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How to Drive Manual

Have you ever wanted to learn at least the basics of how to drive a manual transmission? Luckily, the basic concepts of starting to move a manual transmission car and shifting through the gears is a process anyone can learn. This guide will help you out.


  1. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
  2. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
  3. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
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    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.
  5. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
  6. Image titled Drive Manual Step 6
    Start the engine with the key, making sure to keep the clutch pedal held to the floor.
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    Once the engine is started, you can remove your foot from the clutch pedal (as long as it is in neutral).
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    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.
  9. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
  10. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
  11. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
  12. Image titled Drive Manual Step 12
    Push down on the gas very slightly and slowly release the clutch pedal.
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    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.
  14. Image titled Drive Manual 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.
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    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.


  • Make sure you push the clutch all the way in before shifting to the next gear.
  • Make sure not to rest your left foot on the clutch while driving.
  • Practice so that you can shift gears without looking at the stick. That way you can keep your eyes on the road.
  • Learn to recognize the sounds of your engine; you should eventually be able to tell when to change gears without relying on the tachometer.
  • Do not get distracted while driving such as by texting. This may cause serious injury or even death if you accidentally crash.
  • When you want to go on a bump,you hold down your clutch and press your brake slightly to slow down and later release the clutch gradually and apply the accelerator gradually to move.
  • To learn immediately, don't drive in the streets until you master the First/Reverse Gear. Practice driving without applying gas when releasing the clutch. Then practice 100 times with and without applying the accelerator. Do the same with reverse gear. After that then you will be ready to go.
  • If you are having difficulty starting the car from a stop, make sure that you are slowly letting off the clutch. Pause at the friction point (the part where the engine starts to move the car) and continue slowly pulling the clutch out.
  • If there is no gear position posted on the shifter, make sure to ask someone who is familiar with the vehicle how the gears are arranged. The last thing you want is to back into something (or someone) when you think you've shifted into first gear.
  • During sub freezing temperatures, it is not advisable to leave a car for a long time with the handbrake (parking brake) engaged. Moisture will freeze and the handbrake might not disengage.
  • Two other descriptions mean the same thing as "manual transmission"--"stick shift" and "standard."
  • If your car seems like it is going to stall, or the engine is sputtering, then push in the clutch again, wait for the engine to return to idle, and repeat the steps to starting off.
  • If you know ahead of time that you will be parking on a sharp incline, make sure you have chocks in your car to be placed behind your wheel (carefully). It is not a bad idea to do this all the time; parking brakes, like all parts of the car, become worn with age and may not be able to keep your vehicle in place if a hill is too steep.
  • The more the clear space for speed, the more you change the gear higher; the more you slow down, the more you bring/select the gearing down.
  • In some cars, reverse gear has a lock out mechanism to prevent you for engaging it accidentally. Before using reverse, make sure you know about this locking mechanism and how to disengage it before selecting reverse.
  • You may want to apply first gear when the car is parked facing up a slope of any gradient, in addition to the parking brake. This usually isn't necessary but is an extra safe guard against the car rolling backwards. However, this applies to older cars more than newer ones.


  • Stop completely before shifting into reverse no matter which direction the car is rolling. Shifting into reverse while the car is in motion will damage most manual transmissions.
  • Try to watch if you are on a hill or a steep area. You can roll back and hit the person or object behind you if you are not holding in the brake and clutch.
  • When you stalled the engine many times and try to start it back again, give the starter and the battery a break of 5 to 10 minutes to avoid overheating and damage to the starter and discharging the battery completely.
  • Keep an eye on the tachometer until you are comfortable with a manual. A manual transmission requires more experience than an automatic. Over rev the engine, and severe damage to the engine may result.
  • It is strongly recommended to stop completely before going from reverse to another gear. However it is possible on most manual transmissions to shift into first or possibly second when the car is moving backwards at a slow speed, but it is not recommended as this can cause excessive wear on the clutch.

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