Learning how to drive a stick shift can be stressful, but once you get the hang of it can be a blast. Don’t be ashamed if you’re having trouble learning to drive a stick shift-you’re not alone. Let us help you get the basics down with Mississauga Kia’s how-to guide with tips on how to drive a car with a manual transmission.
1. Start on the Back Roads
The best place to learn to drive a standard is out in the country on the back roads or in a field, but if you don’t live near the city limits an empty parking lot will do just fine. The goal is to find a place with very little traffic, or other things that you could run into. It’s also important to find a low traffic area just so you can relax and not have to worry about anyone impatient behind you. The flatter the space, the better, as hills can also be a challenge when you’re just starting out.
2. Starting the Motor
There’s an important difference between starting an automatic and standard transmission car-and that’s that a standard has the potential to jump forward if you’re in gear. To avoid this, shift your transmission into neutral (with the parking brake still on), and fully depress the clutch pedal and brake pedal before turning the key. Many new cars have a safety feature that will not allow you to start the vehicle unless the clutch is fully depressed. Good thing, because you don’t want your car jumping forward and stalling, or worse hitting something! Once your car is running, you’re ready to release the parking brake and start driving (keep your right foot on the brake).
3. Get into Gear
You’re ready to go! Shift your transmission into first gear (refer to the diagram on your shifter), and slowly release the clutch until your car just starts moving forward. Fair warning: You’re going to stall. It’s unavoidable. New drivers will invariably stall the car a few times. This is perfectly normal, although it can stress you out. Don’t worry about it!
What you’re looking for is something called the “clutch release point.” Every car’s is different. This is the point where the clutch will start to engage and move your car forward. To keep the car from stalling, you’ll need to look at your tachometer (if your car has one), and try to keep it above about 1500 rpm. Your owner’s manual will tell you the speeds, or RPMs that you should shift at between gears. Too high, and you might squeal the tires. Too low, and your engine will lug. If your engine starts to stall, you can gradually increase the throttle as you release the clutch to keep it going.
As you get the hang of how far the clutch pedal comes out before engaging, you’ll be able to make smoother shifts. Once you manage to fully release the clutch pedal and start moving in first gear, remember that you can press the clutch down again at any time if you feel rushed or panicked. If you don’t push the clutch pedal in, and you try to stop, you will stall the engine. Remember: always press the clutch pedal and brake pedal at the same time.
Once you’re comfortable shifting into first gear, try shifting from first into second. Make sure that you are going fast enough in first, and then move the gear shifter into neutral, and then into second in one fluid motion. Again, don’t worry if you don’t get it the first time!
4. Slowing Down
There’s more to stopping in a car with a manual transmission than just pressing the clutch and the brakes together. In order to stop safely, you will want to downshift one gear at a time as you decrease speed. For example, if you are in fourth gear, you will want to gradually press the brake until engine RPMs decrease, and then downshift to third gear. Do this the same from third to second, and then from second until first. By the time you reach first, you should be going slow enough to engage the clutch, press the brake, and glide to a stop.
5. Stopping on Hills
Once you’re comfortable shifting between gears on level ground, it’s time to take things to the next level. Stopping on a hill can be a frightening experience for new drivers, but it’s a necessary skill even if you live in an area with almost no hills like Saskatchewan. It’s much scarier to find yourself in traffic, at a red light, and start rolling back. So it’s good to be prepared.
Once you’ve found yourself a gradual hill, it’s time to give it a try:
- Step 1: Come to a complete stop with one foot on the clutch and the other on the brake pedal.
- Step 2: Engage the parking brake.
- Step 3: Shift into first gear, and take your right foot off of the brake pedal (left foot still on clutch).
- Step 4: Gradually release the clutch and press the gas pedal until you can feel the car lightly pulling against the parking brake.
- Step 5: Gradually release the parking brake, letting your car pull forward and up the hill.
6. Use Your Left Foot
When driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission you typically use your right foot for both the gas and the brake pedals. When you’re driving stick shift be prepared to start driving using both feet. You’ll still use your right foot for braking and accelerating but you’ll be using your left foot to work the clutch. This will take a little getting used to but you’ll eventually get the hang of it.
7. Using the Right Gear for the Speed
Depending on how fast you’re going, you will be using a different gear. As mentioned before, your owner’s manual will likely have a description of which gears are suitable for different speeds. While driving in the city at speeds under 60 km/hr, you will likely be using third gear or lower most of the time. Fourth gear, and fifth gear are generally reserved for highway speeds, and some cars will have a 6th gear for better highway fuel economy. As you shift between gears, remember to fully depress the clutch. As with everything, the more you drive the quicker you will get used to it.
8. No Cell Phones
Although you should never use a cell phone while driving any vehicle, it can be especially dangerous while driving stick shift. You need to be fully concentrated and have both hands free for shifting and steering when driving standard. If you do need to call someone, pull to the side of the road first.
9. Turning off the Car
Turning off a car with manual transmission is not the same as turning off an automatic where you just put it into park and turn off the ignition. With a stick shift you must make sure that you have shifted into second gear and have come to a complete stop, leaving your feet on the clutch and brake pedals. Turn off the ignition, let off the clutch, and pull up on the parking brake.