How to Drive a Stick Shift

Driving a vehicle with a manual transmission can be an exhilarating experience, but only when you know what you’re doing. It’s important not to rush through the process, or you could end up making unnecessary mistakes. Slowly work through the steps detailed below, and you’ll be driving a stick in no time at all.

Learn without Power

The first step to learning how to drive a stick is practicing without starting the vehicle. You probably already know how the gas and brake pedals work from time in an automatic vehicle. Now it’s time to get a feel for the clutch, the pedal that will control all your gear shifts. Start pressing down on the clutch to get a feel for the pedal itself.

Next take a look at the shifter and all the gears present. Practice pressing down on the clutch and shifting from park to first gear. Practice pressing the clutch and shifting up from first through to the top range gear that you have and then work your way back down again.

Never press down on the gas pedal while you are doing these practice sessions, but take your time and work through the gears until you feel comfortable moving up and down. Only after you are completely at ease with moving through the gears should you try it with the engine started.

Training Without Other Traffic

Take your time and find an empty parking lot or a road that doesn’t see much traffic and start practicing your shifting technique. Be sure to bring along an experienced driver and have them help you if you get stuck or aren’t sure what to do.

Practice taking off from a stop, shifting up through second and third gears, back down to second and then back to a complete stop. Get the hang of starting, stopping and moving up and down through the gears, and take your time learning these steps to gain full control of the vehicle.

The key is to practice on a nice flat area while you are getting the hang of driving and to avoid hills until you are very familiar with shifting. Getting stuck on a hill before you know what you’re doing could mean doing damage to your clutch or rolling into an accident, so take it slow and develop those skills well.

Practice Stalls

Intentionally raise the clutch up too quickly when moving from stopped to first gear to stall it out. This is something that you need to be prepared for, and it’s important to understand how to handle a stalled vehicle. Take the time to get the hang of stalls and how to manage them if they do occur.

Practice Hill Starts

There is going to come a time when you have to start moving the vehicle while on a hill. It’s important that you can hit first gear without stalling out to avoid rolling back too far. Practice stopping on a hill and then starting once again. You’ll need to let the clutch out a bit slower while using your gas a bit more to keep from rolling too far. The more practice you get in, the better your feel will be for it.

Driving a manual car can be a real thrill, but only after you’ve practiced enough to master it. Take your time. Get to know what you’re doing well before heading out onto the open road.