How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car: The Step-by-Step Guide

Driving a manual car is so easy practically the rest of the world does it. In America, manual transmissions aren’t too common, but in regions like the UK, nearly everyone knows how to drive a stick shift. Something that’s geared toward a mass populous can never be that difficult because everyone needs to be able to do it.

When driving a manual, just think: clutch + gear change + release clutch and return to gas. This article will cover all the details on how to drive a manual car, plus a few bonus tip to better understand how a manual transmission works.

To learn more about why you should drive a stick, check out our article: 20 Reasons We Should All Drive Manual Transmission Cars.

If you want to learn how to drive a manual but don’t have one around, check out the article: Rental Car Companies That Rent Manual Cars.

How to Start

Here’s the first step in how to drive a manual transmission car. First, make sure the emergency brake is engaged. The emergency brake should always be engaged while the car is parked (unless it’s left in gear and not on a steep hill). You can find this usually to the left or right of the center console or, on very rare occasions, the emergency brake will be a small pedal located near the clutch, brake and gas pedals. You need to make sure the emergency brake is engaged because the next step requires you to take the car out of gear if it is in gear. If the emergency brake is near the center console, up means it’s engaged. If the emergency brake is near the pedals, down means it’s engaged. If the brake isn’t on, the car could roll.

Now, make sure the car is out to gear. To do so, move the shifter from left to right. If it moves freely, it’s out of gear. If it doesn’t, pull the shifter forward or backward until the shifter wiggles freely from left to right. It’ll be obvious; don’t think about it too much. Then, depress the clutch fully to the floor (make sure you have your seat positioned so you can depress the clutch fully while sitting comfortably). Then start the engine just like you would on an automatic. (Depressing the clutch fully releases a safety switch that keeps you from starting the car while in gear.)

Release the clutch, relax for a second, and then get ready to depart.

How to Begin Driving

Release the emergency brake while pressing the brake pedal with your right foot. The car will now be held in place via the foot brake instead of the emergency brake. Now, fully depress the clutch with your left foot while keeping your right foot on the brake pedal. Put the shifter into first gear (the shift pattern is listed on the top of the knob). Slowly let your foot off the clutch. While doing so, remove your right foot from the brake pedal and begin pressing down lightly on the accelerator pedal. Just ease off the clutch as you ease on the accelerator. You will feel the car’s “bite point” as you slowly release the clutch — that’s the point when the clutch begins releasing the engine’s power to the wheels. The clutch will feel slightly heavier at that point. Once you hit that point, press the accelerator a little more. If you’re afraid of stalling, really give the car a lot of gas. It’s nearly impossible to stall when doing that. And you’re off!

Note: You don’t need to worry about accidentally putting the car into reverse while driving. All manual transmissions have a lockout which prevents the car from ever going into reverse while it is moving forward.

How to Shift Gears

The hardest part is over. Now that you’re moving in a manual transmission car, it’s really very simple. Basically, just shift into the next highest gear when your engine gets loud. There’s no need to watch the tachometer like a hawk. Your owner’s manual will tell you the optimum shift points but don’t worry about being perfect right now. To shift into the next gear and thus increase your speed, let off the accelerator pedal, depress the clutch fully to the floor, place the shifter into the next highest gear, release the clutch, and get back on the gas pedal. Repeat this process when moving through the other gears. Putting a manual through its gears is really as easy as clutch + gear change + release clutch and return to gas.

How to Slow Down

Let off the accelerator, and downshift using the same technique used when upshifting: clutch, gear, release clutch. Only when you shift down, do so when the engine gets too quiet. Use the brake pedal as necessary. Remember, the brake pedal can easily stop the car on its own. You really don’t need to downshift at all when you’re first learning to drive a stick. If you get flustered during this step, you can always pull the shifter into neutral and just brake like in an automatic car. But avoid doing this too often — technically, it’s illegal in most states to have your car moving while it’s in neutral. But it takes time to learn how to downshift well, so if you feel anxious, just place the transmission into neutral, use the foot brake, and compose yourself.

