Easiest Way to Learn to Drive a Manual Transmission or Stick Shift Car - AxleAddict - A community of car lovers, enthusiasts, and mechanics sharing our auto advice
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Easiest Way to Learn to Drive a Manual Transmission or Stick Shift Car

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Eric learned to drive a manual transmission when he bought a 2012 Mustang GT. He stalled over and over until coming up with this technique.

The easiest way to drive a manual, or stick shift, car, from starting the engine to shifting gears without stalling.

The easiest way to drive a manual, or stick shift, car, from starting the engine to shifting gears without stalling.

Hey guys! I am here today to teach you the easiest way to drive a manual transmission car (also known as a stick shift or "standard" transmission). After studying this detailed guide, you will be able to start the car, get it moving, and then upshift into higher gears with ease.

Don't be disappointed if you don't get it at first. It took me a while to get used to a stick shift, but it was well worth it! Keep practicing and practicing and you will get it! Have fun!

At the end, I have included some common questions about driving a stick shift and some basic tips on how to drive an automatic transmission car as well.

How to Drive a Manual or Stick Shift Car for Beginners

  1. Find a flat, paved place with no one around where you can practice.
  2. Get to know where the gears are with the engine off.
  3. Push in the clutch and start the engine.
  4. With the clutch still in, move the stick to first gear.
  5. Slowly release the clutch until the car starts to roll a little.
  6. With your left foot still on the clutch, give the car a little gas with your right foot until the tachometer reads 1000 or 2000 rpm.
  7. When you feel the gear engage, release the clutch with your right foot still on the gas. With just the right amount of gas, your car will begin to move forward.

My Experience Learning How to Drive a Stick Shift

I had always wanted to drive a stick shift because it seemed very fun and cool. When I got my 2012 Mustang GT with a manual transmission, I was so excited about driving it. I looked up some guides on how to drive a manual car and didn't think it was going to be difficult to learn. How wrong I was. My 412-horsepower and 390-torque Coyote engine was a difficult car to drive. I stalled it left and right.

My problem may have been that all the guides I looked at on the internet were telling me to "slowly roll off the clutch." I was doing just that, but the ride was still jerky. Eventually I learned that you don't need to step on the gas to get the car moving. Depending on the speed at which the engine idles—that is, the speed it runs at when you're not pushing on the gas pedal—just releasing the clutch some will move the car to an extent.

I played with the clutch and got a feel for the friction point or biting point; that is, the point where the car is rolling, but the clutch is asking you to add more gas. At this point, you feel a little resistance, a little vibration from the clutch pedal; the car is asking for enough gas so that it can run when the clutch is fully out.

After incorporating what I had learned with this new-found technique, my first start was the smoothest one yet. I wished that someone had told me this tip earlier, instead of me wasting two days trying to "roll off the clutch."

Adjust Your Mirrors

Adjust your side and rear-view mirrors so you can see what's behind you and to the side. Make sure you are in a secluded area and that you have enough space in front of you so you can move at different speeds without running into something.

Adjust your side and rear-view mirrors so you can see what's behind you and to the side. Make sure you are in a secluded area and that you have enough space in front of you so you can move at different speeds without running into something.

Get to Know Where the Gears Are

With the engine off, move the stick around. All gear arrangements are in an "H" shape, but the location of reverse varies. On this stick, reverse is to the right and down. On other stick shifts reverse is to the left and up.

With the engine off, move the stick around. All gear arrangements are in an "H" shape, but the location of reverse varies. On this stick, reverse is to the right and down. On other stick shifts reverse is to the left and up.

Know the Pedals

The far left is not a pedal, it's a resting place for your foot while driving. The clutch pedal is second from the left. The brake is next and the gas is on the far right.

The far left is not a pedal, it's a resting place for your foot while driving. The clutch pedal is second from the left. The brake is next and the gas is on the far right.

To start the car you must be in neutral (the horizontal part of the "H") and have the clutch pressed in all the way. To be sure you are in neutral, wiggle the stick back and forth.

To start the car you must be in neutral (the horizontal part of the "H") and have the clutch pressed in all the way. To be sure you are in neutral, wiggle the stick back and forth.

