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How to drive a manual transmission

From Shannon:

hmm well the number of people I know who keep replacing clutches & transmissions much higher than the issues I’ve had w/autos

If you already know how to drive, learning to drive a manual transmission takes 45 minutes. A manual transmission gives you these benefits:

  • Lower brake wear-and-tear
  • Higher gas mileage
  • Cheaper maintenance – manual transmissions have fewer parts than an automatic.
  • Cheaper to purchase – cheaper to make + fewer people want a manual so they are lower in price on the used car market.
  • Can rent/use cars in other parts of the world which may have only manual transmission cars
  • Impress your friends with tricks like driving without the gas pedal

How to get the benefits:

  • Instead of having your foot on the gas until the moment you slam on the brakes, try this: Take your foot of the gas a long way away from that red light or stop sign. Push in the clutch and let the car coast. It will slow down naturally. When you finally do brake, the car will be a lot slower and the brakes will not do as much work. This will dramatically increase the brake life and saving gas and bucks (or euros).
  • When driving in stop-and-go traffic, ease off the clutch just enough to get the car rolling. Push the clutch back in and let the car coast toward the cars in front of you. (brakes and gas again)
  • Ease in and out of gear. Don’t leap from the clutch to the gas pedal. This ain’t the Dayton 500. Take your time and don’t let the transmission get constantly hammered by suddenly being engaged. Learn to avoid stalls by learning how to drive a manual correctly. (saves maintenance)
  • Once the gear change has been completed – get your foot off the clutch. If you leave your foot on the clutch even a “little bit”, chances are that the clutch will be slightly engaging – wearing it out faster.

Driving on hills:

Its actually pretty easy.

  1. When stopping give yourself extra room to the car in front of you. They might roll backward or you might need the room for what happens next.
  2. If you are the first car stop with your front tires over the lip of the hill.
  3. When going up a hill rather than braking at the top, try to put the clutch in so the car coasts to the stop. Not always possible – but a goal. This will leave you in the happy situation of your foot being on the clutch and the gas.
  4. Use the combination of the clutch and gas pedal to deliver enough engine power to the tires so that you don’t roll. Going forward will be a piece of cake – just add more gas and ease off the clutch
  5. If you find yourself with your foot on the brake and the clutch, then you will need to get from the brake to the gas.
  6. Don’t panic.
  7. Ease off the clutch until you start feeling the engine engaging.
  8. Then quickly transition from the brake to the gas pedal
  9. Press down on the gas only enough to get you going slightly forward – you might go forward more than you intended (thats why you gave yourself the room to the next car – right?)
  10. If you stall, don’t freak and don’t let the guy with the horn bother you. Brake. Clutch. Key to restart and try again.
  11. If the guy behind you is really on your tail, then let his front bumper touch your rear bumper. His car will stop yours from rolling backward while you do the brake-to-gas transition 🙂 Be sure to thank him properly!

Posted in entertainment, how to, transportation.

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26 Responses

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  1. Stick_Star says

    I’m giong to do my best to be nice here… 90% of what you just posted is very plainly dead wrong. Guaranteed to wear out your clutch faster, use MORE gas than necessary, and possibly wind up with you getting into an accident that could’ve easily been avoided.

    Yeah, the benefits are right, but you seriously need to learn the proper method to driving a manual. Number 11 is just INSANE. The idiot will be out of his car, and jump all over you, and you’ll be looking at higher insurance premiums. Go here –>
    and ask some questions. Tell them about this post, and then ask, and they’ll be sure to correct every misconception you have.

    • peter says

      obviously #11 was a joke. are you stupid? really?

  2. patrick says

    Hi Stick_Star –

    I made a minor edit to your post to add the link to website.

    Number 11 was a little tongue-in-check — but mostly intended to get new stick shift drivers to stop freaking out about accidentally rolling into the person behind them. Most new drivers overestimate how far they will roll backward and underestimate how far behind them the next car is. I have ended up in situations where the next car is a car and a half length behind us and the driver is terrified of rolling backward into the trailing car! No, I do not intend that everyone should roll back into the guy behind them 😀 Certainly you are right, it shouldn’t be done in the normal course of events!

    With regards to the other points – I learned to drive in snow and ice and hills. With 4 cars (I never drove the 5th car) and 20+ years of driving I have only replaced 2 clutches/transmissions. I have driven a lot of miles (not just to church and back 🙂 ).

    So maybe there is some miscommunication – but these techniques have worked for me. Anyhow thanks for the link. I especially like the faq.

    Best –


  3. Andy says

    The easiest way to start when you’re going uphill (in forward or reverse) is to use the emergency brake… pull it up so you don’t move, start applying power, and slowly release the e-brake. You won’t roll backwards at all. I drive a manual every day, but this trick makes it easy for me on extreme hills, and is very useful for novices. Certainly preferable to resting on another car’s bumper!;)

  4. Bill says

    Number 4 is ridiculous.