How to Stop

When you’ve decelerated to the point where you’ll need to stop the car soon, this is what you do: Depress the clutch fully and place the shifter into neutral. Apply the brake pedal until you reach a complete stop. Once you’ve stopped moving, hold the car steady with the brake pedal, just like in an automatic car. If you really want to stop fast, downshift while using the brake pedal. The emergency brake should only be used when parking.

Before Leaving Your Manual Car

Most people just pull the emergency brake handle and leave the car. But if you want to be 1,000% sure the car won’t roll away, you can leave the car in gear as well. Place it in reverse when you’re parking with the front of the car facing downhill. Leave the car in first gear when it’s facing uphill. As another precaution, you can also point your tires toward the curb when the car is facing downhill and away from the curb when the car is facing uphill. This keeps your car from rolling out into the street if for some strange reason it would want to move somewhere (like if the emergency brake failed or someone ran into your car). Most of this is unnecessary (unless you live in San Francisco), but having your car roll away would be pretty terrible.

Bonus Tips

There are lots of little tips for driving manual. Manual transmission tips are handy so you have the best learning experience possible.

  • First, practice in an open parking lot, if one is available. The fewer distractions, the better.
  • Next, if you ever panic and need to stop quickly, pull the car out of gear (use the clutch) and brake as you would in an automatic car.
  • Third, if you smell something strange, it’s probably your clutch burning. Never “ride” the clutch. Riding the clutch means you’re resting your foot on the clutch. Make sure you are only touching the clutch pedal when starting, shifting, and stopping.
  • Learn more about the inner workings of a manual transmission by reading this Wikipedia article. Knowing how a manual transmission works can give a lot more tips for driving manual.
  • Also, this really awesome video shows you five things to never do when driving a manual car:

In Summary

Congrats! Now you know how to drive a manual transmission car! The benefits of manual transmissions and endless. And most people get the hang of driving a manual in less than a day. Remember, years ago in America, everyone drove manuals. And even today many countries drive mostly manual transmission cars. So it is something you can easily learn.

In case you really enjoy driving, we wrote an article about how to apply to be a UPS delivery driver (knowing stick is required).

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  • Comment
    I appreciate your guidance nd I nw nw how to drive a car step by step nd the thing that confuses me is tht. U can hold brick while pressing clush? That my question

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Desmond,

      Yes, you can use the brake pedal whether the clutch is pressed in or not. When you press in the clutch, the car goes into neutral essentially which means you’ll need to apply more force than when the car is in gear and the engine slows the car down a little.

  • Besides the potential illegality of driving the vehicle while in neutral, is it okay for the car to be in neutral while slowing for a light or stop sign?

    My first car was a manual but I’ve been driving an automatic for about 5 or 6 years now, and I’m getting ready to switch back to manual.

    I think my trouble arises from the fact that I have a lead foot. I feel like by the time I fully engage first gear, its already time to shift to second. Can I start in second? (I know I CAN – but is it bad for the car if I do?)

    Also, since I tend to drive a bit fast, stop signs and stop lights are problematic. I’ve never really mastered downshifting. I usually just throw the car into neutral and brake as needed. If I have to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or red light, this doesn’t seem to be an issue. But what happens when I throw it into neutral for an upcoming light, but then the light changes so I have to throw it back in gear? I usually guess which gear I should be in and kind of feel out if its the right one (based on speed, how easily it wants to shift to that gear, etc.). Is this bad for the clutch/transmission?

    My first car was a 99 VW Passat, and we had lots of trouble with the clutch (though I loved the car itself and driving manual!). We had to replace the clutch 2 or 3 times before we traded it in around 2010, both times after I started driving it around 2005. So 2 or 3 clutches in 5 years roughly. Part of the trouble was that the clutch was supposedly hydraulic, so it couldn’t be adjusted it just had to be replaced. Usually my complaint was that the “bite point” kept working its way further and further up. It would start mid-way up, but then over time the gear wouldn’t engage until I was almost all the way off.

