Every Man Should Know How to Drive Stick

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 17, 2012 · 308 comments

in Cars, Manly Skills

I can still remember the day I learned how to drive a stick shift. My dad and I were looking for a car for my sixteenth birthday. I had my eye on a red Isuzu Hombre (that’s right, the make of my first car was the Spanish word for “Man”). Only problem? It had a manual transmission, and I only knew how to drive an automatic.

“Not a problem,” my dad said.

He got the keys from the salesman and we went for a test drive. My dad pulled into a cemetery that had a big, empty road that winded throughout the grounds. He stopped the car, turned it off, and got out.

“Okay, Brett-os. Your turn.”

So began my initiation into the high art of stick shift driving.

I stalled out the first time I tried to get the car started. Then the second time. And then a third time. My dad just sat there and chuckled silently to himself, while offering some fatherly pointers. Finally, on the fourth attempt, I got the little truck going. When my dad saw that I could stop and start the Hombre consistently and shift gears without grinding the clutch, he gave the okay for me to get the truck. And off I went, lurching into my new freedom.

It’s been over a decade since I first learned how to drive stick, and I’m still cruising America’s highways and byways the very same way. But the number of my gear-shifting brethren are few; after Oldsmobile introduced the first automatic transmission in 1940, the number of manual transmission vehicles on the road took a steep dive, and for the last few years have represented only about 4% of annual auto sales in the US. (Interestingly, in the first quarter of 2012, sales of manuals jumped up 3%, perhaps signaling a small comeback). While our numbers may be few, there are several reasons you should consider joining our ranks.

Why You Should Learn How to Drive Stick

You never know when you’ll need to know how.  Has your friend become inebriated and you need to drive him and his old Ford “three on tree” Bronco home? Do you need to borrow a friend’s car, and the only one available has a manual transmission? What about renting a car while abroad? Manual transmission cars are much more common internationally than in the US, so automatics are not always available, and if they are, are much more expensive.

Knowing how to drive stick means you’ll never be caught flat, clutch-shy-footed, in a pinch. A man who knows how to drive a standard transmission car can also easily drive an automatic, but the reverse isn’t true. Better to know it and not need it, than need it and not know it.

Manual transmission cars are generally less expensive than automatics. Because very few people today know how to drive a stick shift, the demand for them is low. This can be annoying if you’re looking for a specific model of car with a manual transmission and it isn’t offered. But the upside is that manual transmission vehicles are often priced lower than their automatic counterparts, and the lackluster demand for them can be a bargaining chip when you’re buying used. They tend to sit on the lot longer, so tell the salesman you’d be more than happy to take that lonely manual off their hands if they’ll drop the price some more.

So you don’t hop into a “borrowed” getaway car you can’t drive. Because a manual transmission can act as a possible thief deterrent.

Manual transmission vehicles generally get better gas mileage. Not only will knowing how to drive a standard save you money when you purchase your car, it can also save you money for years after, as they typically get better gas mileage than their automatic cousins. While it’s true that recent automatics have closed this gap, and a few models can even beat their manual counterparts, manuals still have the edge; Consumer Reports found that, on average, a stick shift can improve gas mileage by 2 to 5 miles per gallon. With gas prices as high as they are, every little bit of savings helps.

You can sometimes push start a manual transmission car with a dead battery. If you have a dead battery, but no jumper cables, you can often get cars with a manual transmission, particularly older models, going with the good ol’ push start.

Some really cool cars only come with a manual transmission. If you ever decide to buy a vintage sports car and fix it up, knowing how to drive stick will greatly expand your selection of vehicles. And if you ever win a contest where the prize is an Aston Martin V12 Vantage or a Ford Shelby GT500, you better know how to drive stick. Those cars only come with manual transmissions, and there are countless other high-end and luxury sports cars that are standard transmission only too. Why? Because guys who are willing to drop some serious coin on such vehicles tend to want the full driving experience, which is to say…

Driving stick is simply more fun! If you’ve only driven with an automatic transmission your entire life, you don’t know the fun you’ve been missing. Driving an automatic feels passive and artificial – like you’re merely pointing or steering the car instead of controlling it. With a manual, you actually feel like you’re part of the car, and you’re attuned to its vibrations and noises. Plus, manual transmissions are proactive instead of reactive – you get into the gear you need instead of waiting for the automatic tranny to hunt for the right one.

