The simple idea of igniting and alternating through the gears is a doable process for anyone. For you to be able to drive a manual car, it’s important that you acquaint yourself with the clutch, gearstick, and brake. Also, you need to learn how to start, stop, and shift gears when the car is at different speeds. Nevertheless, driving a manual car can actually become easy if you follow some simple steps. In this article, we’ll detail a step-by-step guide on how to drive a manual car.



That said, let’s get into it!

1. Get to know the basics

Begin on the level ground with your car off

manual car perdals
Manual Car Perdals

More so, if you’re driving a manual car for the first time, you need to start gradually and methodologically. Have your seat belt on after you sit down. During the learning session, it is helpful to roll your windows down. As such, you’ll be in a position to hear the engine revving and also to shift gears correctly. When you’re on the driver’s seat, you’ll see the pedal on the left, that is the clutch, while the middle one is the brake pedal, and the accelerator is usually on the right; keep in mind that it is always from the left to right, referred to as C-B-A. Something else, this layout is often similar to both right-hand drive and left-hand vehicles.

Learn the functionality of the clutch

Before you can begin to push down this strange pedal found on the left, take your time to find out the basics of its functionality. In other words, the clutch detaches the engine from the vehicle’s wheels. When both or one is rotating, the clutch enables you to shift gears without it grinding the teeth of every different gear. Before you can change gears, either by moving up or down, you need to push the clutch (depressed)

Change the seat position to enable you to handle the clutch pedal conveniently and comfortably

Move forward enough to enable you to depress the clutch pedal – this is the left pedal that is located next to the brake pedal, maximumly to the floor using your left foot.

Push the clutch pedal and maintain it to the floor

releasing the clutch

This should be the best time to learn how the movement of the clutch pedal is different from that of gas and brake pedals. Plus, it’s the best opportunity to get to learn how to use the clutch pedal by releasing it slowly and steadily. In case, you’ve driven an automatic vehicle before, you’ll feel uneasy using your left hand to push the clutch pedal. With continuous practice, you’ll adapt the use of both feet on your car.

Shift the gearstick to neutral

shift on neutral

If you don’t know, it’s the center section that is felt when you shift from side to side. The car is normally disengaged when; the gear is placed in a neutral position or when the clutch pedal is fully pushed to the floor. Keep in mind that a gearstick shouldn’t be used before depressing the clutch pedal because it will not work.

Ignite the engine using the key in the ignition, ensuring that the gear remains in the neutral

If you know completely nothing about the car, at least you’ve heard about the hand-brake. The hand brake should always be on before the car begins to move. Other models of cars can ignite while in neutral without disengaging the clutch, but most modern cars won’t.

While the car is on neutral, remove your foot from the clutch pedal

In case you’re on very level ground, you should stay in place; you’ll begin rolling in case you’re in hilly terrain. And if everything is okay, and you want to move on a real driving, ensure to release the handbrake – in case it is engaged, before you can start your first ride.

2. Using the first gear to move forward

Hold the clutch onto the floor and shift the gearstick to first gear

car manual first gear

You should find the first gear on the upper left section, and on top of the gearstick, you can find it labeled in a visual representation to be easily related. The gear patterns at times can vary from one car model to another, so, it is important to take your time to understand the gear layout of your car. To make it work even easier, it is important that you learn when your car is of how to shift from different gears while the clutch is engaged.

Gradually lift your foot up from the car clutch pedal

Go on doing this until the engine speed starts to drop, then press it in again. Do it one time again, until you can hear the sound and recognize it. This is what we refer to as a friction point. When you are changing gears to start or continue moving, this is the period that you will need to have the accelerator engaged fully to offer sufficient power.

Release the clutch while you engage the accelerator

engine RPM

To get moving, release your left foot from the clutch until you can see the RPMs come down slightly. At the same time, put a bit of pressure on the accelerator pedal using your right foot. You should now balance the accelerator pedal while releasing slowly the clutch pedal. You’ll definitely need to do this more than one time to get the appropriate combination.

The other best option you can do this is to disengage the clutch to the point where the engine revs a little, and push the accelerator pedal while the clutch engages. During this time, the car starts to move. It is ideal to get the engine rev sufficient to stop stopping while the clutch pedal is engaged. The process can be a bit difficult in the beginning since you might be new to an additional pedal in a manual vehicle. You can also release the clutch entirely – that is slowly removing your foot from the car pedal after you begin to move forward under control using the first gear.

