These days, it’s difficult to find a vehicle with a standard transmission unless you specifically look for one. Most modern cars are automatic. However, knowing how to drive a stick shift is a useful skill to have. You never know if you’ll find yourself needing to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. Here’s a short guide to help you get started.
Familiarize Yourself Knowing the differences between a standard and an automatic transmission and familiarizing yourself with these differences is the biggest hurdle in learning to drive stick. Give yourself some time to sit in the vehicle without driving and get to know the layout.
You’ll notice an additional pedal on the left side of the floor. This is the clutch. The clutch is what allows you to shift gears.
Also take note of the gear box. Most vehicles have 5 gears, plus reverse. Reverse is pretty self-explanatory. The rest of the gears are ordered in regards to wheel rotations. It’s just like a bike: A lower gear has many wheel rotations per a certain energy input, while a higher gear has fewer wheel rotations for that same energy input. In general, you use the higher gears when driving faster or going down a steep hill.
Have Someone Help You Find a friend or family member who knows how to drive a stick shift and see if they’ll help you learn.
First have them start, drive, and park the car with you in it. Have them explain when they shift gears, which gear they shift to, and why.
Next, you get in the driver’s seat. Have them slowly walk you through starting, driving, and parking. It’s best to have someone knowledgeable with you the first few times driving so you don’t permanently damage the car, which can easily happen to beginners.
Practice, Practice, Practice! The clutch only works when you’re aren’t accelerating, or using the accelerator pedal. And after you’ve switched gears, you want to step off the clutch and on to the gas pedal at the same time. Practice stepping on the clutch and off the pedal, moving the gear stick, and disengaging the clutch and accelerating. The quicker you can do it, the better.
Memorize where each gear is located on the gear box. Practice shifting and getting to know where each is located by feel.
Learn the intricacies of your car and when’s the best time to upshift or downshift. With a lot of practice, you’ll be able to tell by feel and the sound of your car what gear you should shift to.