Sure, this fun factor is dampened if you do most of your driving in stop-and-go traffic, or in a city with ginormous hills. But once they go manual, a lot of guys never go back, because automatics seem like a snoozefest in comparison.

How to Drive Stick: The Basics

First: Get Familiar With Your Cockpit

The pedals: clutch, brake, gas. The clutch pedal – absent on your automatic transmission car — is the pedal on the far left. You press the clutch pedal when you shift gears up or down. More on shifting in a minute.

The brake is the pedal in the middle; it’s used for, well, braking.

The pedal on the far right is the gas. Works just like your gas pedal on your automatic transmission.

One of the things that throws people off when driving a stick shift for the first time is the addition of that clutch pedal because you now have to use BOTH feet when driving — not just your right foot.  You’ll be using your left foot to press the clutch and your right foot to press the brake and gas pedal.

The gear shifter. Your gear shifter does just that — it shifts the gears on your transmission. Most modern manual transmission vehicles come with six gears: first through fifth gears, and then reverse gear. On the knob of the gear shift you’ll find a diagram that shows what position the shifter needs to be in in order to engage each gear.

The tachometer. The tachometer is a gauge on your dashboard that shows you how many revolutions per minute your engine’s crank shaft is going. When you begin driving a stick shift, the tachometer is a good way to help you determine when you should shift up or down. Generally, you should shift gears up when the tachometer is around “3” or 3,000 RPMs; shift down when the tachometer is around “1″ or 1,000 RPMs. After some experience with driving a stick shift, you’ll be able to figure out when to shift by the way your engine sounds and “feels.” More on that below.

Practice Shifting Gears and Pressing the Clutch and Gas With Car Turned Off

A little note before getting into the mechanics of driving stick: I highly recommend that you practice what we’re about to explain with the car turned off and the parking brake engaged. It gives you a chance to get a feel for how the gears engage and disengage and how much give or resistance the clutch has. It also allows you to get comfortable with the general body mechanics of moving the gear shifter and pressing the pedals with both feet versus just one. So after you read the instructions and before you turn on the car, practice going through the motions of shifting.

Getting the Car Going

Probably the hardest and most intimidating part of driving a stick shift is actually getting the car going in first gear. It takes a while to figure out how much you need to press down on the gas and how slowly you need to disengage the clutch for the gears in your car to catch and get moving. To prevent any frustration and self-inflicted violence, accept from the outset that you’re going to stall the car. It’s okay. It’s all part of the initiation into the Brotherhood of the Manual Transmission. The good news, though, is once you get the car moving, shifting gears is super easy.

Let’s get this car rolling.

Practice in an empty parking lot. You’re going to stall and lurch the car, so practice where there isn’t any traffic and where you have a flat surface. Empty parking lots are the ideal stick shift practice venue. It’s also a good idea to have somebody in the passenger seat who knows how to drive manual so they can provide pointers.

Press in the clutch and brake pedal, and start the car. To start a manual transmission car, you’ll always need to press the clutch while you turn the ignition switch. While you don’t need to have your foot on the brake to start the car (like you do with an automatic transmission), it’s a good habit to keep.

With the clutch pedal pushed down with your left foot, and your right foot pressed on the brake, turn the car on.

Put the car in 1st gear. If it isn’t already, push the gear shifter into 1st gear. If there’s only one thing you get from what I’m about to explain, let it be this: never shift gears without fully depressing the clutch pedal. Failing to do so while the car is on will result in a horrific grinding sound and you making regular trips (and payments) to the transmission shop. So make sure your foot is still pressing the clutch pedal all the way down before shifting into 1st gear.

To put the car into 1st gear, use your right hand to move the gear shifter up and to the left.

Make sure the gear is fully engaged. How do you know when it’s fully engaged? You’ll be able to feel it as well as see it  — the gear shifter should stay in place when you remove your hand from the gear knob.

