Learning to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission can be an intimidating task to both seasoned and new drivers alike. Approximately 6.5% of new vehicles sold in America feature stick-shift gearboxes. Vehicles with manual transmissions come in all shapes and sizes, from small economy cars, to massive work trucks, to high-speed sports cars. For those who would like to experience what it’s like to drive a stick shift car, we’ve outlined the basics for you below. Reading this blog is no substitute for hands-on learning, so as with anything you try, be sure you give yourself ample amount of time to practice.
Start by practicing with the car turned off. Familiarize yourself with the vehicle’s controls. Leaving the emergency or parking brake engaged, familiarize yourself with the clutch. Get a feel for using your left foot to operate the clutch since in a vehicle with an automatic transmission your left foot doesn’t have a job. Get acquainted with the gear shifter. Press the gas pedal and the clutch and move the shifter to get a feel for the different gears. Your reverse gear will also be an option controlled by this shifter.
When you feel comfortable in knowing where the gears are, test them out with a little off-road training. Find a level area, like an empty parking lot, to practice in. Once you are comfortably seated with your seatbelt fastened, it is time to start the car. If the car is neutral, you can start it just as you would an automatic. If it is starting in gear, you’ll need to depress the clutch before you start it. When the vehicle is running, press the clutch to the floor, put the shifter in first gear, and slowly let the clutch pedal up while at the same time applying your other foot to the gas pedal. The car will begin to move and the more you let up on the clutch, the faster it will move in that gear. When the car is revving high in the first gear, it is time to change gears, and you will repeat this process and shift up as needed according to your speed. You will also down-shift the same way, applying the brake and clutch to slow down.
Once you feel comfortable with your parking lot training, you’re ready to try the real road. Start on a less populated road and leave ample space between you and other cars. As you practice and become more experienced, driving a manual car will become second nature to you. Good luck!