Start the Car in Neutral

To start the car, push the clutch in all the way in, hold it down, and turn the key.

Make sure the car is in neutral before releasing the clutch. The neutral slot is the empty space between the gears, represented by the bar in the middle of the "H." To see if you are in neutral, wiggle the stick gently to see if you can move it left and right. If you can, you are in neutral.

Now you are just sitting there with the engine running, doing nothing and going nowhere, which is just fine for this first step.

Press the clutch in all the way and move the gear shift into first gear. Usually this is to the left and up away from you.

Press the clutch in all the way and move the gear shift into first gear. Usually this is to the left and up away from you.

Shift Into First Gear

Now push the clutch in all the way, and put the car into first gear using the gear stick. You'll usually find first gear by pushing the stick left and then away from you.

Keep the clutch in or you will stall the car! But don't worry: You will stall trying to shift into gear, but with time you will get it!

Some cars have a push-button emergency, or parking, brake control (as above). Many others have a lever with release button at the end.

Some cars have a push-button emergency, or parking, brake control (as above). Many others have a lever with release button at the end.

Release the Emergency Brake

Now that the car is running, make sure your emergency brake (handbrake) is off. Since you are on flat ground, the car won't roll anywhere while you are figuring out what to do.

You will stall trying to shift into gear, but with time, you will get it!

Release the clutch until you feel the car start to roll a bit. Press down on the gas until the needle on your tachometer is between 1000 and 2000 rpm.

Release the clutch until you feel the car start to roll a bit. Press down on the gas until the needle on your tachometer is between 1000 and 2000 rpm.

Release the Clutch and Give the Engine Some Gas

Once you are in first gear, slowly release the clutch until you feel the car just start moving.

This is the tricky part! Get a feel for this biting point (when the car starts to shudder a bit) because it will make learning to drive manual a lot easier. Practice until you can get to the point quickly.

Begin to slowly add some gas by pushing down the gas pedal a little bit. Give it enough gas to move the tachometer needle to like "1" or "2," that is, 1000 to 2000 rpm. If you give too little gas, the car will stall. If you give too much, you begin to burn the clutch, which is no big deal for a beginner, but over time can wear out the clutch.

Release the Clutch After Gears Engage

Now that you are giving the car a little bit of gas, don't release the clutch fully just yet. Release it when you can feel the gears engage. This will feel like a vibration you can sense through the sole of your foot. Once you get to that point, you can release the clutch, and drive around without using the clutch, just as you would in an automatic transmission car.

Congratulations! You have started a manual car! I found this technique of looking for the biting point made it easier for me to learn manual. Once I came across this method, I learned how to drive very quickly! I believe this is truly the easiest way to drive a manual car.

I Stalled the Car! Now What?

Don't worry. The car is fine, you didn't hurt it. Just push the clutch back in and turn the key, and that will start the car back up. Make sure the car is in neutral, and go through the steps again. Whenever you feel like the car is going to stall, you can just push the clutch back in.

Video on How to Drive a Manual Car

This video shows you the parts of the car you need to know, including how you let out the clutch pedal and push in the gas pedal.

To shift from first to second, press in on the clutch and pull the gear shift down (towards you). To shift up to third gear, press in on the clutch and move the gear shift up and to the right.

To shift from first to second, press in on the clutch and pull the gear shift down (towards you). To shift up to third gear, press in on the clutch and move the gear shift up and to the right.

Shifting Into Higher Gears

Shifting, in my opinion, is a lot easier than starting to move the car. Look at the "H" pattern on the gearshift knob to learn the different gears. You shift from 1, to 2, to 3, to 4, to 5, and then to 6, if you have a sixth gear.

How do you shift into the higher gears? It is pretty much the same procedure as starting the car up, except much easier.

Let's say you are in first gear going into second. Follow these procedures.

  1. Put the clutch in, and then move the stick to second. On most cars, to go from first to second, you pull the stick towards you, that is, down to the bottom leg of the "H."
  2. Slowly release the clutch to the biting point, and then add a little bit of gas.
  3. Let the clutch all the way out and continue driving around.

