How To Drive a Stick Shift

It can be challenging to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, AKA a stick shift or five-speed. This post will teach you the basics of driving a car with a stick shift, which is an important lesson to learn. Let’s break down how a manual transmission is different from an automatic, and how to drive one.

What’s The Difference?

Having to manually change gears is the main difference between a stick shift and an automatic transmission. Shifting gears, which is something an automatic car does for you, will allow you to change your speed.

Another major difference is the addition of the clutch, an extra pedal. The clutch is all the way to the left of the regular gas and brake pedals. You will use this pedal when changing gears. You must push this pedal with your left foot. This is a big difference from an automatic, where you only use your right foot. Instead of letters on the gear shift, a manual transmission has numbers. These numbers represent each gear that you can shift into. There is only one letter, an R for reverse.

There is no parking gear when driving a stick shift. You must set the parking brake each time you park your vehicle.

How Do I Shift Gears?

It’s a good idea to learn the patterns and process of changing gears before you even turn the car on. Push down the clutch with your left foot and move the gear shift through the following patterns*:

1st Gear: Left and up
2nd Gear: Left and down
3rd Gear: Straight up
4th Gear: Straight down
5th Gear: Right and up
6th Gear: Right and down

Once you are comfortable with the different patterns, shift back into a neutral position and let off of the clutch slowly.
*For most American Five-Speeds

How Do I Know When To Shift?

The tachometer of your car will guide you in learning to shift. This is the dial which displays the RPM (revolutions per minute) for your vehicle.

Once you have been driving a manual transmission for some time, you will know when to shift based off of the sounds your engine makes.

Steps To Driving A Stick Shift

1. Put your right foot on the brake and push the clutch pedal all the way down with your left foot.
2. Release the parking brake.
3. Start the vehicle.
4. Keeping the clutch and brake down, put the car into 1st gear.
5. Release the clutch.
6. Pressing the gas, rev the engine to about 2,000 RPM.
7. Slowly let off of the brake and allow the car to start rolling forward.
8. Keep slowly pushing the gas until the RPM reaches about 3,000.
9. Push the clutch down and move into 2nd gear.
10. To stop, push down the clutch and brake and move the gear shift to neutral.

You should practice 1st and 2nd gear until you are comfortable. Empty parking lots are a good place to practice. You should also practice reversing.

It is not uncommon for a new driver of a stick shift to stall the vehicle while learning. Don’t get frustrated! Just shift back into the neutral position and start over. Practice makes perfect. Soon, you will be comfortable driving your manual vehicle. You can practice higher speeds and gears on less busy streets and become a pro in no time.

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