How to drive stick shift

driving stick shift easy

Doesn’t she look happy? Kim JUST learned to drive the Mazda MX 5 stick shift. Photo: Scotty Reiss

You learned years ago and for you, driving a stick shift is natural. Friends say enviously, ‘I wish I’d learned to drive a stick.’ But teaching someone to drive can be a harrowing, even friendship-breaking experience. Add in a manual transmission and forget it; you may never speak again.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. First, prepare yourself and your friend to learn to drive a stick–preparation is always the key, right?

Then, understanding the basics and a clear path forward, your friend is just a few minutes away from being a manual transmission driver.

First, read our 9 steps for preparing to learn to drive a stick shift.

Then, here is our guide to getting your friend up and gunning.

1. Learn to power the car with just the clutch

driving stick shift easy

Remember: Left foot operates the clutch (and only the clutch) and right foot is for braking and accelerating. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Have the driver start the car with the gear shift in neutral, right foot on the brake. Then, with her left foot on the clutch (all the way to the floor) and right foot on the brake, shift into first gear. Have her take her right foot off the brake and slowly let the clutch partially out and see how it moves the car.

5. Shift gears

Mazda3 shift recommendation

An indicator on the dashboard of the Mazda 3 shows when the car thinks you should shift gears, and recommends the next gear. Photo: Scotty Reiss

As the car gains speed, guide her to push in the clutch and pull the gear shift back into second gear, then ease off the clutch as she adds a bit more acceleration.

8. Learn to back up using clutch power

Many times backing up only requires slowly letting out the clutch. Let her get the feeling of backing up using the clutch; if she’s not moving fast enough, urge her to give it just a little gas.

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Some things to keep in mind:

After you’ve successfully mastered the parking lots at the local church and Town Hall, it’s time to head out on the road. But there are a few other things to keep in mind that will complete the lesson:

Hill Hold: Most newer cars have hill hold, so when putting the car into first gear and taking your foot off the brake on a hill, the car won’t roll back. Older cars may not have hill hold, and if the car she’s driving doesn’t, it’s worth practicing on a hill before heading out into traffic on hilly roads.

Downshifting to slow down: Once she gets skilled, you can teach her to use engine braking by downshifting, which adds to the fun of driving a stick.

When parking, put it in gear AND apply the hand brake: You don’t want to risk the car rolling away.

This is a lot to learn all at once. Don’t sweat it. Some of this will come intuitively for experienced drivers. Probably one reason why many people don’t learn to drive stick is that they attempt it before they have much driving experience at all, and it can be frustrating.

With patience, she’ll get it. And with practice, she’ll love it.

If you have any doubts at all, you can see how Kim Tate learned to drive the six speed Mazda MX5, which is an easy car to learn to drive a stick in, and she did it in 30 minutes.

Scotty Reiss Scotty Reiss

How to Drive Stick Shift

Before you learn how to drive stick shift, you should know some of the basics. Manual cars have 3 pedals in the driver seat. Off to the far left is the clutch, this will be used to shift gears and you will use your left foot for this pedal. Then you will see the common pedals, in the middle of all three is the brake and off to the far right is the gas, these two pedals will use your right foot.

You will also notice the gear shifter most likely found in between the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat. Manual cars can have up to six gears that you might have to shift from.

Step One:

To start off, you must make sure that your car is on neutral, your car is on neutral when the gear shifter is in the middle. To start the car, press your left foot all the way down on the clutch and turn the ignition on using the key. If you are certain that the car is in neutral you can release your foot off the clutch.

Step Two:

To start driving press your left foot all the way on the clutch and your right foot down on the brake.

Step Three:

Next, you should position the gear shifter into the first gear. The first gear is located on the top far left position.

Step Four:

Remove your right foot from the brake pedal. If the previous steps were done correctly, the car should move very little.

Step Five:

Begin to place less pressure on the clutch with ur left foot. As you are releasing pressure from the clutch, with your right foot begin to press on the gas pedal, slowly as well. It is important to note that the first gear will only go up to 15 mph, which is perfect when beginning to learn how to drive stick.

Step Six:

After you have slowly released the clutch, your right foot will solely be on the accelerator and you would be driving in first gear. From there you will be able to realize when you would need to have more speed.

Important to note:

Step Seven:

When you are ready to switch gears, take your right foot off the accelerator and begin to put your left foot on the clutch. While the car is rolling you will be able to switch gears. Then you can repeat step 5, but on a different gear. This step can continue to be repeated until you find the right speed.

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