    Basically, I’m looking for insight on how to refine my technique so I don’t run into these problems again.

    I’m about to buy an 03 VW Beetle.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Ally,

      Shifting into neutral doesn’t harm anything. In fact, a lot of people do this instead of downshifting since brakes are cheaper to replace than transmissions/clutches (the transmission/clutch will have to do more work if constantly downshifting). You will though burn slightly more fuel doing this because shifting into neutral means the engine needs fuel to idle. If you just let off the gas pedal or downshift, you’re using the current energy of the engine to keep it running and it burns basically no fuel. But again – no biggie. And, as you mentioned, it is indeed illegal to have the car in neutral like this. Does anyone care? Probably not but it’s the whole idea of having your car in a harder to control state (you must put it back into gear if you need to suddenly speed up) that makes it illegal.

      Different cars have different gear ratios so it may just have been that your old car had a ‘short’ first gear and that’s why you were blowing through it so fast. But no, it’s not good to start in second. It’s hard on basically everything – even the engine.

      When it comes to timing shifts – listening to the engine works fine. But what I did was I looked in my car’s owner’s manual and looked up ‘shift points’. For my car, for maximum fuel economy, you’re supposed to shift at 15, 25, 40, 45. When I slow down and need to find another gear, I just think of where I should be in relation to the shift points. If I’ve slowed to 20, I need to be in 2nd gear. If I’ve slowed to 40, 4th gear, etc. It only takes a second to find out what speed for what gear. I highly recommend doing this.

      Sounds like the last car was its own fault – not yours. Though one thing you can do to help prolong the life of your drivetrain is to rev-match your downshifts (when you must down shift). Basically, when you slow down in traffic and then need to find a new gear, quickly rev the car while the clutch is depressed so that the engine revs are where they should be when you let out the clutch. Doing this, you’ll also avoid lurching the car. You don’t have to match the revs perfectly but giving a good rev before letting out the clutch will save wear as the engine and transmission will also be lined up.

      I think I answered everything but if you still have more questions, leave another comment!

      • Omg thank you so much for the response! You actually answered some other questions I had along the way. Especially since I tend towards a lead foot, I feel like I’m almost always in 4th gear, approaching 5th. But its always struck me funny that I would be in such a high gear so much of the time, with only one more gear left for when I really get going on the highway.

        I looked in the VW Beetle manual (I bought it) but haven’t found anything so far about what RPMs or Speeds I should be shifting at. Based on the sound of the engine, 3,000 RPMs seems to be the time. But again, I feel like I’m just blowing through 1st gear especially, and really second also.

        I’ve also been trying out engaging first gear without giving any gas (I’d never heard of that before!). Its actually pretty easy to do, but of course its a much slower start than gunning the engine as you engage first. If I’m starting from my driveway, or a stop sign or parking spot, its no big deal. But if I’m at a stop light, or in traffic.. it really just seems too slow.

        The thing is that we bought this car as an inexpensive stop-gap measure until my boyfriend graduates college (this is his last year!) and I’m just really afraid of blowing the clutch and having to put money into it. Cuz if we have to replace the clutch… its no longer inexpensive.

        I also had never heard before that when up-shifting you don’t (necessarily) need to give gas while you come off the clutch. I was always treating up-shifts just like shifting into first. So I’ve been practicing this. I find I have no trouble when shifting into 4th or 5th, but I tend to get a lurch when shifting to 2nd and 3rd. Does this mean I’m not shifting at the appropriate time? Either too early or too late? Again, I feel like I blow through 1st and 2nd gears REALLY quickly, so I’m thinking I probably just need to shift sooner? Or just get in the habit of speeding up more slowly (yeah, right).

        I really appreciate your article, and especially your responses.