    That’s a great way to unnecessarily wear your clutch.

  5. Eric says

    One question I have regarding how to prevent rolling backwards while stopped on a hill. You didn’t mention anything about using the parking brake? When I was a new stick driver (10 years ago) there was a large hill by my house with a traffic light at the top, so it was not unusual for me to get stopped in the middle of the incline. I took someone else’s suggestion and, while stopped, simply activated the parking brake with my right hand while keeping my left hand on the steering wheel and my feet on the clutch and brake. To get moving I transitioned my right foot from the brake to the gas, and as I felt the car begin to move forward I simply let off of the parking break and away I went. The parking brake prevented the car from rolling backwards during the transition.

    I’ve taught other new stick drivers like this and they loved it; it takes out the fear of rolling backwards. As an experienced stick driver I no longer need to use this method, but it certainly helps someone just learning. And I like to consider myself a competent stick driver. I bought my Nissan Sentra brand new in 2000, and 160,000 miles later it still has the original clutch.

  6. Marshall Martell says

    I have owned and driven stick shift cars a lot longer and farther than you have and some of your advice is not very good or is incomplete.

    I have never had work done or replaced a manual transmission. I replaced ONE clutch and that was my fault. Tried to tow a large boat with a small under powered compact car. MY BAD.

    I have driven four cars well over 100,000 miles each without clutch or transmission work. Just regular checks to make sure they are not low on fluid. One car was over 200,000 miles so I did change the fluid one time but no other service.

    1. Never hold a car on a hill using the clutch and gas. Come to as stop, shift into neutral, foot on the brake and GET YOU LEFT FOOT OFF THE CLUTCH. You will burn out the throw out bearing if you hold the clutch in every time you stop and you will have an expensive clutch repair. To start on a hill, clutch in, shift into first gear, put on emergency break, move right foot from break to gas, add a little gas and let out the clutch a little. As soon as you feel the clutch start to engage release the emergency break and away you go. You shouldn’t roll back ONE INCH. With a little practice starting from a dead stop on a hill is a piece of cake.

    2. DON’T put your car into neutral and coast. Coasting at 5 MPH when you are 200 feet back from a stop sign or stop light will only piss off other drivers and make them cut in front of you, which in turn will piss you off!! Downshift through the gears to slow down without using the breaks. A really BIG advantage of doing this is that you are always in the correct gear so when the light changes and you are still rolling at 8 MPH you don’t have to guess what gear you need to be in to accelerate along with traffic.

    3. It ain’t rocket science but you do have to use your brain a little.

  7. Pete H says

    Hey Pat…..I really like you simple no bull way of teaching to drive standard transmissions….step by step….but one the hills section i tend to disagree with you…when i learned to drive back in the seventies….it was only on standard,my choice,and we were taught to hold the vehicle with the hand brake,to allow proper control of gas/clutch….once the clutch was at friction point you released the hand brake and off you went smoothly without bunny hopping or stalling….having drivin various north american and commercial vehicles weighing up to 140,000 lbs throughout the States and Canada…this practice has never failed me once…..I look forward to hearing back from you Sincerly Pete

  8. patrick says

    A number of people have commented about using the emergency parking brake.

    It may be in general a good idea but … a few things colored my experience:

    First, driving a car with a broken emergency brake cable that wasn’t getting fixed (i.e. NO parking brake!)

    Second, the parking brake doesn’t work when you are in a situation that is stop and go. For example, going through San Francisco when you get (almost) to the top of a hill and are waiting your turn at a stop sign. You need to inch forward as each car ahead of you goes.

    Third, parking brake does not work when you need dynamic amount of breaking. Specifically, when going up a hill with ice and snow on it. You want to actually try to keep the car moving slightly forward. A straight up wheels locked situation will just result in sliding backward.

    Fourth, once again under ice and snow conditions. If you start sliding using the clutch and gas — then all you have to do is apply more gas and less clutch. Relying on the parking brake leaves you nothing extra if the friction between the tire and road is not adequate for the parking brake (ice/snow) where with clutch and gas you have the entire power of the engine to hold you on the hill.

    Fifth, I have never burned out any clutch this way. But admittedly I don’t have to do hill driving on a daily basis.

    Sixth, with regards to coasting “pissing off other drivers” — that is their problem, not mine and I refuse to make other people’s problems mine.

    @Marshall — how would you know how many years of experience I have ( its >20 years btw) … and at a certain point who cares? and my experience based on what you have said easily matches.

    @Pete — no idea if my ideas work on big vehicles .. I am not a commercial driver.

  9. John Doe says

    I’ve found in my 5 years driving a manual transmission, that if you engage the clutch just far enough the car won’t roll back. Keeping one foot on the clutch and the other feathering the gas pedal should work just fine on uphill roads.