Going from second to third and then fourth gear is the same process, and even easier. In order to make a totally smooth shift, you have to balance the gas and the clutch very well. Don't worry, this comes with practice.

To shift from first to second and then into higher gears, watch your tachometer. When the neele reads 2500 or 3000 rpms, your engine is ready for you to shift into higher gear.

To shift from first to second and then into higher gears, watch your tachometer. When the neele reads 2500 or 3000 rpms, your engine is ready for you to shift into higher gear.

Shift Up When the Engine Reaches 2500 RPM

How do you know when to shift? You can either look at the rpms or the speed you are going. You should usually shift at 2500 to 3000 rpms.

The speed to shift gears varies with the car you are driving, so look at the instruction manual to determine the speeds. The speed for each gear isn't as important for upshifting as it is for downshifting.

Eventually you will be able to tell when to shift by the way the engine sounds and feels.

Common Questions About Driving a Stick Shift or Manual

How Do I Start a Manual Car?

  1. To start the engine, you must be in neutral gear. This is the horizontal bar of the "H" that's between all the gears. Wiggle the gear shift back and forth to be sure you are in neutral.
  2. Make sure the emergency, or parking, brake is on.
  3. Note that some cars will not start in neutral unless the clutch (the left pedal) is pressed in all the way.
  4. Turn your key in the ignition.
  5. You've started the car!

How Do I Drive a Stick Shift Car?

  1. After starting the engine, keep the clutch pressed in all the way.
  2. Move the gear shift into first gear, to the left and away from you.
  3. Release the emergency, or parking, brake.
  4. Slowly ease off of the clutch and give the engine a little gas. Watch the needle on your tachometer. You can completely release the clutch when the needle is between 1,000 and 2,000 rpm.
  5. Drive forward in first gear.
  6. If you stall, just put the emergency brake on, press in the clutch, put the gear in neutral, and restart the engine.

I Stalled the Car! Now What?!

Calm down. The car is fine, you didn't hurt it. Just push the clutch back in and turn the key, and that will start the car back up. Make sure the car is in neutral, and go through the steps again.

So why did you stall? You put the car into first gear, but you didn't give the car enough gas to move. It wanted to move, but there wasn't enough gas, so it stalled. Whenever you feel like the car is going to stall, you can just push the clutch back in.

How Do I Stop a Manual Car?

  • You don't need to press in the clutch every time you press the brake to slow down. But when coming to a full stop at a stop sign or traffic signal, press in on the clutch when you are almost to a full stop and shift into neutral, or you will stall the car.

How Do I Put a Manual Car in Reverse?

  1. From a full stop, press the clutch in all the way and move the gear shift into reverse (just as you would when shifting into any other gear).
  2. Look behind you and use your mirrors before giving the engine a little gas.
  3. Ease off on the clutch when you feel the reverse gear engage.
  4. Continue to look behind you and use your mirrors while moving in reverse.

Why Drive Manual?

So what are the benefits of driving a manual transmission?

  1. Because you control the gear changes yourself, the car can run more economically and efficiently in manual than in automatic.
  2. Because you control the gear changes yourself, you can accelerate faster than in an automatic, and change gears whenever you want to.
  3. Driving manual or stick-shift will be somewhat difficult at first, but within a week or two of following this guide and practicing, it will become second nature.

Driving an Automatic Transmission

The silver pad on the left of this automatic transmission car is where you can rest your left foot. The brake is in the middle and the accelerator or gas pedal is on the far right.

The silver pad on the left of this automatic transmission car is where you can rest your left foot. The brake is in the middle and the accelerator or gas pedal is on the far right.

Basic Steps to Driving an Automatic Transmission Car

Eight Steps to Get You Moving

1. Find a flat, paved place with no one around so you can practice.

2. Adjust your mirrors so you can see behind and to the side of your car.

3. Familiarize yourself with the pedals: brake on the left, gas on the right.

4. With the car in park and the emergency brake on, turn the key to start the engine.

5. With your foot on the brake, release the emergency brake.

6. With your foot still on the brake, put the car in drive.

7. Lift your foot off the brake and slowly press down on the gas pedal.

8. Practice gently pressing the brake. At first you will press too hard and the car will jerk to a stop. With practice, stopping and starting will be smoother.

