass of water when the ground starts shaking and the water ripples. You turn around to see a very hungry looking six meter tall Tyrannosaurus Rex coming at you at almost thirty kilometers per hour! Luckily, there's a jeep just a few meters away. After making a quick dash, you hop in the driver's seat and turn the key...but nothing happens! As your eyes turn toward the shifter to confirm that it's in 'park' you see the unfamiliar 'H' pattern of numbers on top of the shift knob. You realize that this jeep is equipped with a manual transmission...and since you don't know how to drive it you can't even get the engine started. It's too late to learn because the T-Rex has already flipped the jeep over and is proceeding to peel off the roof to gain access to it's next snack. Sadly, you realize that this is what you get for forcing your husband to trade in his '64 Corvette convertible for a minivan because you refused to learn.

Don't be caught in this situation! Read on to find out how you could have escaped from the T-Rex's mighty jaws!
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LaurJ2 months ago

Another good thing with a manual transmission: If you ever end up stopped on a railroad crossing and can't start your engine, just pop the gear to first or reverse (whichever side of the railroad is closer) and run the starter engine. It has enough power to move the car the necessary critical meters. I don't think you can do that with an automatic either.

LaurJ2 months ago

It's very misleading to say that manual transmissions don't need maintenance. Although it's true that they need it much less often than automatics, oil change is still an important regular maintenance for prolonging the service life of your gearbox. Also don't neglect your rear differential, if you have one. The only moving part in your car that doesn't need oil is the clutch. And if it's got oil, it wants fresh one at some point.

RAVID24 months ago

good one...

chaiwad211 year ago
okay so my friend also have echo and the gearshifting need to be quick in 1st 2nd 3th... and he try driving on his dad (Holden Commodore) the 1st gear go up to 60kph with 2500RPM and 2nd up to 70,80kph with no problem so changing gear with the speedometer is not my option but I prefer changing when the engine is in 2000rpm but if in the hill area might be about 3000rpm but as a car you got..... cheer...
fchow21 year ago
this comment is more about driving experience than driving skills. say when waiting for a gap to turn left, this does not require any drag racing clutch technique. instead, it is 90 percent planning. I generally do a gentle launch going straight before a gap opens up. when after the first car passes by, and only if my foot is completely off of the clutch pedal, I turn the wheel and lay on the gas to go between the gap. in no circumstance would I turn the wheel while still releasing the clutch as there is a good chance to stall in the path of a bus.
EcoMotive (author)  fchow21 year ago
This is a great technique whenever the opportunity presents itself but unfortunately it rarely does in moderate to heavy traffic. Even in light traffic whenever one finds oneself in the downtown area or during the winter, the view down the street is impeded by buildings or snow banks, respectively. You really have to edge up into the intersection to see and that leaves very little space for a slow takeoff.
Regardless of how often a fast takeoff is necessary if someone is driving a manual through public streets they better know how to do it or they might eventually end up in a heap of twisted metal. It's best to learn right from the first time ever sitting in a manual car by getting on that gas pedal as they release the clutch. Afterwards experience will allow them to drive more gently and economically. At least, that's how it was for me.
Thanks again for your comments.
fchow21 year ago
I agree with adding gas while bringing out the clutch from the friction point, but your instructable said to add gas as the clutch goes the friction point. Those are two different techniques. Also, keeping the rev low is not the same as a slow start. there were many times when I had the clutch at the friction point, wheels rolling, while the car next to me just sat there with its engine revving. besides, keeping your rev low doesn't mean treading lightly on the gas. it means adding as much gas as appropriate while letting out the clutch to keep the engine from revving too high from idle. it is a delicate balance between letting your rev get too high (> 1.2k rpm) and stalling
EcoMotive (author)  fchow21 year ago
Well then we agree on most points. While I was driving today I was taking note of what I was doing and indeed the tachometer readout was much less than 1500 rpm. It's a lot different actually driving the car than it is to sit on the computer typing out instructions. In fact a good, quick and smooth start requires only about 100-200 rpm over idle. Nevertheless, getting going in a reasonable amount of time does require SOME use of the gas pedal, the specific conditions dictate exactly how much. My Volkswagen Golf is only a couple of months old and has a diesel engine that can produce more than 250 ft-lbs of torque. Even that car takes forever to get going with the clutch only. If I were turning out into a busy expressway from a side street with the clutch only I'd be asking for someone to smack into me.
As this instructable is aimed at beginners I figured I would write about a good beginner's technique for bringing the clutch through the friction point. Having a little extra rpm's while the clutch is being engaged would be helpful in preventing a stallout. As they get better at clutch control they can ease back on the throttle. Perhaps I shouldn't have assigned a numerical value since it's different for every vehicle.
The car I learned on, and drove for the first two years after I got my license didn't even have a tachometer. I had no idea what the engine speed was I went by the noise of the engine and the feel of the car.
fchow21 year ago
this is the reason why I don't let any one drive my car except for my wife. you don't need to add gas before the clutch is at the friction point. even then, you need to release the clutch to keep the rev low, close to idle. for a car such as the echo, 1k was enough. anything more than that just unnecessarily wear on the clutch. there were times when I had to use 1.5k of rev to start-when starting on the steepest hill in San Francisco. after 150k miles, I sold my xB, essentially a box shape echo, with the factory' s clutch.
EcoMotive (author)  fchow21 year ago
I didn't say anything about applying the gas pedal before reaching the friction point. What I did recomend was feathering the throttle slightly while bringing the clutch out from the friction point. I know you don't HAVE to do this but it gets you going quick enough for heavy city traffic. If you don't do this then good for you but I'm glad I'll never be stuck behind you waiting for you to get going on a green light. My Echo has 175 000 hard driven kilometers. Most of it's use over the last three years was hauling heavy building materials for my house across a city well known for it's treacherous driving conditions.The factory clutch is still fine. Thank you for your comments.
Check out my intractable!!!
Thank you for your quick answer
Always appreciated
I am now following u
Very cool thank you for this
Do u know if it is basically the same thing on a 4 wheeler? :) thank you
EcoMotive (author)  TheMrCOOLguy21 year ago
Hi, I don't have much experience on 4 wheelers but I think the general idea is the same. The main difference is that you select gears with a foot operated lever. The gears are in a sequential pattern rather than a "H" pattern. The clutch, if any is disengaged by squeezing the lever on the left handlebar. I'm not completely sure about this but I think that's how it goes. Thanks for your question.
L M May2 years ago
Thanks for this very informative article. It was very much appreciated by this reader who has never driven a manual in her life!
zack2472 years ago
now i just need to drop in a new engine and i can practice driving my mustang :D
my first time driving manual i had no clue on starting from a dead stop. that was about the only place i ever stalled the car too, was starting from a dead stop.

