How to Drive Stick Shift





Introduction: How to Drive Stick Shift

I will explain how to drive a manual car.

-Dont get frustrated, keep practicing and youll get it.
-Get a feel for the pedals, mainly the clutch before you start driving.
-Begin practicing in a big empty parking lot where you can get comfortable and used to driving a
manual car before going on the road.
-Always engage your emergency brake before you let off the brakes when parking your car, it is not an automatic and it will begin to roll on almost about any road regardless of the incline.
-Whenever shifting gears make sure to fully engage the clutch by pushing it all the way in, or you will grind and destroy your cars gears.

Step 1:

Turn on the car by completely engaging the clutch (the leftmost pedal) and turning the ignition. Keep the clutch engaged while applying your brakes in order to safely release the emergency brake (avoid the car from rolling).

Step 2:

Make sure you are in 1st gear, by moving the shifter all the way to the left and up, while keeping the clutch engaged. Make sure not to go into reverse which is all the way on left and up as well, in European cars, but you must push down while moving over to the reverse spot in order to lock in that gear. The pattern layout is differs only for where reverse lies. I am showing/explaining it for a European car. American cars have the reverse all the way to the right and down. Just make sure you know where your gears are according to your car and be familiar with the feeling of the "throw" into each one.

Step 3:

Take your right foot off the brake pedal and as you slowly give the car gas ease off of the clutch with the same amount. You want to give the same amount of gas as the amount of clutch your releasing. If you feel like your going to stall, push the clutch all the way back in and let off the gas, brake, and you can avoid it. As the clutch is engaged, right foot on the gas, give the engine just a little gas and slowly let out some of the clutch. As you feel that catch point, the RPMs will start to drop and the car will start to move forward a bit. Slowly give it more gas to keep the RPM's constant as you let the clutch out. The key is to give it enough gas to keep the RPM's constant until the clutch pedal is all the way out. If the RPMs are dropping apply more gas.

Step 4:

Once you are completely off of the clutch and up to around 3,000 RPMs shift into 2nd gear by letting off of the gas, completely engaging the clutch, and then pulling the shifter down from 1st into 2nd gear. After it is in gear put your foot back onto the gas quickly before you loose any speed. This process will be slow in the start, but you will learn to do it quickly.

Step 5:

Once you have up-shifted, let off the clutch and slowly start applying the gas as doing so for a smooth transmission between gears. Repeat this to get up to speed.

Step 6:

To slow down/reduce your speed you may need to downshift. First brake a little and then engage the clutch, shift to the lower gear and before you left off the clutch start easing onto the gas to match the RPM of the lower gear. You do not need to downshift if your only slowing down a little bit which is relatively depending on what gear you are in, but you will loose your ability to accelerate as quickly if you are going slow in a gear that is too high for the speed.

Step 7:

In order to stop the car completely, shift into neutral and apply the brakes until you come to a stop. You can tell when you are in neutral when you can move the shifter side to side. Make sure to engage the clutch and put the car back into first gear if you are not parking in the car. This is what you want to do if you are going to be at a decently long stoplight or for any reason of being stopped for along time. If it's a brief stop just go ahead and engage the clutch and apply the brakes. Make sure not to let the clutch out while in gear or you will stall.



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    I have seen a lot of B.S. written here and some good advice.
    I'm from Romania (Europe) and here we learn to drive only manual cars.
    Let me give you some advice:
    -it is recommended that you keep your car in gear at all times (except when your standing at a stop light or when you are stationary) and that you change down before turning but COASTING IS OK!!! If you need, you can always stick it in gear and drive away.
    -NEVER keep the clutch pedal pressed when you are stationary. It is a common mistake even among stick shift drivers. IT WILL destroy your clutch solar spring in time.
    -when you park your car ALWAYS leave it in 1st gear. Do not depend completely on the hand brake because it being a stationary brake it tends to stop working over time.
    -Remember that you control the car's speed with the gas pedal ONLY. Use the clutch only when starting from a standstill and changing gears, otherwise LEAVE IT ALONE!!! don't even touch the pedal!!!(even when you rest your foot on the clutch you are slowly burning it)
    -when you start your engine keep the clutch pedal and the brake pedal pressed all the way in (if the car is in neutral when you start the engine the clutch is optional but recommended)
    -Rule of thumb: when going down a hill use the same gear that you'll use when going up that hill, and use the engine brake!!! if you keep using the brakes when going down a hill your brakes will overheat and fade.
    -if you have a turbo charged car (especially if it's a turbo diesel) try to keep it over 2500 rpm. If you "under rev" the engine the turbo doesn't spin and you will end up changing the turbo (and that costs a lot of money)
    -another advice for turbo diesel owners: if you drive mostly in urban areas, at the end of the week try to take your car for a "spin" out of the city and keep your revs high (you will see some black smoke coming out of the exhaust; that's the mix of oil, smoke particles, and other nasty stuff that has built up in the turbo system)
    -when you start the car with high revs, let the clutch pedal go faster so you don't burn the clutch (it will probably make your wheels spin :-) )
    There's a lot more to learn about manual cars. If you have any questions please ask.

    4 replies

    thanks for the tips was very useful

    Hey flesty I have a question. When I release my clutch shifting into 2nd gear I notice my car tends to slow down a little. I try so hard to release as slow as possible but it just doesn't want to release easy. Should I be giving it a little bit of gas or is that bad for the clutch and should only be done in 1st gear?

    I really like how you go into detail there. You really should consider starting a driving school or just your own blog about driving and let me know. Thanks!

