How to Drive a Car with a Stick Shift

A stick shift is what you will find in a manual vehicle. It means that your vehicle has a manual transmission which requires you to shift gears as you’re driving. Vehicles with an automatic transmission have stick shifts too, but they are used a bit differently.

Automatics don’t require you to change gears with the stick shift as you’re driving as manuals do. You only shift gears when you’re completely stopped, and you want to go from Drive to Park, Park to Drive, Park to Reverse, Reverse to Park, etc. This is easy enough for any new driver to figure out.

On the other hand, manual stick shifts have 1 reverse gear and 6 forward gears. The first gear is used when the vehicle is parked or still. As you increase the speed of your vehicle, you shift to higher gears. On most town or city roads, you’ll probably be staying around the third or fourth gear at 45 miles per hour.

The whole point of shifting gears is to transmit a certain amount of engine power to the wheels underneath the vehicle. Gears are what transmit this power, so that is why the speed of your vehicle factors into which gear you use. It takes a lot of practice to get the hang of this. But once you do, you can enjoy an economical driving experience.

The Driving Process with a Stick Shift

Every manual vehicle with a stick shift has a clutch pedal too. This is the third pedal on the floor of the vehicle. It is positioned to the left of the other two pedals. When you press the clutch pedal with your foot, it disconnects the link between the gearbox and the engine. That is when you can start changing gears with the stick shift.

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After you change gears, you can slowly take your foot off the clutch pedal to reestablish the link between the gearbox and engine. This will cause engine power to transmit to the wheels, according to the new gear selected. It is possible to switch gears without using the clutch, but you must be experienced enough to know when to do this. Otherwise, you could end up damaging your transmission if done incorrectly.

Let’s go over the basic steps of stick shifting as you start your vehicle and drive:

1) Use your left foot to press down the clutch pedal. Make sure the pedal is all the way on the floor.

2) Shift the stick to neutral and deactivate the emergency brake. Turn the key in the ignition.

3) Use your right foot to press the brake pedal. Shift the stick to first gear, then take your foot off the brake pedal. The vehicle should now start to move a little bit on its own unless the road surface is flat.

4) Slowly release your left foot from the clutch to take some pressure off it. The vehicle may start to roll the more you do this.

5) Now with your right foot, gradually apply pressure to the gas pedal. By this point, your left foot should be completely off the clutch. The only pedal that is being pressed now is the gas pedal by your right foot. This is what it feels like to drive in first gear.

6) As you apply more pressure to the gas pedal to increase your speed, you’ll need to shift the stick to second gear. To do this properly, you must simultaneously take your right foot off the gas pedal and put your left foot on the clutch pedal. As the car rolls, quickly shift the stick to second gear and then take your foot off the clutch.  Now apply pressure again to the gas pedal. This is the same process, no matter which gear you shift to while driving.

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