to be honest each time that happened it was a "holy s*** what did i just do" moment, since ive always driven an automatic before. seeing as how ive ony driven manual once, im not going to give up on it though. and since manual cars get better fuel economy, itd probably be better for me to drive anyways :P
shteef2 years ago
America is one of very few countries left, were a driving license for an auto allows you to drive a manual. Other inaccuracies in this article are numerous.
Of the majority of vehicles built in the last three years, autos accelerate faster, are more efficient and give better economy. No matter what your opinion is, it is a fact that computers running your gear box have more ability than you do to judge the best gear to be in. Please base your articles on facts not just your clouded opinions. You are correct that autos are generally more expensive than manuals when purchased, although the hold their value better too.
EcoMotive (author)  shteef2 years ago
So even if you are correct about autos in the last three years being quicker and more efficient... does that make every car made between 1908 and 2009 not count anymore? If thats the case, I wonder why sports cars are always manual and minivans are always auto? I wonder why the EPA fuel consumption estimates are always better for manuals than for autos? Please base your comments from an objective point of view and not from the inside of your ass, which is where your head seems to be stuck, in my opinion. Thans for commenting.
l8nite3 years ago
Nicely written "ible". Personally, if I have to give a "little" gas when starting out then the vehicle must be on an incline, if the vehicle is tuned properly then simply releasing the clutch will allow it to begin moving. I seldom use the clutch for anything besides starting and stopping unless it's to speed shift under hard acceleration and even then it's not always necessary but then I was taught to drive on soft beach sand when I was strong enough to depress the clutch on a 5ton truck and have driven everything from a 3spd to a 21 spd
EcoMotive (author)  l8nite2 years ago
I agree that releasing the clutch pedal without giving the car some gas will allow it to creep forward. However while in traffic you need to get moving a lot quicker than an idling engine will allow and this is why I say that you need to give the car some gas. Thanks for commenting.
Kiteman3 years ago
"I guess the first thing you should do when learning a manual transmission is to learn how to drive an automatic transmission. "


In the UK, if you learn on an automatic, you are not allowed to drive a manual until you have taken another test.

Learning on a manual gives you a much better feel for the way a car responds in different conditions. Learning an automatic first creates a whole set of reflexes and responses that simply do not work in a manual car. Even things as simple as braking a manual car with automatic-car reflexes are far harder.

