How to Drive a Manual Car




Intro: How to Drive a Manual Car

Driving a manual can be one of the most nerve-racking things, especially when you've got a car full of spectators and commentary to go along with it. But, it can be one of the most satisfying skills to learn, especially if you're wanting to get into more advanced driving techniques like tracking your vehicle, road racing and whatnot.

Before reading the tutorial, I HIGHLY recommend you watch the video. As it will reinforce the elements provided in this tutorial and will further assist you in perfecting your newly obtained manual transmission skills.

Without further blabbering, let's get into this tutorial.

Step 1: Ensure You're in Neutral.

Place your car into the neutral gear by moving the gear selector into the center of the shift boot. In order to verify that your car in truly in neutral, wiggle the stickshifter around and see if it moves freely. If it doesn't move very freely, ensure that the gear selector is truly in the middle or not.

Verifying that it is, we can move onto our next step.

Step 2: Place Your Foot Onto the Clutch Pedal

Now that our vehicle is in it's neutral gear, we may move onto our next step of starting the manual transmission for use.

In order to start a manual transmission vehicle, your left foot must press the clutch pedal fully to the cars floor. This is a safety feature that's in most modern day vehicles - to ensure less accidents.

That being said, depress the clutch pedal fully and move onto the next step.

Step 3: Safety Check

Verifying that the car is in neutral by moving the gear selector to the middle of the stickshift boot, wiggling the gear selector back and fourth and checking to see if the stickshifter moves freely and also verifying that the clutch pedal is pressed all the way to the floor, we may continue to our next step.

Step 4: Seek Out the Ignition

In order to start the vehicle, you must locate the ignition. They're most commonly located right next to the steering column. Certain vehicles have push-to-start features, so be aware to check your owners manual if you're not sure where your vehicles ignition is located.

Step 5: Turn the Ignition Halfway

In order to start the vehicle, you must turn the ignition to the halfway position to allow all the vehicles sensors to take their readings.

Step 6: Turn the Vehicle On

With your foot on the clutch pedal fully, your gear selector in the neutral position, you may turn the vehicles engine over and start the vehicle up.

Step 7: Disengage the Handbrake/parking Brake

In order to begin moving forwards in your manual transmission vehicle, you must disengage the handbrake. Please check your owners manual whether or not the vehicle you're driving has an electronic handbrake or not, as these vehicles will not appear to have a handbrake. Driving with the handbrake engaged is not only dangerous, due to the heat it produces, but it is also very bad for your vehicle.

When disengaging the handbrake, ensure that you are on a level surface. If not, cover the brake pedal with your right foot whilst letting off the the handbrake/e-brake.

Step 8: Prepare Yourself for Rolling Forwards.

Now that we've got the vehicle started, we're going to move onto the next steps in driving a manual. At this point in time, it would be a good idea to take a deep breath, count to ten and relax your muscles. As we will begin to attempt our first feats at driving a manual transmission.

It would be a good idea to put your seat belt on if you haven't already and adjust your seat to the most comfortable position possible.

Step 9: Place Foot Onto Clutch Fully

In order to begin the process of moving forwards, we must depress the clutch fully. As this will be the tool we will be using in order to move the manual transmission vehicles forwards.

Step 10: Move Gear Selector Into It's First Gear.

While the clutch is fully depressed, move the gear selector into it's first gear. In order to do so, refer to the stick shift pattern located at the top end of the shifter itself. If you cannot find a shift pattern on your stickshift vehicle, that is okay. As the first gear in most vehicles is located to the top left portion of your gear selector.

That being said, you may move your gear selector light and then upwards. Keep in mind, certain vehicles could make this process a little tricky. This in itself is all about trial and error.

Step 11: Begin Moving Forwards.

With the clutch fully depressed and the gear selector moved into it's first gear, you may begin the process of moving forwards.

In order to begin moving in your manual transmission vehicle, you must slowly lift the foot that is resting on the clutch pedal. The slower that you remove your foot from the pedal, the lesser the chance you will stall and higher the chance you will begin moving forwards. Keep in mind, it is completely normal to stall your first 50-100 times attempting to drive manual. Do not be afraid to stall out the motor or slam on the brakes at any time, as most modern day vehicles were designed for beginners in mind - dropping the clutch and stalling out will NOT damage your vehicle.

