Whether you are learning to drive or already know how to drive an automatic car, the thought of getting behind the wheel of a manual car can make you sweat. But rest assured this is not an impossible thing to learn! With the right knowledge and practice, anyone can learn how to drive a manual car, giving you a more interactive driving experience and some street cred. Here some steps to get you started on your way to manual transmission domination.
1. Get Neutral
Before you turn the car on, make sure the clutch is in neutral (in the middle). How do you know if it’s in neutral? Move the clutch around and if it moves freely, it’s in neutral and you’re ready for the next step. The vehicle should already have the parking brake engaged, and it should stay that way for the time being. And before you go any further, don’t forget to put your seatbelt on.
2. Push in the Clutch
A manual car will not start unless you push the clutch (the extra pedal to the left of the brake pedal) in all the way. So push the clutch in and then turn the key or push the start button if it’s a keyless car. You will need to keep the clutch fully pushed in while starting the vehicle.
3. Take Off the Parking Brake
The car is on, the clutch is in neutral, and you are ready to start driving. But you won’t be going anywhere if you don’t disengage the parking brake. Older cars will have a parking brake below the clutch that looks like a handle with a button at the top. Depress the button and push the handle down. Newer models will instead have a button on the console below the clutch that you will need to pull up on or push down on to disengage the parking brake. If you are unsure whether the brake is off, look at the display, which should not show a lighted “P” icon. You should also have your foot near the brake – especially if you are on anything but a flat surface – in case the car starts moving when you take the parking brake off.
4. Get in Gear
At this point, your foot should not be on the clutch, but in order to get moving, you will have to push it in all the way once again. Now you’re ready to move into first gear. Look at the top of the gear stick to see where first gear is – it’s normally in the top left corner although can differ in some vehicles. With the clutch still pressed down, move the gear stick into first gear. This may take a couple of times to complete, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it on the first try!
5. Start Driving
You’re now ready to get on the road. Take a deep breath and slowly take your foot off the clutch while also having your foot off the brake. If you’re successful, the car will start rolling forward and you can hit the gas and start moving. If you take your foot off the clutch too fast, the car might stall but don’t worry, this is super common. Simply push in the clutch, start the car and do step 5 again.
6. Shift to a Higher Gear
Since you’re now driving down the street, you probably want to go faster than first gear allows. That means you have to shift to a higher gear, which is a lot simpler than getting the car started. Simply push in the clutch again and move the gear shift down into second gear. From there you can do the same to move up into third or even down into fourth gear, depending on the speed limit. You will not need to get into fifth or sixth gear until you drive on a highway or interstate.
7. Let’s Back Up
Now you know the basics of going forward with your manual-transmission vehicle, but what about when you need to back up? When you looked at the gear shift you probably noticed an extra “R”, and that is your reverse gear. In newer models, you have to push the gear shift stick down and then move it into reverse. This is done so you don’t accidentally go into first gear instead, which is usually right next to reverse. In older models, you likely won’t have to push the gear shift down before shifting, and the reverse gear is sometimes located in a different spot, like in the bottom right corner. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with how reversing works in the car you’re driving so you don’t end up stuck in a parking space!