How to Drive a Manual (Stick Shift) Transmission


It is surprising how few urban guys really know how to drive a stick shift… even the ones who drive one everyday. This is something that every man ought to know how to do, and do well. Why? It can provide better gas mileage, it may come in handy during an emergency situation, it is almost mandatory when traveling overseas (many foreign vehicles are manual), Jason Statham can do it, and the biggest reason… just about every car worth driving is likely to be some sort of manual.

Here are a few important points to mastering the manual transmission:

  • Never shift gears while driving over railroad tracks or a pothole– This is something that not everybody knows, but the jarring of a bump while changing gears can be very traumatic on a manual transmission. It is better to wait to change gears once the road is clear of debris.
  • Don’t hold yourself on a hill using the gas and clutch–  This is often used by a beginner who is afraid of rolling back when starting out on a hill from a standstill. However, it will burn up a clutch in no time if you do this often enough, and a burnt clutch is neither a good smelling or cheap part to replace. Remember, a clutch is happiest when it is either pressed all the way in, or all the way out. Learning to maneuver a hill with enough speed takes practice, but if you ever find yourself in this position as a newbee, here is what you do.
    • Apply your emergency/parking brake while you are waiting on the hill. This will give you a chance to maneuver the gears without worrying about rolling backwards. Once the car is in gear and the clutch is engaged, you will feel the car pulling forward. This is when you slip the parking brake off and the vehicle will be on its merry way. Whatever you do, don’t panic (especially if there is a sexy girl in the passenger seat).
  • Do not drive for extended periods with the clutch halfway out– As I said before, the clutch is happiest all the way in or all the way out. Sure, you will have to transition from this when you are starting from a standstill, but you want to make this transition as quickly as possible. It is common for the new manual driver to “ride the clutch” (keeping it partially pushed in to control the vehicle speed), but there are better ways to do this, such as, I don’t know, using the brake.
  • To save on brakes, shift down to slow your vehicle– To do this properly and with the least amount of jerkiness, it is a good idea to “rev match”. This simply refers to allowing the engine rpm’s to match the speed of the car before engaging the transmission. Instead of simply putting the clutch in and sliding the stick into the next lower gear, the driver is instructed to “blip” the gas pedal before letting the clutch out all the way. With the increased rpm of the engine with the blip, the engine will match the speed of the vehicle and gradually slow down as the rpm drops. Otherwise, the lower gear will force the engine to speed up to catch up with the lower gear and will cause the vehicle to lurch backwards.

Manuals transmission drivers are quickly becoming an extinct manimal, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the crowd. Do yourself a favor and learn how to drive one properly, and you may even like it better!