  10. John C. says

    Andy is right, but it’s not just a trick, it’s the correct way.
    Use the hand brake if you have to keep the car still for more than a few seconds while going up a hill, eg. when traffic is stop & go, or if you are making a left turn and have to wait for traffic to pass from the opposite direction.
    If the car stalls, then it’s foot brake, hand brake, clutch in, start engine, engage first gear, gas pedal & ease clutch out until car tries to move, release hand brake while controlling gas & clutch so that the car does not stall or lurch forward.

  11. Omar says

    Have driven stick shifts on & off for around 30 years, and found that it helps if the engine is well tuned, and the clutch and shift linkages properly adjusted. Also, the peculiar characteristics of how a car feels & responds can vary. Once one gets to know the car, it will become second nature. Would also help to get some coaching from an experienced driver to check your habits. However, even some brand new, well-tuned late-model cars can prove awkward to drive, as is sometimes found by the experts at Consumer Reports.

  12. S Dub says

    Marshall is an idiot – first, downshifting through all your gears will burn clutch at a much faster rate, since each time you engage or disengage the clutch you burn it slightly. Second, when the light changes and you’re coasting, is it really that hard to put the car in 2nd and continue? No. There’s no difference. Furthermore, if people have problems with you slowing down to a red light, that’s their problem – we’re not NYC cab drivers. If they want to accelerate to the red light, they can do it on their own time. Second, when you’re downshifting to stop, you’re using much more gas matching revs and driving at higher revs.

    As far as the starting on a hill, the parking BRAKE method is for amateurs – but a lot better than the “gas and break method” the author seems to be advocating… But anyways, the second method is sound. But to respond, first, holding your clutch pedal in does not “throw out a bearing” – there’s no bearing it’s a hydraulic system. Second, sitting in gear, with the clutch fully depressed with one foot and the brake with the other is the way to start on a hill. While holding the brake, start to release the clutch and when you feel it engaging release the foot brake and add gas as necessary – you generally won’t roll back, if you do it properly you won’t burn excessive clutch, and you won’t need to rely on an emergency brake which will burn your clutch JUST as much as your regular brakes will, it won’t work if your parking brake is not functioning, and you look like an amateur – keep your hands on the steering wheel where they belong.

  13. patrick says

    To everyone … thanks for the spirited conversation…

    I have never used to parking brake at all. I have never found it particularly useful. Clutch+Gas Pedal = 2 things to operate (1 per foot).

    Brake+Parking Brake+Clutch+Gas Pedal = way too many things to coordinate (especially as a beginner driver)

    Now If I am stopped at a red light yes I do use the brake and do not feather the clutch. But when navigating the hills of San Francisco. you are paused so briefly that using the parking brake is foolish.

    Plus, I can handle getting from the brake to the gas pretty easily, so the parking brake (when it works is of little value)

  14. Mark says

    Patrick, what i do is when im stopped at a light is wait to the light turns green, lift my clutch foot to where the clutch will hold me on the hill, and then gas it when i can go.. the MOSt i have my clutch engagned is 5-10 secs mostly 5 secs on normal lights. I do not see how this could hurt the clutch because mostly you are using idle engine and u are also holding the car on the hill with foot brake most of the time. I don’t see how this is any different than the hand brake, becuase with hand brake you gas it while engagin the clutch longer. HOW is that ANY different.

  15. patrick says

    @Mark — I agree. Engaging/disengaging the clutch for short periods of time shouldn’t do anything harmful.

    I never use the hand brake because I find that foot brake works fine. I use the clutching action when I am in a stop-and-go situation on a hill when the hand brake would be ridiculously complex as you point out

  16. irrinelay says

    god resource Continue also

  17. John says

    I’m a new driver so correct me if I’m wrong but I think shifting and the way you act on a hill is more like a personal preference of each driver. It’s your car, your clutch and your transmission isn’t it? Do whatever you are comfortable with as long as it’s not dangerous.

  18. patrick says

    @John — I agree. My post is really directed at overcoming the fear factor around hills and manual transmissions.

    If the driver is petrified about hills, chances are very good that they are not driving on hills.

    If an inexperienced driver can get from the clutch to the gas quick enough, they will avoid a stall but their passengers will get a jerk start and a little bit of loss of control. It is scary for the driver and the passengers.

    The technique I have talked about allows a driver to get comfortable with the hills and deal with them better.

    A more experienced driver can manage a smooth start because they know exactly how much to press down on the gas.

  19. Lindsay says

    I like the e-brake technique, but I drive a ’73 Camaro and the e-brake is foot operated. Now what? (E-mail responses, please. I won’t be back here.)

  20. Lindsay says

    [update editted by pat to avoid email spam crawlers] Lindsay.blaz (nearby) sbcglobal . net

  21. Zanele says

    Am still a learner driver am always stress when I approach step hill stop stop sign I master the procedure wen approaching the challenge will be proceeding my car will roll back the moment I take my foot to eccelerator pendal my dad always shout me for that then I penic more please help I need to master my step hill.

Continuing the Discussion

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