Let Me Know How it Goes!

These are my techniques for learning how to drive a manual and (much easier but less fun) an automatic transmission car. Leave a comment below with a question or comment!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

Rogers mukisa on August 31, 2020:

Very easy to understand

I now drive my car

Thanks

Yvie on August 25, 2020:

Dude. Yesh. Danke.

Mamie Honorine on August 17, 2020:

Thanks a lot it's so helpful, I'm a learner driving ,you really help

Oluwagbemi A.A on August 17, 2020:

thank you so much for the teaching.

Johnson mercy on August 07, 2020:

thank u very much my driver god bless u

Jimmy on August 06, 2020:

Thanks so much and I have really appreciated you

kayongo paul on July 30, 2020:

I Have Run How To Operate And Drive Acar

Gift Mkumba on April 22, 2020:

Add Your Comment

helpful lessons

mayamba.charles@yahoo.com on April 11, 2020:

Thanks a lot,you explained everything very well. I salute you and we need honest people like you.so now am very confident to start

.

dfthf on March 03, 2020:

it was helpful as a 98 year old

charles on February 26, 2020:

thank you for your time to teach us

Henry on February 04, 2020:

best teacher .thx u

Mimi on January 27, 2020:

I’m a learner and this is so cool

Thank you so much

Very helpful

Huwaina on January 15, 2020:

Thank you so much for the tips! I'm more at ease with your help and hope my instructor would minimise his screaming for my next class

emmanuel on January 15, 2020:

Thanks am so grateful

Oliver on December 15, 2019:

Look man, I can't wait to thank you a lot. Right now I am sitting in my dad's car ready to move it without his concern. Lol. It is fun knowing this from you. Thanks a lot

Rose king on November 28, 2019:

Well as a 14 year old its way easyer than I thought

victor on November 28, 2019:

thank you , very helpful

Saba Kanwal on November 18, 2019:

Very helpful

Charlyne.Talvat on October 31, 2019:

Simple instruction and understandable .

Thanks Man

beth on October 27, 2019:

thank you!

duulimartinibrahimdmisbar@gmail.com on August 27, 2019:

Thank you

edward on August 13, 2019:

thats is the best way

Deo koma on July 28, 2019:

Very helpful indeed

Kea on July 25, 2019:

I'm so thankful for this.

Cheryl kirkpatrick on July 14, 2019:

I screen shot all the steps and am already understanding it...thank you for your time...appreciated...

ikechukwu emmanuel on July 04, 2019:

this is very nice

LASTON MBALE on July 03, 2019:

These are the people we need who are not just depleting Oxygen but appreciate nature by return the purpose of there existence.

To those who are behind them

Above all this peace of teaching has been a delicious meal to my hungry soul

Good luck!

Best Regards

LASTON

Tiroclement@gmail.com on May 10, 2019:

How can I learn to drive

Kiyelo Michael on April 26, 2019:

a very great piece of instruction!

Derrick Mutuma on April 26, 2019:

I recommend as it is a nice teaching as even for the beginners it is a nice process and easy procedure to follow. Congrats.

Noe Munoz on March 31, 2019:

You explain this the way my dad taught me. And after I learned I realized that is the hardest way to learn. Perhaps on your car is works because all cars are different but I wouldn't recommend it for a low torque engine. In my cars as long as your at 2k before taking off the clutch the car won't stall. I even tried to stall on purpose and had a very hard time stalling. Again, not saying your way of teaching is bad. Just that it is specific for certain types of cars.

Moses on March 06, 2019:

wow,this is good

well explained.am sure i will learn soon.thanks

Alain bangila on February 24, 2019:

Add Your Comment..thank you so much

Tash on February 08, 2019:

Thank you so much, my driving instructor didn't explain even half of any of this and continued to get frustrated when I still, somehow, surprisingly, didn't get it, thank you thank you thank you

Akpan on February 07, 2019:

Thanks for this detailed instruction on how to drive a manual car. I find it very useful. God bless you.

muyoomavincent on February 03, 2019:

it is a well explained way on how to drive a manual car. I just learned like that as u have explained without anyone teaching me. Thanks man.

