How to Drive Stick: An Easy Guide to Mastering a Manual Transmission

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Learning how to drive stick could have a big impact on the way you drive.

First of all, it will open up a new range of vehicles you'll be equipped to navigate. And many of the exotic, high performance cars on the market are only available with a manual transmission. Though these are far more advanced systems than in cars of previous generations, they require a skill. And thus, it's important to learn how to drive stick.


Fortunately, once you learn a few key steps, you'll be on your way down the road. It might take a while to get the hang of it, but having that knowledge could really pay off. If you're considering learning how to drive stick, keep reading. We'll break down the process into an easy guide you can learn and start following today.

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What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial

  • A Place to Practice. We recommend getting started slowly, as you might need to repeat these steps to grasp the steps. An empty parking lot or some other private property makes a great testing ground.
  • Your Shifting Pattern. Not every gear shifter is created the same. Different models have their own patterns. So make sure you know where all the gears -- including reverse -- are located in your car.
  • A Long Fuse. Let's face it, learning a new skill can require some time and patience. We think following these steps will teach you how to drive stick in short order. But don't get discouraged if it doesn't click right away.

Quick Tips for How to Drive Stick

All cars have a transmission. Of course, some are a bit easier to operate than others. If you are a motorist, you likely know how simple it is to work an automatic transmission.

But if the thought of learning how to drive stick seems daunting, don't stress about it. Like almost anything, it just takes a bit of practice to get the motions just right. Pretty soon, you'll be handling the stick shift almost as easily as an automatic. You've got to follow the steps pretty precisely, though. So keep reading for a quick run down of the process required to drive a car with a manual transmission.

1. Push Down the Clutch Pedal and Engage the Brake

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Before you even start the ignition, you've got some work to do. Remember to depress the clutch pedal. This is the third, smaller pedal on the floorboard next to the brake and accelerator. Push it with your foot all the way to the floor as you start to press the brake pedal. 

At this point, you should have the parking brake turned on. You'll still want to press the brake pedal just for added safety. 

2. Start Engine and Release Parking Brake

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Once you have the clutch pedal pressed, you can start the engine. Put the key in the ignition and crank the motor. Then you can find the gear lever and shift your vehicle into first gear. At this point, you can begin to release the parking brake.

You might have an old fashioned ignition switch or the increasingly popular start button. Either way, you need to make sure you're launching your vehicle at the right time. It's easy to stall the engine at first. But after you practice the movements a few times, you should be able to accurately gauge the timing.

3. Rev Engine to at least 1,500 Revolutions Per Minute

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Now you're about ready to start moving. At this point in learning how to drive stick, the lessons start to pay off. Make sure you rev your engine up at least 1,500 or 2,000 RPM to prevent your car from stalling.

At the right number of revolutions per minute, you'll be able to slowly lift the clutch pedal. It's at this point you'll actually be moving, assuming you've done everything right so far.

4. Slowly Release Clutch and Start Moving Forward

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If you haven't felt the car's engine stall, you're probably moving forward. Make sure you don't try to push the accelerator too quickly or with too much pressure. Keep lifting up the leg you use to depress the clutch to send more power to the wheels.

Maybe you went a bit too quick or didn't rev the engine quite enough. Such issues are par for the course when you're learning how to drive stick. But don't be discouraged. If this happens, just put your car back in neutral and start the process again.

​5. Apply Gentle Pressure to the Accelerator

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Assuming you're able to move your car forward by this point, it's time to start applying the gas. Push the accelerator, which will continue to increase the speed and engine revolutions. Before long, you'll be able to listen to your own engine to determine when to shift. But at this point, it's best to rely on the RPM to guide you.

6. Downshift at About 3,000 RPM

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Once you start moving at a steady clip, you'll need to downshift. This is a major part of learning how to drive stick. And it's also why you should go into the process with a clear idea of your car's shift pattern.

When you hit about 3,000 RPM, it's time to downshift. So make sure you know where second gear is and get the feel for it. We recommend practicing the move from first to second a few times before hitting the streets.

And you'll have to stop at some point, too. When you do, press the clutch pedal again and move the gear stick into neutral. You'll also want to get the hang of putting your manual transmission into reverse. It's similar to the previous instructions, but be sure to slowly release the clutch while you're in reverse.


Learning how to drive stick might seem like a daunting task. 

But with a few simple steps and a bit of practice, you'll be a natural in no time. We hope you found our tutorial helpful and informative.


If so, share this article with the motorists in your life. And leave us a comment below if you have any final thoughts or questions.

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