Tips on Driving a Stick Shift: It’s Easier Than You Think!
There are two types of drivers out there: those who like driving a stick shift, and those who do not.
There are all kinds of people around who absolutely cannot drive a stick shift, and must stay with their automatic transmissions. If you are one of these people, don’t be ashamed, because you are certainly not alone. But if you would like to be able to drive a stick shift, it really isn’t all that difficult to learn how. The best way of course is to get some actual driver training, but if you cannot do this, at least find a friend or family member who can drive a stick shift and ask them to show you how. Before you start learning how to drive a stick shift, here are a few tips that will help you:
Learn To Drive A Stick
Stay off the roads
Just like when you first learned how to drive a car, while you are learning how to drive a stick shift, it is a really good idea to learn where there is no chance of getting into any accidents. Find an abandoned parking lot where you can practice all day long without ever meeting up with anyone else. This will give you plenty of time to really learn how to use a stick shift before you actually get out on the road. It is also a good thing to keep in mind that driving on hills is much more difficult, and if you can avoid them, do so while you are learning to drive a stick shift.
Starting the car
When you start a vehicle that has a manual transmission, it is going to be in gear when you start it, unlike an automatic transmission vehicle that is in park. Hold down the clutch and put the gear into neutral, then turn the key in the ignition to start up the vehicle. Shift into first gear, and apply the brake lightly, with the clutch still pressed to the floor. With the clutch and brake pedals both pressed, release the parking brake, and you can start driving.
Don’t worry about stalling
When you are first learning how to drive a stick shift, you are going to make the car stall at least a few times. This really is nothing you need to worry about. It happens to everyone, and it is not going to do any damage to your car. After a while, you are going to get the hang of shifting gears, and you will not have to worry about the engine stalling out on you.
Stopping on hills
This is something that is really scary for a lot of people who are not experienced at driving stick shifts. If you are driving a stick shift and have to stop on a hill for a red light, put on the parking brake, and put the engine into neutral, keeping the clutch and brake pedals depressed. This will keep you from rolling back and hitting the car behind you. When it is time to drive away, shift back into first gear while letting up on the clutch and moving from the brake to the gas pedal. Now you can release the parking brake. The steeper the hill, the longer you will want to keep it in a lower gear.
Use your left foot
When you are driving a vehicle that has an automatic transmission, you are using your right foot for both the gas and the brake pedals. When you are driving a stick shift, be prepared to start driving using both feet. You are still going to use your right foot for breaking and accelerating, but you will be using your left foot to work the clutch. This is something that you will have to get used to doing, but it shouldn’t take too long before you have the hang of it.
Depending on the speed you are going, you will be using different gears. For example, if you are doing a lot of city or in-town driving, you will probably be using third gear or lower most of the time. If you are driving on the highway, you will need to be in the top gears, fourth or higher. Every time you shift gears, you must have the clutched press all the way to the floor. The more you drive a stick shift, the quicker you are going to get used to it, and shifting gears is just going to start coming to you naturally.
No cell phones
Although this is just common sense anyway, because you should never use a cell phone while driving any vehicle, it can be even more dangerous when you are driving a stick shift. You need to have all of your concentration, and your hands need to be free for both shifting and steering, and using a cell phone is not going to make that possible. Put the phone away, and use it once you have parked your vehicle. If you need to call someone in an emergency, pull off to the side of the road first.
Turning off the car
When you are done driving, turning off a car with a manual transmission is not the same as one with an automatic transmission, where you just put it into park and turn off the ignition. With a stick shift, you must make sure that you have shifted into second gear and have come to a complete stop, leaving your feet on the clutch and brake pedals. Turn off the ignition, let off the clutch, and pull up on the parking brake.
Once you get the hang of driving a stick shift, you will probably wonder why didn’t learn how sooner.
After a while, it will be like you have always been doing it, and you will have a lot more fun than you did driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission, with nothing to do but sit there and drive. If you are looking for a new vehicle, don’t worry if it is a stick shift. Find someone to teach you how to drive it, and you will be on your way.
Andrei Zakhareuski is the founder of Find-a-driving-school.ca. He has been writing for beginner Canadian drivers for several years.
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