Claire on January 23, 2019:

Honestly, just spend the $350 and get a lesson. With the right instructor you will walk away in much better shape than you would spending a ton of time working through this post. Also, you don't want to be driving the "wrong" way in your own car. I took a class and actually learned in 3hrs (hills & street). If you're in the Bay Area, check our shiftbayarea.com and see what it's about, and if not, just google and I'm sure you'll find something in your local area. Just make sure they're legit.

jandy joe. on November 27, 2018:

...thank u so much for this compendium of driving techniques.I really appreciate it.

TeamKondja on October 18, 2018:

This was just a great lesson

GuysWithRides on August 21, 2018:

Hi! Thanks for sharing our video.

Cheryl on August 12, 2018:

This was a great learning tool well explained with great pictures. Thank you

Des Johnson on August 01, 2018:

learning to drive is important ,think your father has had a heart attack

and you heed to take him to hospital and the only car in the driveway

is a manual ,and have to get him to hospital if you can drive a manual

you may just save his life...........i teach people how to drive in western

australia.

Michelle on November 25, 2017:

Thank you

Theana on September 29, 2017:

Hey I've been reading through comments and one thing was left out. If you are doing a hill start you need to ease out the clutch and take the handbrake off simotaneously so that you don't roll the car . Because as soon as the hand brake is off , the car will move if it isn't on flat ground . Hope that's helpful .

WheelScene from U.S.A. on September 19, 2017:

This article is a good start but based on the feedback there is more to be discussed when learning to drive manual. The good thing about manual is it is like riding a bike, once you know how to do it you will know for life!

Heather Jackson on July 14, 2017:

This is NOT for a manual transmission. At least not in America. This is for automatic. There is no "Park" in a manual. And there's 3 petals. I tell all the girls; just remember WTF. Starting from your left to write. W being your clutch. T being your brake. And F being the gas. When you are learning how to use a clutch you will probably say this phrase multiple times. And also: you will not always use your emergency brake in an automatic unless you find a steep incline or decline that you know your brakes and transmission will not like. Thanks for nothing.

Logan on July 02, 2017:

How do you get a car to a secluded area if you can't drive it?

Gendi John on June 19, 2017:

How do I slow down vehicle when at the high gear and speed?

Melinda Roth on May 17, 2017:

Thanks for the very helpful introduction. I've always driven a automatic. I'm buying a manual in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to trying it out. I know I will stall a couple of times but I know I will get the hang of it with practice.

Povas on April 18, 2017:

Good explanation with your efforts and time.....

Nightwatcher on April 13, 2017:

The car does not have to be in neutral to start. I used to leave mine in first in case the parking brake failed (which does happen).

Aya on March 20, 2017:

I am so depressed thinking I would never be able to drive a manual but this at least have put things in order to start practicing

Weng on March 15, 2017:

Very informative. Cant wait to apply your techniques!

johnstone ochieng on March 11, 2017:

that is a clear instruction. i like it, i finished my driving school just recently, i need a strong guidance on how to get experience

Katherine Davies on October 24, 2016:

One of the best articles written on how to drive a manual car but who did write this article thank you!

teree on October 16, 2016:

That's full of instruction and i am very pleased to see your step-by-steps in details. I have just bought a new car, which is Honda CRV, and i am the very first time to use this car, so i need the right guide on how to drive this car.

thanks anyway

http://handi.tech/2018-honda-accord-specs-spy-shot...

S N Tiwary on October 09, 2016:

good

ROYD MAKALLU on September 16, 2016:

Please explain about down shifting

Lhakpa on August 09, 2016:

Thank you for your manual driving guide. I have just look for trial of manual driving. If I get enough money I would like to purchase a brand new car in the coming months.

James on August 04, 2016:

Thank you for sharing this helpful tips.

ill try it out later. :)

Lisa n NC on July 01, 2016:

Had a few lessons 33 yrs ago in apt parking lot. No success. Last year yet a few more lessons in parking lot down the street. Another no go. Very frustrating. Our 5 speed toyota tundra remains a mere paper weight. Wil try again soon as our son gets his deivers license next week and will get my 14 yr old automatic. Hubby drives company vehicle. So we are down to the wire on my tackling this feat. No more transportation issues. Maybe find someone else besides husband to teach me might help. We will see.