Keep the clutch pedal and brake pushed down. Don’t take your left foot off the clutch yet or else you’ll stall out. Keep the brake depressed as well.

Move your right foot off the brake and onto the gas pedal. At the same time, start to release the clutch with your left foot. This is the tricky part when you’re first learning. Take your right foot off the brake, move it onto the gas pedal, and start pressing it…while at the same time slowly letting up on the clutch pedal with your left foot. You don’t want to stop pressing on the gas with your right foot while you do this or else you’ll stall. Keep light pressure on the gas pedal with your right foot so that the tachometer stays around 1,500-2,000 RPM while you’re letting up on the clutch with your left foot. If all goes well, you should begin to feel the gears “bite” or take hold of the spinning engine and you’ll start slowly moving forward. When you’re rolling at a steady clip, you can let up on the clutch completely. Congrats! You’ve successfully got a car moving in first gear.

If you stall, begin from the beginning. If you do stall the car, don’t fret. Just start the above process from the beginning.

Come to a stop. To stop, simply press down on the clutch with your left foot and the brake with your right foot at the same time.

Repeat until you can get the car going in first gear without stalling. Keep practicing getting the car going over and over again until you can do it regularly without stalling the car. If you do stall, laugh at yourself, and start the process over again.

Starting the car in first is basically the same process you’ll use when backing up, only the gear shift will be set in reverse. Sometimes if you’re on even a slight decline, you can get going in reverse without needing to press on the gas by simply taking your foot off the clutch.

Find a hill and practice there. Once you’ve mastered starting on a flat surface, find a hill to practice on. Starting from a standstill up a hill requires much more finesse with the clutch and gas pedals. You don’t want your first hill start to be in actual traffic with a car directly behind you. Trying to get your car going without stalling or rolling back into the driver behind you can be nerve-racking for a new manual transmission-er.

Upshifting

As mentioned earlier, once you can get the car moving from a standstill and into 1st gear, you’ve pretty much mastered 90% of stick shift driving. Upshifting into other gears is a breeze. Generally, you’ll want to upshift when the tachometer hits about 3,000 RPMs. It will be different for every car, but it’s a good rule of thumb. If you shift too soon, you’ll feel the car shudder, and you’ll need to downshift to keep it from stalling.

When you’re ready to upshift, just follow this pattern:

  • Take your right foot off the gas pedal and press the clutch all the way down with left foot and move gear shifter fully to next gear in one, synchronized motion.
  • Release clutch pedal while simultaneously pressing down on the gas pedal with right foot.
  • Completely let your left foot off of the clutch pedal once you’re in gear and continue to press the gas.

Downshifting

While you shouldn’t downshift to get your car to come to a stop in normal driving conditions (see below), there is a place for it in your stick shift driving arsenal. Obviously it’s needed when you’re driving in traffic that slows and speeds up as you go along. Downshift as your car slows and the tachometer drops to around 1.

Also, when you’re driving on hazardous roads, particularly on snow and ice, you don’t want to rely on your brakes to slow down lest you slide into the car in front of you. Instead, slow the car down by shifting into lower gears. If the roads are really slick, you’ll probably just want to stay in second gear.

Knowing When to Shift Gears Without Looking at the Tachometer

You’ll probably rely on the tachometer when you first start driving a stick shift to know when to shift gears. But with experience, you’ll be able to do it by how the car sounds and feels. If the engine is making a high pitched noise and it feels like no matter how much gas you give, you’re getting nowhere, then you’re in too low a gear and need to upshift. If the engine is making a low, rumbling noise and is vibrating a lot, you’re in too high of a gear and you need to downshift.

Don’t Ride the Clutch

You’ll want to avoid “riding the clutch.” What that means is avoiding resting your left foot on the clutch pedal when you’re in gear. While the light pressure of your foot resting on the clutch pedal is not enough to disengage the gear completely, it is enough to partially disengage it which causes premature wear and tear on your clutch.

Bottom line: when you’ve successfully shifted into a gear (or neutral), remove your left foot completely from the clutch pedal.