(British breakdown companies around airports are constantly having to deal with US visitors who have hired a manual car and and simply cannot cope because there are too many controls to think about at once - burned-out clutches and gear-boxes, over-heated engines, the works.)
EcoMotive (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
Thank you for your comment but I have to strongly disagree. Regardless of the rules in the UK, you are much better off learning how to drive a manual when you're already framiliar with driving in general. Being able to change your "automatic habits" while in a standard is just part of learning. All cars are different anyways and the ability to get used to changes is required of all drivers.
Can you imagine not being able to cope with all of the controls at once while at the same time driving through a large busy intersection for the first time and not knowing where to go or whether to take or to yield? It's an accident waiting to happen whereas a person who is already framiliar with driving in an automatic can at least navigate the intersection safely; the burned out clutch is another story.
I agree with Kiteman, why start learning on an automatic first, and then forget what you learned to learn everything again on a manual? Managing the gearbox is by far the most complicated thing when learning. Adding a steering wheel and two pedals won't change much. So dont lose time learning on an automatic, start immediatly with a manual. Almost everything has to be done differently on a manual, being perfectly comfortable with the gearbox while being able to manage all the other commands, and the trafic, takes lot's of practice.
Of course the learning curve is not the same, and you must avoid trafic at the beginning.
In France (and probably in whole Europe), everybody learns on a manual, and everybody manage to get its driving licence at age 18, so its feasable :-)
EcoMotive (author)  yakeru3 years ago
I don't see what there is to forget about when you go from automatic to manual. I own two cars, one automatic and one manual and both of them I drive on a daily basis. I have no problems driving either. It's more or less the same thing but you're adding a new task of operating the transmission while driving. It's almost as if by going from automatic to manual you're learning to walk before you run. I'm not saying it's beyond human ability to learn how to drive on a manual first but I think an automatic first makes learning a manual easier because you only have to focus on one new skill at a time, first how to navigate busy streets and intersections and second, how to operate the transmission. Here in North America, the vast majority of cars are automatics, so most young drivers who have to learn on their parent's cars have no choice but to drive an automatic first anyways. Finally, an ideal driver would know how to drive both an automatic and manual, but using your logic it would also be wrong to learn on a manual first and then on an automatic second. Thanks for your comment.
Yakeru says:
What you say makes sense. But I'm afraid that somebody who is used to an automatic car, in case of emergency, will press on the brakes as hard as he can, and simply forget to shift the gears down or press on the clutch ... and wont stop at all...
When you are used to something and learning something new, it takes lots of time to change your habits. Moreover, old reflexes often comes back when facing unusual circmstances.
If ou are used to a manual car and you are loocking for the clutch pedal, during one second before you realize that ther is no pedal, while braking, it is not really dangerous.
But when you are used to an automatic, and you forget to change gear while breaking on a manual car, that can be dramatic...
Nothing that you learned on a manual could be dangerous on an automatic, the contrary is not necessarily true...
Thats why I believe that begining with a manual car, to acquire the more complex reflexes immediatly, is ideal, when you have the choice :-)
EcoMotive (author)  dtorreilles3 years ago
When you slam on the brakes in a manual without pressing the clutch pedal or changing gears the engine will stall out but the car will come to a stop just as fast as when you remember press the clutch. It has to be that way; the one and only control needed to stop a car is the brake pedal or else the car wouldn't be legal on the road. Having to restarting motor is another story.
I'm sorry but I just can't see the danger caused by these automatic "habits" that you can "carry over" to a manual. Maybe it's because nether I nor anybody I know that can drive a manual has ever experienced them.
The difference between an automatic and a manual is really small, I mean it really is. It's the same thing as borrowing your friends car and the brakes or the gas pedal might be a bit more touchy or a bit more soft than yours. Or maybe it handles a bit differently... but you get used to it. And no matter what the car is like, the gas pedal makes you go, the brakes make you stop and the steering wheel makes you turn. Your driving instincts will do the rest.
Thanks for commenting.
Mashing on just the brake pedal in a manual car gives you a stopping distance FAR longer than brake+clutch.

British garages around airports are full of cars trashed by American tourists who cannot cope with that extra pedal and the peculiar stick thing poking up through the floor.

(I don't know anybody who died in a plane wreck - does that mean it never happens?)
"Mashing on just the brake pedal in a manual car gives you a stopping distance FAR longer than brake+clutch."

Not true and contradicts the UK's own DSA advice on the matter. In an emergency brake as hard as you can and only clutch at the end to prevent stalling unless your cars manufacturer specifically advises otherwise because of a poor ABS algorythm.

De-clutching means the loss of engine braking, delayed response time, potential destability from the differential disengaging and prevents engine inertia (different force to engine braking) assisting in preventing rear lockup and further destability. 

Lack of experience on any form of machinery is of course dangerous, whether ramping up a skill set via less complicated machines is a safer approach than being trained from the outset on the more complicated device is open to debate, the greater issue is more the practice of UK hire companies agreeing to lease manual cars to people who don't hold manual licenses.