        • William Lipovsky says:
          First Quarter Finance logostaff

          Hello again,

          A VW forum would help you determine when best to shift if shift points are not listed in the manual. There’s a sweet spot because either shifting too early or too late causes stress on components. Though really you should be fine just listening to the engine and making sure the drivetrain doesn’t groan which happens if you shift too early.
          About shifting without fuel, it’s best that whenever you’re lifting your foot off the clutch, you roughly match the engine speed with what it will be when you fully let your foot off the clutch. It’s that ‘rev matching’ that the drivetrain likes. The car should never be shocked at which RPM it will be in when you release. Lurching is no bueno.
          Gear rations are different with each car and since the Beetle has a small engine, gears won’t be that long. Blowing through the first ones quickly is probably par for the course. Any other questions, just fire away. Though your experience with this car will probably be just fine. Clutches are know to last 100k+ so a few thousand miles until you buy a different car likely isn’t going to affect much of anything – even if you were a terror on it.

  • Lisa Harper says:

    Have attempted to learn this feat since the early 80’s. Last lesson was about a yr ago. There is a huge church parking lot one block from my house and that is where my last lesson took place ;by husband). It lasted about an hour and I never could grasp all of the points. Using a clutch, brake, gas pedal and changing gears was very intimidating. Our 2009 Toyota Tundra has been (and remain) a huge paper weight in the driveway. Ironically, my job is a mere 6 blocks from home. So if I can ever learn al of this my drive to and from work would not be too scary. My oldest sister can drive a manual. Maybe I need to ask her to give me my next driving lesson. It really is intimidating.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      I’d do that. It’s usually easier to learn manual from someone who’s not as close to you. My brother learned to drive a manual from our dad and it didn’t go all that well. Or maybe you could do it alone. You can concentrate more and refer to the post as often as you need.

  • It is very sad to me that the manual transmission is dying out (at least here in the US). I for one have always enjoyed rowing through my own gears, but my wife is unwilling to learn. I can’t wait to get my son a stick shift car so that I can drive one again. It may sound selfish, but an automatic transmission isn’t as fun. Also, we can all agree that it is certainly nice to be able to hop in a vehicle and panic when you see three pedals.

  • I keep killing the engine any time I want to move. I am yet to develop the skill of taking your foot off the clutch while pressing on the accelerator to move the car. Can you help me with a simple way to go about it? Cos I always have to restart the car several times before I luckily get it to move. its so embarrassing. Please help!!!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi, Steve. No worries. Each clutch has what’s called a bite point. Practice finding where that bite point is. To find it, put the car in gear and slowly let up on the clutch. As soon as the car feels like it wants to go (the engine bogs down), that’s the bite point. For some cars, the pedal will still be very far pressed when you find it. On other cars, the bite point isn’t until the pedal is almost all the way up. Once you find the bite point, give the car gas at the same time. More fuel rather than less is good if you keep stalling it. A sure fire way never to stall it is to give it lots of gas. Just be prepared for the car to jerk a lot if you give it too much – but you will get moving on the first try. Feel the car and try not to think too much. Hope this helps! Reply back if any of this was confusing.

  • Carole Lingard says:

    I have just changed car from a ford fiesta to a vauxhall corsa and cannot get the hang of changing from 2nd to 3rd gear and vice versa. Is this because the gears are closer together in a corsa?

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Carole,

      I’m unable to find the exact throw length from one car to the other. But if the Corsa is newer, generally newer cars do have shorter throws. Are you having trouble going from 4-5 or vise versa? The throw length will be the same from 2-3 as 4-5. If only 2-3 is an issue, you may have a gear linkage problem. More info on repairing that on a Vauxhall can be found here: It’s not a very difficult or expensive job. And it’s worth mentioning that you should never try to force a gear. Try to keep it natural and sort of let the gear find you. Hope this helps! Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

  • Kyler Brown says:

    I’ve tried to drive manual transmissions before, but I’ve never been able to fully master the technique. I really appreciated this post, especially since I’m about to buy a manual transmission vehicle. My biggest concern is taking off from neutral, so I liked your emphasis on easing off the clutch as you ease on the accelerator. Hopefully I can figure it all out, but this certainly has helped!