Coming to a Stop

There are two schools of thought on how one should come to a stop when driving a manual transmission car. The first method is to slow the car down by downshifting until you get to second gear and only then applying your brakes. The second method is to press on the clutch and shift the car into neutral, and then remove your foot from the clutch pedal, coasting to a stop using the brake pedal as needed.

While it’s true you can slow your car down by simply downshifting, it does cause a lot of wear and tear on your clutch and transmission. According to Click and Clack, (and this is also the way I learned to do it), it’s easier on your car to use the second method. Shift to neutral and use the brake. When you’re not able to put it in neutral, remember that you need to press in the clutch and the brake at the same time when you come to a stop.

Parking

When you park a manual transmission car, the emergency brake is your friend. You’ll want to set it every time you park your car, whether on a flat or sloping surface. For added safety, leave the car in first gear. If you’re parked on a hill, pointing downhill, put it in reverse. And no matter which direction you’re pointed on a hill, turn your front wheels so that if the car started rolling, it would roll into the sidewalk.

Well that covers the basics. There’s more to understand about driving stick, but you’ll learn most of what remains from experience, as you get attuned to listening to your car. After a while, shifting gears will feel as natural as breathing!

Any other tips for the first-time stick shift driver? Have any funny stories about your stick shift learning experience? Share them with us in the comments!

 Illustrations by Ted Slampyak

 

{ 308 comments… read them below or add one }

201 ThomsonsPier October 24, 2012 at 5:56 am

Further to my fellow Englishman’s comments above, I’d like to mention (in case anyone wondered) that there are two classes of licence in this country. If you pass your test on an automatic, you’re not allowed to drive a manual car unless you take another test.

I also take issue with a couple of points from the article, probably more owing to how I learned to drive than from any real effect. Shifting to neutral while the vehicle is in motion results in a lack of control; it’s far better to stay in gear and match it to the speed of the car as you brake. Freewheeling is rarely a good idea, and if you do it during your test in Britain, you’ll fail. I’m unable to verify whether it’s actually illegal.

With regard to starting up, rather than holding on the brake and making a rapid switch to the accelerator, it can be easier to avoid stalling by leaving the handbrake (I believe you American chaps call it the emergency brake, which has always confused me) applied until the clutch and gas are balanced. At that point, you can release the handbrake and move off without rushing the motion. This is a useful technique for hill starts, as it eliminates the slight roll backwards while your foot is on neither of the pedals.

Now I’ve thrown those in there, I shall sit and await disagreement.

202 chris October 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm

This is great. I’d not realised manual gears were so underused in the USA, its almost standard here in the UK. Anyone who cannot pass a manual gear driving test gets a lower class licence.
Its not hard, just takes a bit more actual skill.

203 Henry October 25, 2012 at 7:24 am

Two quick tips to add: Don’t rely on the pattern on the gear knob if you’re not comfortable driving standard – they unscrew. And I was always taught to keep it in gear when driving in case you need to get out of someones way in a hurry (police, semi that’s not stopping, etc).

204 Tomas October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am

I was having same problems when I was beginning to learn to drive at 12 years old. Things go different in europe, It’s mostly manual transmission cars here.

205 thump October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I don’t know if any of the other commentators brought this up, but manual transmissions are also MUCH BETTER in emergency maneuvering situations, particularly ice and snow or when you simply need to slow the car down as fast as possible. I remember cresting a hill in Colorado a few years ago and seeing a number of cars sliding into or already crashed into one another at the stop light below. I had an “oh sh!t” moment, but was able to drop down into 3rd and then 2nd, and eventually into first (sacrilege) to get the car slowed and under control in extremely icy conditions. I was able to use other, smashed cars to protect me from cars that couldn’t stop in time while I waited to get through the intersection. I’m confident that, had I not had a manual transmission, I would have been among the numerous wrecked vehicles littering the road.

206 Edward October 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Take a third option, motorbike! Manual transmission, sequential gearbox, and… oh yes, statistical death at 27. Ah well, it’s good fun.