    Thank you for the tips!

    i would pay you $2,769.00 per hour! for 20 lessons

    Here is a great tip I have not seen anyone mention that helped me figure this whole "not stalling out" thingy (pardon me but I am new to driving stick). I was forced to drive manual for my job. The only vehicles we had to do my job were ALL MANUALS! It was either learn, or walk in 110+ degree weather with no shade.

    First practice on releasing the clutch to pick up the muscle memory for the "sweet spot". Disengage the hand/emergency brake. Have the clutch & brake both fully pressed. Shift into 1st gear. Foot off the foot brake. Slowly release the clutch millimeter-by-millimeter (until you become comfortable with a faster release to find the "sweet spot"). You will know the "sweet spot" because the engine will start to rev a little & move forward a bit (if you are doing it slow enough, if not it will be more like a jerking lunge). The car will move forward whether you are on a hill with a decline or incline. You DO NOT NECESSARILY NEED to give ANY gas at all! (This is where I stalled out the most when I first learned.) Eventually, you will start automatically doing it together because it is going to feel more natural (releasing the clutch & gassing simultaneously) but to learn the basics for us newbies, practice releasing the clutch and then pressing the gas. You can literally coast in first gear without even having to touch the gas pedal (not so sure about this part on an incline though).

    If you are on an incline, you can do the exact same thing as with any road plane. The only difference is that you will roll back, but as soon as you catch the "sweet spot" on the clutch the vehicle will move forward then you can gas it.

    Hope this helps anyone was scratching their heads from all the nagging in the comments. XD

    3 replies

    This was the greatest explanation I've ever read. You should totally start a school. You would be a very good teacher, plus there's not enough of these schools around. But first, please explain more, when you are switching from 1st gear to second, does the clutch go down completely or just to the "sweet spot"? Also, does your foot need to be still on the gas during this? Thank you.

    When changing gears. Let off the gas all the way, then fully engage the clutch. Now switch gears. After that let off the clutch. Once its fully out begin applying gas

    Clutch has to be completely down, foot off the gas. Shift to 2nd. When releasing the clutch (after shifting to 2nd gear or higher) you don't have to find the sweet spot. Just take your foot off the clutch, then start giving it some gas. Eventually, you'll start to do both (clutch release & gas) simultaneously because it will fill more natural.

    It's amazing that you say I should have a school or teacher because that is my passion, teaching. I've dreamt of being a teacher since I was 3 or 4! Now, I only have 1 1/2 years remaining for my bachelors degree in teaching chemistry. Thank you for the compliment.

    I don't know why I thought the comments were the instructions. But if you go and read the real instructions first, they are very well put together and will not confuse you. Great Idea!

    I don't think that this project should be considered a manual for learning to drive a stick-shift, mostly due to the comments for it that are uninformative, or simply provide inaccurate information. This covers the elementary basics, but not much more. Only a skilled driver of a manual transmission can really teach you how to drive a manual yourself by proper coaching. It's not as hard as it seems, but good habits with a manual come with the coaching of years of experience....I'd come and teach you, but I don't know where you are lol... If you are driving an automatic, you are not really driving, and have no classifiable driving skill...It's never too late to learn how to drive the real thing! Start today!

    3 replies

    Lol! Woe is me, because I really wish I had someone to coah me as I learn to operate a manual transmission. *sigh Let us hope I don't break my brothers car (he is not interested in teaching me, but he gave me consent to use it while he is gone). Anywho, this comment was delightfully funny. :) thank you

    good now i feel bad lol im stuck with an auto and i' dieing i miss the feel of the gears sliding into one another and the clutch engaging and disengaging but there is a web page that shows some pretty good tips and i agree with the auto thing

    Depressing the clutch pedal DISENGAGES the clutch. A clutch is engaged when it is pressed against the flywheel, transferring engine power to the transmission.

    1 reply

    I know it seems counterintuitive, but "depress" actually means the same as press, not the opposite.

    Thank you! I am buying my first stick shift car tomorrow, and it's been a couple of years since I've driven one, and I've only got about 2 hours of driving time over about 10 years, so this was a great help in making sure I remember what to do, which I did :D

    By the way, this instructable is the number one result in google for "how to drive a stick shift" just fyi

    To all the Europeans out there wondering why there is an instructable on this topic:

    Many Americans don't go to driving school. We learn how to drive from family and friends. In some states, the requirements include simply passing a written test for a learner's permit, which allows the holder to drive while a licensed driver is in the vehicle, and then a driving test. The driving test can be conducted in any type of car, automatic or manual, and the license is good for any type of car (sometimes excluding motorcycles and semi trailer trucks, depending on the state). So if we Americans learned on an automatic and got our license on an automatic, but then wanted to get a manual car, we would first look up online how to drive a manual, and then, get a friend or family member to instruct us one afternoon. After that, we are good to go. My only manual transmission lesson included going to an abandoned hill with a family member. The lesson ended when I consistently didn't roll back when going uphill from a complete stop. I drove that manual for a year afterward without a problem, accident or burned out clutch. This isn't rocket science. Now, after many years of driving an automatic, I just bought a manual and am refreshing myself on how to drive it. Time for some fun!

    I am trying SOOO hard to abide by the "be nice" comment policy, so here goes nothing:

    First, shouldn't you be learning this stuff at driving school? It is (or should be) common sense. People who need this kind of an instructable shouldn't have manual gear transmission cars in the first place.

    And second, about the "european" car's shifter gear placement statement: that has nothing to do with the fact that it an european car (being on the left side). My bet is that this model is a Volkswagen, but being 7-geared, the reverse gear goes automaticaly onto the left side of the stick (just my experience with cars, nothing I've read about).
    Audi for example, on 5-gears forward transmission has the reverse on bottom right, so... please.... stop dividing things between "european" and "american", it's bad for ya'.

    a happy "european".