You may be wondering what the differences are between an automatic transmission and a stick shift. Simply put, with a manual transmission you have to shift the gears yourself by depressing the clutch pedal, whereas an automatic shifts the transmission for you. More in-depth knowledge is available on the Internet, the DMV, as well as other credible sources. However, if you are not concerned with the details and simply want to learn how to drive a stick shift, here’s a general synopsis.
It’s always best to get into the ritual of putting on your seat belt, adjusting your steering wheel, seat and mirrors. Look at your stick shift and memorize the gear pattern shown on the shift knob. Experiment with the clutch by pushing it down as far as you can. Keep it in “neutral” gear and move the stick shift to get a feel for it. Depress the clutch all the way to the floor and practice putting it into first gear, letting the clutch slowly come back up before slipping it into second gear, again pushing the clutch in, then continuing through to the last gear. Note where your “reverse” is located.
1. Let’s Get Moving! Push the clutch in and place your right foot on the gas pedal. Tug the shifter around until it snaps into neutral position. If it is the center, it should have a little play and give easily. Make sure the clutch is still completely depressed. Put your foot on the gas, turn the key and listen to the engine purr.
2. Put it in first gear and while releasing the clutch, slowly push down on the gas. Your car should be moving now. Quick tip: let the clutch out super slow and rev your engine slightly above 1000 RPM will give you a hint how your vehicle will react. Too high will launch it like a space rocket, so be careful not to let the clutch out to quickly. At first, it may be jerky. The engine may even die on if you release the clutch too fast or hit the gas too hard. Finding its “sweet spot” will become second nature to you before long.
3. Once moving, gradually give it more gas and release the clutch. Most people shift into second gear at around 3000 RPM. Others are more interested in saving gas and prefer to shift gears around 2000. Before shifting, however, always completely depress the clutch. Keep shifting, rinsing and repeating, simultaneously doing the clutch/gas thing until you’ve reached your desired speed. It’s like a dance!