Learning How To Drive a Stick-Shift Car

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,237
edited September 2014 in General

imageLearning How To Drive a Stick-Shift Car

Give 'er plenty of space, folks; she's a newbie! | March 18, 2010 | Scott Jacobs for Edmunds

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  • pbergnpbergn Member Posts: 4
    Trully enjoyed reading your article. Very well written, witty and reassuring... :-)

    I would have been ready to take the plunge inspired by your ordeals but for the minor insignificant detail of actually finding a car with a stick shift to practice on. (I live in Seattle area, and all the rental companies have only automatic, and all my friends and relatives own only auto trannie cars... Quite a bummer, don't you think?)
  • 2000mustangfan2000mustangfan Member Posts: 1
    I would agree with everything you said. My first time behind the wheel of a stick shift vehicle was in a Nissan Versa. Had a very good instructor from the Allied driving school, drove stick shift for 6 hours. At first I was scared, just like what you mentioned in the article, the car stalled multiple times and I did get frustrated. But then at the end of the 6 hours, I was driving on the expressway in the area of where I live. I drove my mom's Lexus RX 330 for a year and a half, but when it came to getting myself a car, I went with a used manual transmission mustang, even though it's somewhat of a performance vehicle, not an economy car. To be honest, in the past, I didn't even want to drive a manual transmission, but then after driving this mustang for only about a month and a half, I would prefer driving a manual transmission car over an automatic transmission any time. And what you stated at the very end, that a manual transmission makes the driving experience more interesting and more fun, I completely agree with you, so I would recommend others to try driving manual transmission as well.
  • danroxannedanroxanne Member Posts: 1
    Nice pep talk. Was looking for more how to
  • anthon1977anthon1977 Member Posts: 1
    I enjoyed this article. Driving a stick shift transmission is almost a lost art. I married late and now have two adult children. Not that long ago when they wanted to get their first CA drivers license, I insisted that they take the CA driving test on a stick shift only. Although at least one of them was not happy with this requirement, it has paid off for them and given them much more flexibility.

    Since there are others on this site who learned on an automatic and would like to learn to drive a stick as the author of this article successfully did, here are two things I found over the years that may make the learning and teaching job easier.

    #1: Take the car to a level quiet street or level empty parking lot area. Level is important. With the student driver in control of the car, have them fully depress the clutch pedal, help / tell them to put the car in first gear, tell them to not touch the accelerator pedal and gently let the clutch out until the car is rolling because of the engine idle speed and steer the car straight. Then stop the car. Of course it may hop and buck or stall the first few times, but not as bad as if the accelerator is involved. Do the clutch and steer only process again and again until the student driver begins to get the feel of where the clutch engages and encourage them to 'tease' the clutch pedal until the car is sufficiently rolling on the engine idle alone. After the start from a stop becomes smoother, you can have them begin to shift to higher gears on an idle or begin to introduce light pressure on the accelerator in the start-from-a-stop scenario or both. This is your call as to when you think your student is ready.
    Repetition will pay off just focusing and learning the basics of the clutch operation and the student driver's confidence will grow as they begin to "feel" the clutch and coordinate with the engine RPMs they are hearing.
    BTW: I am a stickler on totally releasing the clutch and not resting your foot on it while driving until you are going to depress for disengagement again. This will save clutch release bearings (throw out bearings) and burning the clutch / flywheel contact surfaces.

    #2: After a period of time when the student is having sufficiently smooth starts from a stop, learning to up shift, down shift and come to a stop again you can introduce the second opportunity to overcome dread with a stick shift car: the roll back on a hill.
    Once the student has good clutch and accelerator coordination, then purposely put them facing up on a slight grade.
    Show them the use of the parking brake to minimize riding the clutch at a stop and to overcome the fear of rolling into the car behind you. This will take some time as you increase the degree of angle that the student is parked on and they begin to not panic when the car stalls or it begins to roll back. This may need to be done over several sessions to relieve / space out the stress on both the teacher and the student.
    Eventually they will be able to conquer an uphill start on a steep street, driveway, etc.
    I have found that overcoming these two scenarios builds confidence and makes the student want to drive.
    Since I live in the Los Angeles area near the foothills, I have a way of dealing with other drivers who are starting to come up too close to the rear of my truck when I am stopped on a grade for a traffic signal, etc. As I see them approach in the rear view mirror, I ever so slightly roll back before they get to me so that they know I am driving a stick shift and I could roll back damaging the front of their car. A few times I have had to do it twice to get their attention.
    In the almost 51 years of driving in Southern California, I have never had anyone come closer than they should after having done that.
    May you help someone know the joy of driving a stick shift car well: it almost looks effortless and the shifts feel smooth like an automatic.
    Your student will be very grateful.
  • soakee_soakee_ Member Posts: 14
    I have been driving manual transmissions for some 38 years, and the first thing I was taught and what lesson stands out most is when I asked my father how to start going up a hill. His answer: "you gotta be quick". He never showed me how to do it with the parking brake, and with quick footwork, there was (is) no need to learn. I have never rolled back into another car, and have never stalled on a hill. I will be teaching my daughter the same method.
  • gunnin4ugunnin4u Member Posts: 1
    There's another apparent advantage. If you buy a car with a stick, it's just that much harder for someone to steal, since driving stick is a skill kids don't have.
  • snuffy46snuffy46 Member Posts: 1
    Side note: If you travel internationally you may find either that cars with an automatic are not available or, if they are available, they cost considerably more. Once watched a forlorn couple's plans dashed in Moorea, Tahiti when neither could drive a stick. We took them to dinner and they took tours on their own but would have preferred to explore on their own. Even rudimentary skills will get you through...
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