How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car

Whether you recently bought a new vehicle with a stick shift, or you just want to be prepared for an emergency, it's a great idea to learn to drive a manual car. Knowing how to shift gears and use a clutch will give you greater freedom when it comes to renting a car, buying a new vehicle, or borrowing a friend's car. Manual transmissions are often more fuel efficient, better for towing, and even more fun to drive. With the following handy printable instructions, a supportive friend, and a bit of patience, anyone can learn this useful skill.

How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car
How to Start a Manual Transmission Car
Make sure the car is out to gear (move the shift knob from left to right.. if it moves freely, it’s out of gear). Depress the clutch fully (make sure you have your seat positioned so you can depress the clutch fully while sitting comfortably in your seat). Start the engine. Depressing the clutch fully releases the safety switch that keeps you from starting the car while it could possibly lurch forward.

How to Begin Driving a Manual Transmission Car
Release the emergency brake while pressing the brake pedal with your right foot. The emergency brake is usually a level located next to the shift knob. 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 on the top of the knob). Slowly let your foot off the clutch. 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. And you’re off!

How to Shift Gears in a Manual Transmission Car
Basically, just shift when your engine gets noisy. Your owners manual will tell you the optimum shift points but don’t worry about being perfect right now. To shift to the next gear higher, let off the accelerator pedal, depress the clutch fully, place the shifter into the next highest gear, release the clutch, get back on the gas pedal. Repeat this process when moving through the other gears.

How to Slow down a Manual Transmission Car
Let off the accelerator, and downshift using the same technique as used when upshifting. Only here, when the car engine gets too quiet, downshift instead of upshift. Use the brakes as necessary. 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 to have your car moving while it’s in neutral.

How to Stop a Manual Transmission Car
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.

Before Leaving Your Manual Car
Most people just pull the emergency brake handle and leave the car. But if you want to be 100000% sure the car won’t roll away, you can leave the car in gear. Place it in reverse when you’re parking facing downhill. Leave the car in first gear when it’s facing uphill. As another precaution, you can also point your tires towards the curb when the car is facing downhill and away from the curb when the car is facing uphill. Most of this is unnecessary (unless you live in San Francisco) but having your car roll away would be pretty embarassing.


Step 1: Try to get on level ground. 
Put your seat belt on once you get in. While learning, it's better to roll down the windows. This helps to better hear the engine sound and adjust the gear changes accordingly.

The one on the far left is the clutch , the middle one is the brake, and then the gas/accelerator is on the far right (CBA). This layout is the same for both left hand drive and right hand drive vehicles.

Step 2: Learn what the clutch does:
The clutch disengages the spinning engine from the spinning wheels and allows you to switch gears without grinding the teeth of each separate gear.
Before you switch gears (moving up or down), the clutch must be depressed.

Step 3: Adjust the seat position forward enough to allow you to press the clutch pedal (the left pedal, next to the brake pedal) fully to the floor with your left foot.

Step 4: Press the clutch pedal and hold it to the floor. 
This would also be a good time to take note of how the travel of the clutch pedal differs from that of the brake and gas, and it is a good idea to get used to slowly and steadily releasing the clutch pedal.

Step 5: Move the gear shift knob to neutral. 
This is the middle position that feels free when moved from side to side. The vehicle is considered out of gear when:
the gear shift is in the neutral position, or
the clutch pedal is fully depressed.

Step 6: Start the engine with the key, making sure to keep the clutch pedal held to the floor.

Step 7: Once the engine is started, you can remove your foot from the clutch pedal (as long as it is in neutral).

Step 7: Press the clutch to the floor again and move the gear shift knob to first gear. 
It should be the upper left position, and there should be some kind of visual layout of the gear pattern on top of the gear shift knob.

Step 9: Slowly lift your foot up from the clutch pedal until you hear the engine speed begin to drop, then push it back in. 
Repeat this several times until you can instantly recognize the sound. This is the friction point.

Step 10: In order to get moving, lift your foot up from the clutch pedal until the RPMs (revs) drop slightly and apply light pressure to the accelerator (GAS). 
Balance the light downward pressure on the accelerator with slowly releasing pressure on the clutch pedal. You will probably have to do this several times to find the right combination of pressure up and down. Another way of doing it is to release the clutch until the moment during which the engine revs down a little and then applying pressure on the accelerator as the clutch engages. At this point the car will start to move. It is best to have the engine rev just enough to prevent stalling as the clutch pedal is let up. This process may be a little difficult at first because you are new to the 3 pedals in manual. Always be ready to pull the hand brake to stop in emergency till you have learned.

If you release the clutch too quickly the car will stall. If the engine sounds like it is going to stall, then hold the clutch where it is or even push it further in slightly. Excessive engine speed while the clutch is between fully up and fully depressed will wear out the clutch parts prematurely resulting in slippage or smoking of the clutch parts at the transmission.

Step 11: When driving, when your RPM reaches about 2500 to 3000, it is time to shift into second gear. 
Remember though that it depends fully on the car you are driving what RPM the tachometer will reach before you must change gear. Your engine will begin to race and speed up, and you must learn to recognize this noise. Apply pressure downward on the clutch pedal and guide the gear shift knob straight down from 1st gear into the bottom left position.

Some cars have a "Shift Light" or indications on the speedometer that will tell you when you need to shift so you don't rev the engine too fast.

Step 12: Push down on the gas very slightly and slowly release the clutch pedal.

Step 13: Once in gear and on the gas you should completely remove your foot from the clutch pedal. 
Resting your foot on the clutch pedal is a bad habit, and applies pressure to the clutch mechanism the increased pressure could allow the clutch to wear prematurely.

Step 14: When you have to stop, release right foot off accelerator to the brake pedal and press down as much as required and as you slow to about 10 mph (16 km/h) you will feel the car about to start shaking and vibrating. 
Press the clutch pedal fully down and move the gear shift to neutral to prevent stalling.

Step 15: Once you have mastered it, driving a manual is fun. 
You now can rev the engine in any gear for a sportier feel or for a greener pace choose to shift gears at lower rpms.