Driving a stick shift car

Here we will provide information about how to drive a stick shift car. It is essential that drivers learn how to master the clutch when they drive manual transmission cars. The clutch allows drivers to shift gears.

Benefits and advantages of driving a stick shift car (manual transmission)

The benefits of drive a stick shift car are the following:

  • It allows drivers to have more control over the car as a whole. Drivers will be in total control of the car as in when it speeds, when it changes gears, etc. It offers a faster shift response and downshifting on inclines and sharp turns.
  • Manual transmission cars are cheaper to buy, fix and maintain than their automatic counterparts. For example, comparing buying costs a manual-shift 2009 Nissan Versa with the following characteristics 1.6 four-wheel drive, 29 mpg on average, costs around $9,600, while the automatic transmission version of the same year and model costs around $10,500, yet averages 28 mpg. With regards to the maintenance, if the transmission of a stick shift car breaks down and the clutch has to be replaced, the repair cost will be around $1,200 to $1,500, while replacing an automatic transmission can cost around $3,000.
  • Knowing how to drive a stick shift car means drivers will have the ability to drive any car on the road. For instance, in case a driver’s car is in the repair shop and the only rental car available has a manual transmission; a stick shift car driver will be able to rent it, but ¿ what happens if the driver doesn’t know to drive a manual transmission car?
  • Manual transmission car offers better traction in snowy and slippery conditions.
  • Driving a stick shift to allow longer life for the car’s brakes, if drivers use engine braking, thus lessening the brakes from wear and tear.

Differences between an automatic and manual transmission car

Control differences

Third pedal. This is one of the main differences between an automatic and manual transmission car. Drivers should never use their left foot for anything. On the other hand with a manual transmission drivers’ left foot will be used to work the clutch (the left-most pedal).
Stick. This is another major difference between automatic and manual controls. In automatic cars, it would have to be used mainly just for shifting between reverse, park, and drive.

Learn how to drive a stick shift – Practice is the key.
Before trying to drive a stick shift car, once inside the car have a general feel for the controls, gear shifter, and clutch. Generally, manual drivers don’t know how to work the gear shifter. Have a feel for which position equates to which gear. The shifter may look like the following diagrams:

Drive a stick shift car Drive a stick shift car

They are both five-speed transmissions, but with different reverse gear position. You will see this diagram on the top of the gear shift.

Car Shifter

Shifting/Changing gears

Before changing gears turn off the ignition and park brake on. After that push the clutch in with your left foot, as it is pushed in, change your gear. You have to disengage your foot from the clutch, once you are in the gear you want to be in. You can practice changing gears starting from 1st and ending in the 5th.


It is a good safety option to engage the clutch to start the car even if your car does not require it. To start the car, make sure it is in neutral moving the stick left and right (the center of the shifting console, where the shifter can be simply moved around). Push the clutch in and turn the ignition and gradually remove your foot from the clutch.

Transmission Car


The engine is purring now. At this point, you can let go of the clutch considering you are still in neutral. It would be a good idea to start learning without using the gas pedal, in order to get a feel for the clutch. Usually, new drivers don’t know where the friction point of the clutch is and they push it in partially. The friction point is the halfway point between the clutch being fully pushed in and when the foot is off the clutch. The friction point felt when the car starts to move slowly on its own. At this point, many new drivers disengage the clutch very quickly and stall the engine.

  1. How to get moving without using the gas
    After starting the car, you have to make sure the parking brake is not engaged. Push the clutch in all the way and leave your foot there. The next step is putting the car in first gear and slowly let off your foot of the clutch. At the halfway point you should feel the car start to move forward. Don’t remove your foot from the clutch at this point, because if you remove your foot off of the clutch too much, you will stall the engine. In case you do this, restart the car and try again.
  2. Gaining speed using the gas
    We will learn how to get the car moving using the gas with a similar procedure as above. At the same time push in the gas and remove your foot from the clutch. Once you gain speed and want to go faster just take your foot off of the gas, push in the clutch, change/put the car into second gear, pull out the clutch and at the same time push the gas pedal. Getting moving the car is one important step. After you get this, you are more than halfway ready to drive a car with manual transmissions.

Slowing the car

Once you get down to approximately 10 mph or below shift into, you are able to use your brakes in any gear that you are in. If you need to brake quickly when you are in gear, push the brake and clutch in simultaneously, if you don’t, the car will stall out by the time you come to a complete stop.

To downshift without using your brakes, only let off the gas and wait until your speed reduces. Once your speed has decreased, push in the clutch, and downshift to a lower gear. Make this until your speed has dramatically decreased. Downshifting is recommended to do only once you have a good grasp on which speed corresponds to which gear. It is also recommended not to downshift without brakes, because of it does not give the person who is behind you advise/warning that you are slowing down.


It is a good habit placing the car in gear when parking, as it will stop the car from rolling in case the emergency brakes give out. It would be the best to place the car in first or the reverse gear. You have become very vigilant in your use of the parking brake when you drive a manual transmission car.