Colleges Aren't the Only Places That Offer Higher Education

Colleges Aren't the Only Places That Offer Higher Education

How To Learn To Confidently Drive A Car With A Manual Transmission

by Beth Bowman

Cars with manual transmissions, also known informally as "stick-shifts" or "standards," are somewhat rare in the United States. Only about three percent of cars sold in America are equipped with manual transmissions. However, knowing how to drive a stick-shift is still a useful skill. For example, you never know when you may be forced to drive a manual transmission-equipped car, such as when traveling overseas where they are vastly more common.

On top of that, knowing how to drive a car with a manual transmission makes the driving process more enjoyable for many people, and some would argue it even makes it safer since drivers are more engaged with the process of going from point A to point B. That is why knowing how to drive a car with a manual transmission is worth taking the time to learn. Below is more information about manual transmissions and how to operate a manually equipped vehicle.

How Manual Transmissions Operate

In a car with an automatic transmission, the function of shifting gears is completely handled by the transmission itself. Modern cars also utilize sophisticated electronics to fine-tune the operation of the transmission, making the driving process much less involved.

However, manual transmissions permit the driver to control two parameters: when power is transferred from the engine to the wheels and what gear is used during the power transfer process. This is specifically accomplished by the use of a clutch pedal and gear shift knob.

Learning to Use a Manual Transmission

Many drivers are intimidated by the thought of using a manual transmission and are afraid of manipulating the clutch and gear shift. However, learning to drive a car with a manual transmission isn't inordinately difficult for most people; all it takes is a little practice and knowing a few hints to make the process easier. The tips below will ease your transition from a novice to an accomplished manual transmission driver.

Understand the Basic Shifting Cycle

No matter what type of car you drive, the basic shifting cycle is the same. Knowing the shifting cycle will prepare you mentally when you sit behind the wheel of any stick-shift.

The first step in the shift cycle is to depress the clutch pedal, which is always the far left pedal and is manipulated with the left foot. Be sure to depress the pedal all the way to the floor; failing to do so can cause premature clutch wear.

Next, with the clutch pedal still depressed, shift the knob to the desired gear. Most shift knobs have an embossed diagram that shows the gear pattern. Neutral, the gear where no power is being transferred to the wheels, is located in the middle of the gear "tree." Once you locate the neutral gear, you will notice it has a looser feel than the other gear engagements.

The third step in the shift cycle is to simultaneously apply accelerator pedal force while slowly releasing the clutch pedal. This will transfer engine power to the transmission and cause the vehicle to move.

Begin with the Engine Turned Off

A mistake made by many novice learners is to crank up the engine and begin their learning process in a running car. Instead, drivers should reduce other distractions and become proficient with the shift cycle first.

The entire shift cycle should be practiced repeatedly until foot and hand movements become coordinated and fluid. Once these movements become natural and automatic, the driver can apply their knowledge to a running vehicle.

Practice in a Distraction-Free Environment

After the shift cycle becomes second nature, novices should practice their manual transmission skills in a distraction-free environment. This will prevent the possibility of accidents and ease the minds of learners.

Good locations for learning include those that are completely flat and have little or no traffic. Be sure that you can see for extended distances and that there are no obstacles that can impede your driving or pose a striking risk.

Learn Advanced Techniques at an Appropriate Stage

The last step in becoming a manual transmission driving "expert" is to know how to start moving a vehicle on a slope, backing up, and downshifting. However, these advanced skills should be practiced only after the basic shifting cycle is ingrained and moving forward on a flat surface is no longer difficult.

For more information and help, consider contacting a driving school online, such as on websites like, that offers driving lessons specifically for manual transmission cars.   


About Me

Colleges Aren't the Only Places That Offer Higher Education

After I graduated from high school, I went straight to college, even though I was very unsure of what career field I wanted to enter. I completed my four years and earned a degree that helped me secure a job relatively quickly. However, I soon learned that the career I chose was unfulfilling for me, but the thought of going back to learn something new just seemed too overwhelming. I wanted to enter the field of healthcare, and one day I got a flyer in the mail from a local nursing school that offered certificate programs that only took a year to complete. I felt like it was "fate," and I was soon enrolled in evening classes. I really like helping others, so I want to help others make good educational decisions. I plan to post tips for people of all ages on my new education blog!