You learn through mistakes; you may have to stall at least a few times

In case you release the clutch instantly, the engine will stop. If you hear that the engine is almost halting, you can have the clutch on the position where it is or disengage it a bit. On the other hand, in case the car stall, depress the clutch, set the handbrake on, change the gear to neutral, shut off the engine, and restart the car all over again. Do not panic.

stop on traffic lights

3. Making shifts in motions and stops

Be aware of when you need to shift to a higher gear

Whenever you see that your car is ranging between 2500- 3000 RPM while it is still in motion then it is high time to shift to the next gear. For example, you can shift to the second gear if you were initially at gear one. Actual RPMs usually differ depending on the car that you are using. However, you will see that your engine is beginning to speed and race more.

Therefore, you should be able to differentiate any kind of noise from this. All you need to do during this scenario is to depress that clutch pedal until it is disengaged fully. From here, you can guide the gear stick down from the first gear to the bottom left side. You will find out that some cars have a tachometer or “shift light” that easily notifies you whenever you need to shift. This will help you to avoid reversing the engine at a much faster rate.

Slightly push down the accelerator as you release the clutch slowly

accelerator pedal

What it means to shift gears in motion is to shift let’s say to first gear from stationary or to second gear from the first one. Here, you will need to listen, look or feel the cues of the engine. Also, you should ensure that there is a correct timing of the up and down of your feet on the pedals. With everyday practice, you will get acquainted with this in no time.

When in the gear and also on the accelerator, you will need to remove your feet from the clutch completely. You should avoid resting your foot on the clutch since this can grow into a bad habit. This is because with time it will apply unnecessary pressure on the clutch mechanism. Any increased pressures can make your clutch wear off easily thus requiring some frequent replacements.

Shifting to a lower gear as you gently slow down

If the current gear is making you go so slow, you will feel that your car is about to stall. You can shift down your gears while your car is in motion. All you need to do is to depress the clutch, release the accelerator, shift the gears and let of the gear as you depress the accelerator.

Stop completely

For you to come to a complete stop with any difficulties but in a more controlled manner, you will just need to shift slowly until you are in the first gear. When you need to come to a complete stop, you will have to move your right foot to the brake pedal from the accelerator as you press down slowly. Each time you are slowing down as you approach 16km/hr, you feel your car somehow vibrating and shaking. From here, you can press the clutch pedal down as you move the gear stick to a neutral level.

This helps to avoid stalling your vehicle. The brake pedal will help you to come to a complete stop. Moreover, you can come to stop while in any gear by simply depressing that clutch and shifting to neutral as you use the brake. However, you should keep in mind that this method can be used when you need some quick stops since you cannot fully control your car.

4. Troubleshooting and thorough practice

Practice with an experienced manual driver

beginner driver is in panic

It is legal to drive to any public road with a valid license as you are practicing how to become a better driver. However, you can catch up faster if you can get an experienced manual driver to get you through the entire learning process. The best thing is to begin in a flat and isolated area with no people. From there, you can get to suburban streets that are quiet to improve your skills. You can drive on the same circuit many times until you are well acquainted with the required skills.

Avoid stopping and try driving on steeper terrains

If you are a beginner in driving a manual car, you can try getting to those routes with no traffic lights at the top of steeper hills as well. You should be very sharp in timing and coordinating the clutch, gear stick, brake, and accelerator.

This prevents you from drifting whenever you shift to the first gear. Therefore, you will be quick to move your right foot from releasing the brake but rather depress the accelerator. You will have to let out the clutch all at the same time. The parking brake can be useful in preventing your car from drifting backward. When you use this, you always remember to disengage it before you can move forward.

Learn how to park when on hilly terrains

Automatics usually have ‘park’ gear while manual cars do not have this feature. So, if you happen to leave your car on neutral, there are higher chances that it will drift or roll away if you park it in an inclining or declining position. You can always use a handbrake to avoid all however, you should never rely on it fully when parking your car.

If at all you are parking your vehicle facing uphill then you should shut down the neutral then shift to the first gear before applying in the parking pedal. If it is facing downhill, you can follow the same process but you should shift into reverse mode. This greatly helps in preventing the wheels from rolling over. For steeper inclines, you should be very cautious and place some rocks behind the wheels to avoid any unnecessary movements.

Halt fully before from reverse to forward and vice versa

As you come to a complete stop, you can change the directions to avoid damaging the gearbox. So, it is ideal to make a complete stop before you can go from reverse to gear one. For manual cars, it is so easy to shift to either first gear or second gear as you move your car backward in a slower motion. This is not the best option because it can cause damages to your clutch.

For some cars, they have a locked-out mechanism for the reverse to avoid engaging it anyhow. Before you can use reverse gear, you should be well conversant with the locking mechanism and be sure of how to disengage it before choosing reverse.

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