It was part of the American dream. Hitting the open road, shifting gears, and enjoying your freedom. Well, two-thirds of that statement is still correct, but the shifting gears part seems to be disappearing. Amazingly, only 5 percent of production cars have a manual transmission. And as low as 18 percent of drivers know how to drive a stick shift. Regardless, learning how to operate a manual transmission is still useful, and that is why we will help guide you in learning how to shift gears like a pro. But first, let us look at the components that go into driving a manual car.

The clutch

The clutch is located on the far left.

The first thing you will notice when you settle yourself into a manual car is a strange third pedal called a clutch. In case you were wondering, the clutch is the pedal located closest to the driver’s side door. What its purpose?  The clutch is used to engage and disengage the moving parts in the drive shaft. When engaged, it interrupts power allowing shifting to occur without grinding.

Gear shift

Gear shift.

A gear shifter is found in both automatic and manual cars. However, the gear shifter in a manual car is used more frequently. As its name states, the gear shifter enables you to shift gears. When you engage the clutch, you shift the gears. Important note: before you attempt to drive, it’s vital to learn where each gear is located. Become accustomed to how it feels so you aren’t winging it while you are driving.

How to operate a manual car

Locate a safe area while learning. An empty parking lot is ideal. Prior to beginning your session, ensure the parking brake is on (manuals roll when in neutral).  Additionally, it helps to have a seasoned driver assist you while you learn. It’s not difficult to operate a stick shift, but it takes practice. Relax and have fun.

  1. Make sure your car is in neutral. Note: Park doesn’t exist in manual cars.
  2. Before starting your car, use your left foot to press down on the clutch while at the same time pressing down the brake pedal with your right foot.
  3. Disengage the parking brake when determine it’s safe to begin.
  4. Start your car
  5. Now we are going to shift into first gear. This gear is usually located at the upper left position. Next, move your right foot from the brake pedal and position it over the gas pedal.
  6. Slowly ease the pressure off the clutch while gently pressing down on the accelerator with your right foot. (Be patient!)
  7. Once you completely depress the clutch you can accelerate.
  8. To progress into second gear, release pressure off the gas pedal and press down on the clutch. Before shifting into second gear ensure the clutch is depressed. Continue this process until you reach the final gear (usually 5th).
  9. Awesome work! You’re driving a stick shift.

If you ask for assistance from a friend or family member who can operate a manual transmission, practice regularly, and exercise patience, you will be heading out on the open road in classic style. Have fun and stay safe.