All-Terrain VehiclesAuto Buying & SellingAuto RepairAutomotive IndustryCampers & MotorhomesCarsCommercial VehiclesMotorcycles & ScootersSafe DrivingTrucks, SUVs, & Vans

Easiest Way to Learn to Drive a Manual Transmission or Stick Shift Car

Updated on March 21, 2017
Eric Jian profile image

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

Seven Steps to Get You Into First Gear
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 rpms.
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. | Source

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.

Start the Car in Neutral

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.

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.

Shift Into First Gear

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.

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!

Release the Emergency Brake

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.

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 and Give the Engine Some Gas

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.

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 rpms. 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.

Shifting Into Higher Gears

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, 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.

Shift Up When the Engine Reaches 2500 RPM

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.

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!

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Heather Jackson 12 days ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Logan 3 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      Gendi John 5 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      Melinda Roth 2 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Povas 3 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Nightwatcher 3 months ago

      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).

    • profile image

      Aya 4 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Weng 4 months ago

      Very informative. Cant wait to apply your techniques!

    • profile image

      johnstone ochieng 4 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Katherine Davies 9 months ago

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

    • profile image

      teree 9 months ago

      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...

    • profile image

      S N Tiwary 9 months ago

      good

    • profile image

      ROYD MAKALLU 10 months ago

      Please explain about down shifting

    • profile image

      Lhakpa 11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      James 11 months ago

      Thank you for sharing this helpful tips.

      ill try it out later. :)

    • profile image

      Lisa n NC 13 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Anil Kumar 13 months ago

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

    • profile image

      boy george 14 months ago

      i just learn to drive a car man¡¡¡¡

    • profile image

      Tory 14 months ago

      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 :(

    • profile image

      Ben 16 months ago

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

    • profile image

      IBRAHIM ADE 21 months ago

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

    • profile image

      richy 21 months ago

      I need to learn fast how to drive manual cars

    • profile image

      rajneel 22 months ago

      I am learning the manual car

    • profile image

      Charlez Nicholas 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      timothympanga@gmail.com 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      mercy kate 2 years ago

      Thank for sharing your knowledge. Have fun

    • profile image

      sase 2 years ago

      Can you explain the down shiting part as well?

    • profile image

      David Osango 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      slim. 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      sandeep suman dehradun. 2 years ago

      It is very educative for the beginers.

    • profile image

      mithilesh sao 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      salman 2 years ago

      i have benefitted thank you so much

    • profile image

      vicky 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Very well 2 years ago

      Guluk

      thanks

    • profile image

      Soko Edmond 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Adam 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      metsi 2 years ago

      very helpful! thanx

    • profile image

      krish 2 years ago

      super

    • profile image

      baga 2 years ago

      Its very good for beginners

    • profile image

      suvarna 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      lastimosogarrylyn@yahoo.com 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Banks l 3 years ago

      does realising the clutch make all sorts of vehicles move

    • profile image

      zack 3 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      tswene 3 years ago

      i want to have bus liecese how do i start

    • profile image

      funmi( Nigerian) 3 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Zee 3 years ago

      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 :)

    • profile image

      jagadish patil 3 years ago

      Thank you so much. It helps me a lot.

    • profile image

      dre 3 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      funke 3 years ago

      Thanks...helpful

    • profile image

      dhipak 3 years ago

      Thanks for guiding me.

    • profile image

      Vera 3 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Gy 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      summer 3 years ago

      me to it's amazing

    • profile image

      #selfie 3 years ago

      How do you take a selfie?

    • profile image

      Borat 3 years ago

      i play clash of clans?

    • profile image

      Alex 3 years ago

      Do any of use play clash of clans???

    • profile image

      phil 3 years ago

      manuals are easy to drive

    • profile image

      Ninabella21 3 years ago

      This was helpful even tho I been practing 1st and 2nd also reversing in my friends car its not as hard as I thought it would be

    • profile image

      Alex 3 years ago

      Talk about reversing tips of a manual transmission

    • profile image

      gloria olaniyi ebilene 3 years ago

      tanx 4 sharing ur experience wit us.. I wil try it out.

    • profile image

      tin tin 3 years ago

      I have a problem on starting the car moving a reversing the car can u teach me the reverse trick

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Wow I really tried this today and it was really awesome.I drove it real good.whew!!!!

    • profile image

      Keith 3 years ago

      When I'm trying to teach someone who is familiar with an auto car, I will explain that once they have the clutch at the friction point, it's basically the same as when you're in an auto and take your foot off the brake (it'll move itself forward slowly) it actually helps quite a bit.

    • AvineshP profile image

      Avinesh Prahladi 3 years ago from Chandigarh

      I personally like cars with manual transmission. It's more fun than the automatic ones.

      Thanks for the helpful tips for all those who find it difficult to drive cars with manual transmission.

    • profile image

      Adekunle Niyi 3 years ago

      Feels so relax and confidence and good to go for a ride

    • profile image

      dekitshomo 3 years ago

      thanks for sharing your knowledge to all of us la

    • profile image

      nina 3 years ago

      thank you so much for these tips;u made it a lot easier, i just want to ask if releasing the clutch alone can help the car move up in a hill?

    • profile image

      mrwubzhd 3 years ago

      @john trollstien: "[I] just bought my [Lamborghini] 4 cylinder and its auto so i [don't] need this" This person is just an idiot who needs to get a life. Also, i bet he doesn't own a Lamborghini, because if he did then her wouldn't have the need to comment on a how-to-manual for his automatic car. Also if you buy an exotic car and get the transmission in automatic, rather then manual or dual-clutch, then you are only getting 13 mpg and why buy an exotic car and get it in automatic. that's like going to a wafflehouse/ihop and asking for a salad.

    • truckdriversafety profile image

      Clara Voz 4 years ago from Osaka, Japan

      Very useful.. This is an important topic for all users. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      sri 4 years ago

      loved your detailed narrative!does releasing the clutch alone get the car moving up a hill as well?how forceful is it?thanks

    • profile image

      john trollstien 4 years ago

      i just bought my lamborgina 4 cylinder and its auto so i don't need this

    • profile image

      angela 4 years ago

      I just started my first manual transmission drive today, thanks to my husband who insisted that i must learn how to drive a manual car as Ive been driving automatic cars for years. I stalled the car a couple of times but generally I'll say it wasn't as hard as i thought. Am sure Ill perfect it with more practice. Thanks for the manual, it really helped me.

    Click to Rate This Article