  • Owen Camden says:

    I have always thought that driving a manual transmission car would be really confusing. However, over time it seems like something that you would get used to pretty fast. If I was going to learn how to drive a car with this kind of transmission I would really want to make sure that I had someone educated by my side.

  • Andre Beluchi says:

    When driving with a broken stick shift, how would you repair the issue? I myself have an issue with that because it’s something new to me. My guess is to maybe talk to my brother about taking the car to a mechanic and fix the stick.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Easy fixes could be cables or a clutch master cylinder or slave cylinder or even perhaps you’re just low on clutch fluid or the clutch is out of adjustment. Check those things first. If the problem lies with the transmission, take it to a mechanic or swap in a used transmission.

  • Lilly Sedrick says:

    It definitely seems like learning how to drive a car like this would take a lot of getting used to. I have never really driven anything like this before. However, I think that developing this type of skill is a really good idea. Learning this skill can definitely help you be more prepared in the future.

  • Rob Benton says:

    I agree that it’s important to follow proper procedures when drving a manual transmission vehicle. I think it’s not only safer, but it also protects the car from incurring damage. Transmission repair would then become necessary, and this type of repair can sometimes cost a bit.

  • I’m still getting the hang of driving a manual car. I’m really not used to this! As soon as I thought I was getting good with a manual transmission, my car went into the shop for a paint job that should have taken 1-2 weeks, and ended up taking 3 months. So now I’m basically re-learning this all over again.

  • Callie Marie says:

    My husband’s car has a manual stick shift and a clutch, but I have never driven it. He tried to teach me once, but I nearly broke the transmission. Maybe if I take it slow, and use an open parking lot, we can try again. Hopefully I won’t break anything!

  • Jake White says:

    I have never driven a manual transmission vehicle before, and I’m glad that I read this article. I am test driving one tomorrow, and I just want to make sure I know when and how to shift. It sounds fairly simple to do as long as I work the clutch right. Thanks for sharing, and hopefully this will help me learn.

  • Ian Johanson says:

    Thanks for the parking tips. I love driving a manual transmission car, but I did have a lot of trouble learning. First I thought I would kill the transmission because I struggled shifting. Second, I got in an accident because I didn’t know to put my car in gear when parking. Now I make sure all of my friends know to put the car in gear when parking. I just wish I had known sooner.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      To be extra safe: leave the car in gear (any gear), engage the emergency brake and park near a curb. If the parking spot is downhill, point your tires toward the curb. If your parking uphill, point your tires away from the curb. That car won’t go anywhere!

  • I don’t know if it was horrible timing or if I’m a horrible driver, but the clutch went out in my husband’s truck while he was training me on manual transmissions. I felt so bad! It kind of traumatized me from driving a manual for a while. But now I’m a pro. Unless we’re going up a hill… in which case, I make no promises that I won’t embarrass you by stalling at an uphill green light.

  • Ella Rich says:

    Great tips I must say…The manual transmission is on the endangered species list. Every year fewer and fewer cars are offered with a clutch and a shifter.
    Shifting a manual transmission is not only more engaging and fun than flicking some dainty little paddles, it also requires more skill and makes the driver a better one.

  • Correy Smith says:

    Oh hey, some of these tips are what I remember learning from my truck driver training course. Just yesterday my father had me enroll in one in order to work for his trucking company. I myself have always been accustomed to driving automatic vehicles so my father is wanting me try out driving manual vehicles.

  • Steven Harrison says:

    Although the topic of this was focused on manual driving, I appreciate the thorough article. You also included some things that will help any driver (like orienting tires when parking uphill or downhill). They’re good reminders to drive safe.

  • Sophia Devan says:

    Thanks for sharing the article.With a manual transmission you get the feel how the car really drives. Auto boxes take the fun out of the car and its real personality.

  • Raylin Sutter says:

    I just got a manual truck. It’s really old and going to need some brake repair before I actually drive it. I’m sort of nervous because I haven’t driven one of these too many times.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      The clutches on trucks seem to be much more forgiving than on cars. So don’t worry!

