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Learn2 Drive a Stick Shift
(9 steps)


Some parents issue their 16 year-olds a live 2torial, screeching "More gas! More gas!", while pushing their young protege's knee - and the gas pedal - toward the floor in the middle of a busy street. Other parents figure what they don't know won't hurt them. But no matter how old you are, if you already know how to drive an automatic transmission, the distractions of driving won't add to the challenge. Don't worry: driving a stick shift is sort of like riding a bicycle--only time and practice stand between confusion and second nature.

Why bother? Because manual transmissions (those that require stick shifts) usually get better gas mileage than their automatic counterparts. And because you control the gears, acceleration and hill climbing will prove more effective. Also, downshifting can save wear and tear on your brakes and provides more control in icy or rainy conditions.

Caution: This 2torial is intended to be supplemented by instruction from a knowledgeable driver. Do not drive unsupervised until you have been tested by a competent adult (if you can find one). Also, know that there may be some additional wear and tear on the clutch during the learning process.

Before you begin

Know your way around. A manual transmission demands that the driver shift the gears instead of the engine. Most cars have four or five forward speeds, as well as reverse. In order to master the process, you need to know the following:

  • The clutch pedal is located at the far left and is used when moving up or down from one gear to another. The clutch is disengaged when the pedal is pushed to the floor.


  • Neutral is not a gear; actually, it is the absence of gear. When the engine is running in neutral, you can rev up the engine, but you won't go anywhere. You'll also be able to wiggle the shifter back and forth - which you can't do when engaged in any gear.


  • For most cars, second gear is the workhorse. It will get you up (and down) steep hills as well as through congested downtown.


  • Reverse gear is somewhat different from the others: it's got more range than, say, first gear, but doesn't like going for too long or too fast. So, don't back up around the block to pass the time.


  • The gas pedal (at far right) works with the gears to give the engine power at different levels. As mentioned before, if you press on the gas pedal while out of gear, you will only rev the car up: this is how 50's hot-rodders showed their toughness. But if you over-accelerate with the clutch partially engaged, you'll eventually wear it out.
   Go to Step 1 of 9

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Step 1: Learn the Gears
Step 2: Start it up
Step 3: Protect the clutch, yourself and the car
Step 4: Find the G spot
Step 5: Now try downshifting
Step 6: Learn the subtleties of reverse
Step 7: Win the hill challenge
Step 8: Remember the parking brake
Step 9: Practice these scenarios

  • A car with a manual transmission
  • A driver's license (or permit if accompanied by an adult)
  • A parking lot or low-traffic road


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