Regardless of that, whilst the internet is a great place for expanding theories, when it comes to something like emergency braking procedures in an instructable aimed at learner drivers, I'd suggest presenting unproven personal opinions on the matter as opinions not facts.
Unproven, except by over a quarter of a century of driving experience, taught to drive by a rally driver, no "proper" accident since my first year driving.
I'm sure the DSA will be very glad to hear from you then. Those multimillion dollar studies they're currently using to prove the best methods are an uneccessary burden on their budget if they could just use 25 years of general driving experience and a rally course as the basis for their emergency driving publications.

I've pointed out that your contradicting official govenment safety advice from your area and described four effects that have been internationally proven and documented, but even better than me repeating myself, seeing as you've been on a rally course what did the instructor say about clutching whilst at threshold grip? If it went anything along the lines of what I used to teach my students (I was a circuit instructor not rally, but there's quite a lot of crossover) it would have gone something like unless your deliberately trying to destabilise your car... dont. That is also the reason why you dont see the BTCC and F1 drivers holding the clutch in whilst downshifting in their braking zone, believe me if just riding the clutch through the braking zone was faster and safer we'd do it.

I'm not interested in turning this into yet another debate on the internet, and I believe I've written enough and provided enough reputable sources for someone reading these comments to make an informed decision or investigate further for themselves, so I'm gonna finish up by saying as a widely respected employee and contributor of Instructables, commenting on emergency braking techniques in an instructable aimed at learner drivers, to an audience the majority of whom will be at some point in charge of a car on a public motorway, think very very hard about whether the information your presenting should be worded as your personal opinion or as a proven fact coming from an employee of this website.
I'm not an employee, and that "official advice" does not appear to have reached the people who administer the driving test - if you do not hit the clutch before the brake during the emergency stop test, you can fail your test.

(Are you aware that much of your advice only counts for rear-wheel drive cars? And that most manual cars are front-wheel drive? I didn't think so.)
EcoMotive (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
One more thing is, you don't know the real reason why those cars crashed because you weren't there, you can only speculate. Just because you assume that they couldn't handle the transmission doesen't make it true. I would guess that some bad local drivers and the sudden change to driving on the "wrong" side of the road and "wrong" side of the car had something to do with at least some of the crashes.
I didn't say crashed, I said trashed, and I do know because I've spoken to the men who make their living fixing the mess - cars driven for a full day in first gear, burning out the gear-box and over-heating the engine are typical.
EcoMotive (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
Alright I apoligize I misunderstood you. However, what you're speaking of is a matter of learning on an automatic and then attempting to drive a standard without ever learning on one in the first place.
It's a different situation when you learn on an automatic first and then learn on a manual second eventually becoming skilled at operating both types of cars. If every American did that before coming to the UK you would never see another burned out clutch from one of them again.
I'm a Canadian by the way, just in case you thought I was American.
EcoMotive (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
That may be true but once you've learned how to drive the manual you would indeed remember to press in on the clutch like it was second nature, even if you learned on an automatic first. Thats the beauty of learning, it changes your behaviour and allows you to do things you couldn't have before.
I do agree that learning to drive, and becoming familiar with the rules of the road, the flow of traffic, etc. allows you to focus on driving the car specifically, thus somewhat simplifying the learning process. However, if one learns to drive with a standard transmission in an area where traffic rules aren't as likely to become a problem (i.e. a parking lot), then learning the rules of the road is simplified because you aren't trying to learn how to use the car... I think ultimately it's one of those "6 of one, half-dozen (not baker's dozen) of the other".
pfred23 years ago
Manual transmissions are OK unless you've a large motor, or drive in traffic, or bracket race. Then you're much better off with an automatic.
Apparently you've never driven an auto with "a large motor, or drive in traffic, or bracket race". I have owned auto and I personally have had nothing but bad luck with them. I think it's ether the car you owned or your driving style that makes you suggest such a thing. I have owned 3 manual cars with over 200k on them (hard city miles) and never once did they have a trans repair. On the other hand I have had two autos with less mileage and blown trans. Oh and both cars were the same make and model. 
sinyami3 years ago
Hi. This is sinyami. Can anybody instruct me on tiptronic cars? How do you shift down if you brake suddenly in an emergency? I just press clutch and shift into neutral to stop a manual from jerking or stalling. What if you are in tiptronic mode in an auto car?
EcoMotive (author)  sinyami3 years ago
I've never driven a tiptronic car before but I'm pretty sure most cars have a computer that will override the driver's control and automaticly shift up if the engine revs too high or shift down if the engine starts to lug. Or maybe the computer selects the shift points based on speed; I'm not sure. At any rate, I guess you can still operate the button to shift down while hard braking. Nevertheless, in an emergency the main thing is to bring the car to a stop as quickly as possible, if the engine stalls that's the least of your concerns.
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