  • jamesrod214 says:

    Honestly, I’ve never learned to drive a manual transmission car. I’ve heard stories of how manual transmissions have more problems and need to go to the auto shop more often. However, I’ve had friends pressure me into wanting to get one. It’s nice to know that most people get the hang of it in less than a day. I’m going to try!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Those are just stories. Manual transmissions don’t have a reliability stigma. You can definitely get the hang of it within a day. Just remember not to ‘ride’ the clutch!

  • Alex Lani says:

    Thanks for the information. Sadly, I have never learned how to drive a manual transmission. You make shifting gears and stopping sound so easy. It hasn’t looked that easy in my experience. Maybe I’ll consider one for my next car if i learn before then.

  • Olga Morozov says:

    Thanks for breaking this down so simply! I need to buy a car and I’ve ignored all the ads for manual transmission because I’ve never driven one before. It doesn’t seem so hard after reading this. I’ll have to ask a friend to let me learn in their car so I can include them in my search!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Definitely go for it, Olga! Think about it like this… tons of people know how to drive stick. So that must mean it can’t be that hard.

  • My husband recently bought me a manual transmission that needs a repair before I am able to drive it. I have never driven a manual in my life so I am really scared! Many people have told me that it’s like riding a bike and you will never forget once you learn. I will have to keep these tips in mind when I am learning, thank you for sharing!

  • I had no idea that manual transmission cars usually have to have less repair done on their transmission. This would be a good reason to invest in them considering this is one of the many advantages to a stick shift. They usually also have better gas mileage than most automatic cars as well. Thus, saving you money at the shop and the pump.

  • Veronica Marks says:

    Thanks for being so descriptive with your step by step instructions. I learned to drive stick in college when a roommate taught me, but needed some refreshers, and this definitely helped! I think my biggest thing will be doing like you said and making sure my car won’t roll away!

    • I agree. The step-by-step was super helpful. I actually learned how to drive a manual transmission when I was in high school. My dad gave me free lessons. It took some patience on his part and mine, but we got it figured out. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Anthony D. says:

    The process of this car is manual and systematic of transmission cars.looking very pretty towards the customers and they will give a good feedback on these cars.Nice post!

  • Raylin Sutter says:

    I have driven a manual several times. I have driven the 2013 Honda Accord which I found to be sort of difficult to maneuver around where I live (pretty much on a mountainside). The other manual that I have driven was my dad’s 1970’s Mazda truck. It has needed auto transmission repair. That, and because of how old it is, has made it sort of nerve-racking for me to drive. What advice would you give to someone who drives mainly in hilly and mountainous environments concerning manual driving?

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      It’s nice to have a manual so your car isn’t always having to guess what gear it’s in. Autos can’t see the road ahead like you can so there’s often a lot of wear on them since they are constantly upshifting/downshifting at inappropriate times when driving through mountains. The only thing really is to make sure and do the trifecta always: brake, leave in gear and point wheels towards curb/steep part of mountain. That’s it!

  • Having a manual isn’t my wheel house but you’ve made it seem so easy. I’ll be using this guide next time I practice (not whhhiiile I drive, of course. 🙂

  • Zach Thalman says:

    Is it really safe to leave the car in gear when you turn the car off? I wouldn’t want to ruin my transmission at all. I have to change out the transmission in the car I just bought and I thought that I would learn a little more about how to drive a manual transmission. I have always wondered why they are a little different to drive that normal cars.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Great question. It’s perfectly safe – as I’ve researched the question in-depth myself since it didn’t seem safe to me either.

  • Taylor Collins says:

    When I was going into my junior year of high school the engine in my car died, and we got a new car for me to drive. That car ended up being a manual, and as a result I had to learn how to drive it pretty quickly. I think the biggest thing to remember is to try to be gentle with it if possible. I had to replace or repair the clutch in that car multiple times in the five years I drove it. It can definitely be avoided though, so hopefully people will take care of it better.