Step 12: Give Yourself a Pat on the Back!

Learning to drive manual can be a very complicated process. there's more than many people who have failed their first attempts at doing so. Don't get discouraged, as many drivers who had learned how to drive a manual had not done so successfully their first to 'round. Stay persistent and you'll be rewarded with the skills of a dying art - driving a manual.

I truly hope you've found this tutorial enlightening and helpful!



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    12 Discussions


    1 year ago

    As a european I laughed seeing this tutorial, but I understand the need for it in the US.

    However, some corrections for you.

    - To check if the car is in neutral you do not wiggle it back and fourth, you wiggle it side to side.

    - To begin moving forward you have to rev the engine. Hold the RPM steady at some point (for my car around 2000 RPM but that will depend heavily on the power of the motor) and then start releasing the clutch. In the beginning use a higher RPM, and slowly relase the clutch halfway until you are moving. This will reduce the chance of stalling. Once you are comfortable with the RPM and the feel of the clutch lower the RPM, start relasing faster.

    Good luck.

    3 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    When I taught my daughters, I first taught them to get the vehicle moving without the gas. That helped developed the touch with their left foot. Once they mastered this, the rest was a breeze for them.


    Reply 6 months ago

    Since you are European, perhaps you can answer this: How much of a chance is this transmission, a "dying art," in Europe? The manual transmission isn't equipped in SUV automobiles, here in the U.S., which may be some of the cause of the demise. Another, may be, that, large pickup trucks aren't either. Both of whom, are big sellers here. .


    Reply 5 months ago

    As far as the top end class cars like Mercedes, BMW, AUDI, .. I think alot of them have either automatic or tiptronic transmission. Most middle class and lower end cars have manual.

    I don't think it will die out soon as most people have never driven an automatic in their live.

    But then again, standing still most of the time in traffic might be a good reason for everybody to switch to automatic.

    I prefer automatic for that reason, but I also love the occasional red zone and quick shifting :-)


    2 years ago

    Great info! My first car was a manual '69 VW Bug. The transmission was so wore out that if you didn't apply the right pressure when changing from first to second, it would grind the gears. So many great memories!

    3 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you so much!

    Those cars can definitely be hard to shift, due to their outdated transmission design. However, that only adds to the experience. :)


    Reply 6 months ago

    Sorry to say, The VW Beetle will be no more.


    Reply 1 year ago

    If the transmission in a '69 VW is not worn out, it is easy to drive and does not grind. It has syncros.

    The Arbiter

    1 year ago

    Beautiful demo car, but I would NEVER put a n00b driver in Mustang...that just seems blasphemous somehow. LOL


    1 year ago

    That's funny. (sorry i'm french)


    1 year ago

    Couple of problems here: 1. There's absolutely no mention of the brake pedal, which is absolutely critical, especially if you've taken the car out of gear, released the parking brake and have the car parked on you know, a public road. 2. I learned how to drive with a stick, from a professional driving school and I most certainly did not a)take the car out of gear without engaging the clutch (good luck with that!!) or b) take the car out of gear in order to start it. I really hope that anyone who wants to learn how to drive a stick shift will ask a real person to show them and hopefully take a course. But thanks for your attempt


    1 year ago

    I agree with DSBenny, it's funny for a European read this tutorial.
    But I understand the problem, I've got two cars, one with automatic transmission and one with manual transmission. Every time I change car, i need a couple of minutes to realize how to drive :-) :-)

    I've to add that when you try to insert the reverse gear, you could find some problem, the gears could "scratch". That's because many cars do not have a synchronizer on the reverse gear, for safety reason. Imagine if you accidentally insert the reverse gear at 70 mph, you can make a puzzle with the gearbox ... :-) :-)
    For engage the the reverse gear without "scratching" you have to put the gear stick in neutral, release the clutch, and re-press it (obviously with the car stopped and the brake pressed). Now it's safe to insert the reverse gear without noises ;-)