Learning to drive a stick shift isn’t easy for most people, but with time and practice it becomes second nature. These pointers will get you started in the right direction.
- Look at the floorboard; you’ll see three pedals. From left to right, they are: clutch, brake, and gas.
- Study the simple diagram on the top of the gearshift, which will show you where the gears are. In most new cars, this will look like a three-legged H. First, third and fifth gears are at the tops of the legs; second, fourth and reverse gears are at the bottoms. The crossbar of the H is neutral.
- Make sure the parking brake is engaged and the car is on a flat surface in an area where you have plenty of room.
- Press down on the clutch pedal and then move the gearshift into the neutral position.
- Start the car.
- Keeping the clutch pedal down, put the car into first gear by moving the gearshift to the top-left position.
- Apply the foot brake and release the parking brake.
- Release the foot brake when you’re ready to start moving.
- Begin to release the clutch pedal slowly; when you hear or feel the engine begin to slow down, slowly press down on the gas pedal as you continue to release the clutch. The car will start to move forward.
- Accelerate until the car has reached about 3,000 rpm, then take your foot off the gas, press down on the clutch pedal, and pull the gearshift directly down through neutral to second gear. Be sure to pull the gearshift down until it can’t go any farther.
- Release the clutch pedal gently, simultaneously pressing down gently on the gas pedal.
- Repeat the shifting process each time you hit 3,000 rpm until you’re driving at the appropriate speed. (Third gear is up and to the right; fourth gear is all the way down from there; fifth gear is up to neutral, right and then up again.)
- Downshift by releasing the gas pedal when you want to decrease your speed. Press down on the clutch and move the gearshift through neutral into the next-lower gear (move down only 1 gear at a time). Once you’re in the lower gear, release the clutch slowly and brake as you do so.
- Stop the car by downshifting to second gear and applying the brakes. Apply the clutch just before the car stops. Don’t downshift into first.
- Drive in reverse by following the same steps you would for starting in first gear. The reverse gear engages more quickly than first gear, however, so be sure to release the clutch slowly and begin to press the gas pedal as soon as the car begins to move.
Avoid coasting with the clutch all the way down (called “riding the clutch”), as this will cause needless wear and tear on the clutch. When stopped at a traffic light, put the gearshift into the neutral position and release the clutch rather than sitting with the clutch engaged. You’ll know you’re in the right gear for your speed if the engine is running smoothly. If it’s coughing and sputtering, shift to a lower gear. If the engine noise pitch is too high, shift to a higher gear.
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