  • Brandon Roberts says:

    I have always wanted to learn how to drive a manual transmission car, but I have never had someone teach me. My girlfriend actually tried once, but she wasn’t a good teacher. So I really appreciate you talking about this, and giving me some great insight on how I can drive one. I’ll make sure I remember what you talked about, and hopefully I’ll finally be able to drive one.

  • Stephie Smith says:

    I’m going to have to save this. I drive an automatic, but my husband has a manual transmission truck. Because I have my own mode of transportation, I haven’t really had any motivation to learn how to drive manual, but I know I need to in case of an emergency where I’d have to drive his car someplace. It’s intimidating, but I’ll keep your article on hand and learn in an empty parking lot at first! Thanks for sharing.

  • bryan flake says:

    My son has always wanted the added adventure of learning how to drive a manual transmission car. He rode the clutch the other day and burned up the transmission. What does a manual transmission cost to replace?

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Riding the clutch will burn out the clutch, not the transmission. That’s great news since a clutch is much cheaper. A new clutch isn’t too expensive. Around $500. Labor will likely be $1,000 thereabouts. There’s a lot of stuff to remove in order to access the clutch so it takes a lot of time.

  • Audrey Blakeney says:

    When I was first learning how to drive, driving a manual transmission car was always hard for me. Having to shift between the clutch and gears like you outline above was too difficult to focus on while trying to focus on driving. Now, however, I’ve bought a new car that is a transmission, and I would like to learn to drive it properly. Once I’ve had the transmission repaired from the damage from the previous owner, I will be sure to put your tips into good use and learn how to drive my new car the right way.

  • Jeff Bridges says:

    One of my first cars I learned to drive was a manual transmission. To this day I still prefer them over automatic. My current car I just recently bought is manual, and it shifts great! The only issue is the clutches is kind of squeaky whenever it isn’t pressed and the car is running in neutral, such as being parked somewhere.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      It sounds to me like your clutch throw out bearing is going out. I would definitely diagnose it as that if the sound is worse in colder weather.

  • John Carlos says:

    The first time I tried to to drive a manual car the only word I can describe that moment is a tragic one. My mother suggested if I’m interested enrolling in a driving school. I need to learn how to drive because my dad is going to give me a car for having good grades at school. After how many lessons, I finally learn how to drive but not that expert, though.

    • Dwasifar says:

      I first learned to drive a manual transmission on my parents’ 1959 VW Bug. My first car of my own was a manual AMC Gremlin. I have had some automatic transmission cars since then, but I think I have spent more time behind the wheel of manuals than automatics. At first it was for economy (Plymouth Colt, Mitsubishi Mirage) and later in life it was for sport (BMW M5, Saturn Sky Redline). I just moved from a manual Acura TL to a Civic Si. My wife also will only drive manuals; she has a manual Subaru Forester.

      Three pedals or stay home. Nothing else compares. Silly paddle shifters are for wannabes and people too lazy to learn a real driving skill.

  • Sara Killinger says:

    I remember when I first learned how to drive a manual transmission car. It was about four years ago and my friend Jessica was kind enough to let me practice using her 93 Corolla. I recall being at a stop light and when it turned green, I completely stalled the car. I continued stalling the car through the entire light cycle until it turned back to red. Jessica, of course, was laughing hysterically at me and offered to take the wheel so we could make it through the intersection. I wish I would have read your tips on how to drive a manual transmission car before I had attempted driving. Now that I am armed with this information I’ll give it another try!

  • Meg Lund says:

    I have thinking about switching to a manual transmission car, however, the thought intimidates me because I don’t know how to drive this kind of car. Specifically, shifting the gears is what freaks me out the most. You suggest, however, that when your engine gets noisy, this is an indication that the gear needs to be shifted. Plus, you show that really shifting gears is just a matter of clutching and moving the stick up. As I read this, it definitely makes me less intimidated to learn how to drive a manual car. Thanks for the insight!

