Learning to Drive a Manual Transmission Vehicle Basics

The thought of driving a stick shift or automatic transmission vehicle is a very intimidating idea to most people who have not had much interaction with these types of vehicles. But, with a little practice and instruction you could be driving a stick shift like an expert in no time.


Get to Know your Car

The first thing you will notice about an automatic transmission vehicle is that it has an extra pedal and the gear shift may be located in a different location than on some automatic transmission vehicles. Don’t worry. It’s supposed to be that way. Here’s what you need to know. The pedal to the far left is your clutch, then next to that is your break, and to the far right is your gas pedal. When it comes to your gear shift you will see that it is similar but different from the gear shift of an automatic transmission vehicle. Different vehicles have different gear mapping so check your owner’s manual for the exact layout of your shifter and take the time to familiarize yourself with the shifting pattern. By doing so you will save yourself a lot of frustration when trying to change gears and hitting the wrong one. When your gear shift is not in a specific gear or floats freely, it is in what is called neutral. Make sure your break is on when in neutral as the car will roll.


How to Shift

It is a good idea to practice actual shifting before you begin to drive, in order to have a more comfortable feel for your vehicle’s shifting pattern. To do this you will need to have your right foot on the brake the whole time, and then press in the clutch (far left pedal). At this point the transmission is now disengaged and you will be able to move the gear shift stick from gear to gear. It is important to know that when the clutch is pressed in all the way the transmission is disengaged and will allow the car to roll when on a hill, so you will need to use the brake pedal.


Beginning to Drive

Now that you have familiarized yourself with your vehicles controls, it is time to get on the road. Find a flat parking lot or quiet neighborhood to practice actually driving for your first few times out, and then progress to more challenging terrains. To start your car, press in both the clutch and the brake pedals and turn on the ignition. Once the car is started, make sure the car is in first gear, ease out slowly on the clutch with your left foot as you begin to press the gas pedal with your right foot, and you should feel the car start to move forward. You will probably stall out a few times in the beginning, as it takes time even for experienced drivers to get the feel of a new manual transmission vehicle.


Shifting to go Faster

Now that you are moving, it’s time to move a little faster. You will hear the engine sound as though it is starting to rev a little faster, at this point it is time to shift. Press in the clutch while still pressing on the gas, and shift to second gear. This is a delicate balancing act between gas and clutch, but the hardest transition is usually between first and second since they are lower speed gears. Each time you feel the car starting to strain you will shift. To stop you will gradually down shift as you slow the vehicle, ending with both the clutch and brake pedals pressed in.

There are your basic instructions for driving a stick shift vehicle. Now you have no reason to fear any car or truck. So get out there and get to practicing.