Anil Kumar on June 15, 2016:

Thank you.. As a bigginer I read it very carefully. I expect i will be good help to me. Thank you very much.

boy george on June 01, 2016:

i just learn to drive a car man¡¡¡¡

Tory on May 28, 2016:

Hi, I know this post is older and maybe no one will see this, but pressing the clutch doesn't really do anything on a hill. I've been trying to learn and I always just roll backwards, even while pressing in the clutch. It's a scary experience :(

Ben on March 31, 2016:

Stalling is really embarassing, so i will try this and hopefully get used to it in soonest time. Thanks for this guide :)

IBRAHIM ADE on October 31, 2015:

DRIVING MANUAL IS FUN AND INTERESTING. INFACT I LIKE MANUAL THAN AUTOMATIC. THANKS.

richy on October 18, 2015:

I need to learn fast how to drive manual cars

rajneel on September 29, 2015:

I am learning the manual car

Charlez Nicholas on July 16, 2015:

you have the skills of teaching a person how to drive a car even just telling without yourself entering inside, you are number one...

timothympanga@gmail.com on July 08, 2015:

we have one kept at home I will try it with your lessons thanks daki

mercy kate on May 27, 2015:

Thank for sharing your knowledge. Have fun

sase on April 13, 2015:

Can you explain the down shiting part as well?

David Osango on March 27, 2015:

Owsome! Its of great help. Now some one can procede....reverse!

slim. on March 23, 2015:

tnx, so so much dis lesson indeed is a proffesional 1.......kodos 2 u..........u bam.

sandeep suman dehradun. on March 17, 2015:

It is very educative for the beginers.

mithilesh sao on March 01, 2015:

Thanks for giving us a small And easy lesson for driving a manual transmission car

salman on February 15, 2015:

i have benefitted thank you so much

vicky on January 28, 2015:

I have come to start enjoying manual cars its full of fun!!!!

Very well on December 05, 2014:

Guluk

thanks

Soko Edmond on November 02, 2014:

You are owesome. Just got me on road. ...

Adam on September 23, 2014:

Thank you so much! Simple and easy to understand, very well explained.

metsi on September 23, 2014:

very helpful! thanx

krish on September 04, 2014:

super

baga on August 14, 2014:

Its very good for beginners

suvarna on July 31, 2014:

Thanks. Actually I tried the same technique. It's really useful.

lastimosogarrylyn@yahoo.com on July 27, 2014:

i want to know this because i want to drive in america tour........................................................................i wish i can do

Banks l on July 25, 2014:

does realising the clutch make all sorts of vehicles move

zack on July 19, 2014:

Thanks for the tips I'm going to Germany soon to visit family and my uncle is going to teach me stick but I want to familiarize myself with this info first so I can make it easier on him since I might stall every 10 seconds

tswene on July 15, 2014:

i want to have bus liecese how do i start

funmi( Nigerian) on July 14, 2014:

Tanks for the tips,was trying to drive a manual transmission car yesterday but it was a little bit difficult but interesting,really find it more easier on ur tips.really appreciate,will give it a try again n again.Big tanks to u.

Zee on June 17, 2014:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This was explained very well -- simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. I have been trying and I was told to just let of the clutch while pushing in the gas. This method seems to make more sense :)

jagadish patil on June 14, 2014:

Thank you so much. It helps me a lot.

dre on June 13, 2014:

Finally. Someone else that realized the proper way for newbies to learn stick. Once a person learns the engagement point of the clutch, it's a piece of cake from there on. With big power cars, you simply hold the clutch at the engagement point a bit longer. That's all.

funke on May 24, 2014:

Thanks...helpful

dhipak on April 21, 2014:

Thanks for guiding me.

Vera on April 08, 2014:

hey i have some problem im a neophyte, i always think that my right side will bump, my peripheral vision is no good. what should i think about or do?

Gy on April 01, 2014:

Thanx a lot for the tips, it'll surely come handy

summer on March 30, 2014:

me to it's amazing

#selfie on March 30, 2014:

How do you take a selfie?