  • Deanna Jones says:

    Thanks for the tips! My car battery died, so my dad’s loaning me his car until I can get a new one. It has a manual transmission, so I’m a bit lost on how to drive it. I’m glad that you pointed out how to shift gears when driving a manual. I’ll be sure to remember to shift gears when my engine gets noisy. It’s been making noises a lot, so I should learn to listen for those noises to let me know to change gears.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      As mentioned early in the post, a manual car doesn’t need a charged battery to run. So if you had a manual to begin with… 🙂 Although not recommended on many cars, you can start a manual by pushing it. Have someone push the car fairly quickly while you’re in the car. Then press in the clutch and put it in 1st. Let out the clutch and the car will start. Be prepared for some bucking action as it comes to life. I’ve done it before and it’s been a HUGE life saver.

  • Jane Fox says:

    Aren’t manuals the best? I’m teaching my friend to drive stick, and she’s terrified she’s going to destroy my car. I’ll pass this along to her. But really, I love that manuals are cheaper, get better gas mileage, generally need less transmission repair, and–most importantly–are just fun to drive! Now that I’ve gone standard, I don’t think I could go back to automatic.

  • Ava Laurie says:

    The best way I learned to get drive a manuel was to practice in an older car. Older stick cars are more difficult to control. Have someone teach you the basics of it in the old car. When you go into a newer car, the stick shift is not as bad and it is a lot easier for you to grasp.

    • Gus Chiggins says:

      You’re right Ava, practicing in an older car is the best way to go about learning. Not only do they have more control, it keeps newer cars with manuals transmissions safe from being hurt. I have never learned to drive a stick but I would like to. I think it would be a good skill to have under your belt.

  • sohani Lopez says:

    Now a days, it seems very rare manual transmission cars. But with the manual car we feel how the car really drives. I love your skills which you have mentioned in this post and i really try those tips.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Sohani,

      Manual transmissions in new cars are indeed getting rare. But I prefer to drive nice, used cars where transmissions can be found easily. It makes good financial sense. Good luck acquiring your new skills! You’ll feel like such a more empowered driver than if you continued the automatic route.

  • Rose Henderson says:

    I’ve never driven a manual car before, but the idea of it really scares me. I’d be worried of breaking the transmission down within the first month or so. I really like how you broke down each step of driving the car and how to properly execute it with the manual transmission. Hopefully this will help me if ever had to take the wheel of a stick shift.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      As long as you don’t get a bad smell (that would be the clutch) you probably aren’t harming anything by learning how to drive a manual. Think about it like this… until the past, what, 20 years, most cars were manuals. Yep, most people drove a stick. I bet you’re smarter than most people, Rose.

  • I’d add a line at the top about adjusting your seat so that you can fully depress the clutch without fully extending your leg, and having the seat back in a position that, if your back is pressed against your seat, you can rest your wrists on the top of the steering wheel with your arms extended.

  • Bonus tip: move to Europe and you’ll be forced to learn how to drive a manual gearbox!

    Seriously though, I’m not the biggest car nut around, but I’ve never understood why anyone would choose automatic over manual. You completely lose the driving and handling feeling of your car.

  • You forgot: It’s okay if you stall. When I was learning (I learned to drive in a stick shift before an automatic) I stalled SO MANY times. And it took me way longer than a day. I was so discouraged. Then I was riding with my dad and he stalled it and I thought, “hey, maybe it’s okay and I shouldn’t beat myself up over not being perfect every time.” and things got better. I still sucked at it (it is not as easy as “let off the clutch while you slowly give it gas” it’s just something you have to feel to understand how much gas to give and how fast to let off the clutch.)

    Now I prefer a manual all the way. Put me in an automatic car and my left foot is swiping at the air looking for that clutch. It’s totally worth learning even if it doesn’t come as easy to you as it does the amazing Will Lipovsky (that guy can do anything! : )

  • Camille @ Challenge Mantra says:

    Seems like manual transmissions are more rare to come by nowadays. It’s definitely a skill I’d like to learn one day!