207 Octávio October 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I’m from Brazil, and here the rule is stick shift. I learned how to drive in a stick shift Fiat Mille (Brazil), and stalled it more than 20 times in day 1 of learning. Today, I mastered it, and feel uncomfortable driving an automatic. My tip to anyone who’s learning how to drive stick is: get an open space, such as a parking lot (empty, of course) or a country road, and an old car with a very hard clutch. Once you learn the hard way, driving a modern hydraulic clutch and stick shift will be a breeze. Congrats to anyone who decides to learn how to drive the right way!

208 Sam October 26, 2012 at 2:33 am

Also, here in Sweden mostly only disabled people or zombies drive automatic.

While it is true that un-clutching or going neutral does give less wear and tear on the transmission it really do lower your emissions (and obviously, fuel consumption) quite drastically. The reason is basically that most, if not all cars will keep your RPM at above 1000 to keep the engine from stalling or just halting when in neutral. When downshifting and/or clutch-braking the engine will not do that.
Another tip is that when you need to brake for some length your brakes will eventually over-heat and become useless. So, when going downhill for an extended time you would want to consider clutch-braking to actually have any brakes at all when needed. Just remember to un-clutch or shift into neutral before completely stopping.

In city traffic (start-stop traffic and traffic jams) you could also control speed using your clutch on a low gear. Let it run with zero throttle applied and carefully engage the clutch.

Yes, all this will wear the transmission, but as long as it sounds “normal” you’ll probably be OK anyway.

209 Sam October 26, 2012 at 2:36 am

Just realized I was unclear on the emissions part.

Neutral + Brake = More emissions, less wear
Downshift + Clutch = Less emissions, more wear

Less emissions = better fuel-economy.

Sorry for the wasted internetspacetimesthingy.

210 Will October 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I’ve been driving stick for about three months now and I’ve gotten pretty good, but I live in a city with tons of hills and drivers that seem to think a safe stopping distance is less than a foot from my bumper. To alert people that when I try to get started at a red light I’ll back into them I generally rapidly lift and flex on the break, to show them that when I switch to the gas my car will go backwards, but some people who obviously were taught by the baby-boom generation can’t seem to comprehend that.
My question is how do you all alert people from deciding to tempt fate by placing their private property directly in the killzone of your car on an upward hill?

211 Gareth Palmer October 27, 2012 at 1:54 am

Thief determent eh? in South Africa, I suspect most car thieves don’t know how an automatic works, so the reverse is true. I love having stick shift

212 Peter October 27, 2012 at 9:05 am

Another reader from Germany, where manual transmission is the norm.

As to “My question is how do you all alert people from deciding to tempt fate by placing their private property directly in the killzone of your car on an upward hill?”, simple answer: I don’t, and neither does anyone I know.

I know it may sound harsh, but it’s your own fault if you don’t have your car under control and roll back into someone else’s. You MUST NOT ROLL BACK more than a few inches. If you can’t manage to do that with the quick-foot-transfer-dance, please just use the handbrake like everybody else does. Thank you. Rant over.

213 JR October 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Brett, if a grinding sound occurs, its not the clutch, which is meant to slip a little, but the dog teeth between the gears themselves. Good article though!

214 A Girl October 28, 2012 at 9:35 am

Does anyone know why Automatics became so prevalent in the US? Where I live, there are hardly any and you can’t get a license in one – you HAVE to learn to drive in a manual. I drove an automatic once, and to be honest it was no fun.

PS I know I’m a girl but I love your blog.

215 Steve Zimmett October 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I drive a 2010 Ford Focus. This is the last year this Focus has a manual along with an automatic transmission. I drove a 1985 Saab Turbo for about 8 years in California and then I sure missed the standard after that. I now live in PA. I cannot stand an automatic. My wife cannot drive a standard and will not learn. That will at least save my car and the transmission and clutch. This is a very good article.

216 Zac October 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm

A Girl–
Automatic cars are probably so prevalent in the US for a number of likely reasons. American driving is so integrated into the US highway and interstate system, which lends itself to things like cruise control and cars that are easily driven and repaired. American car companies pushed automatic cars during the right time and it stuck with the general populace. Once the baby-boomers bought their automatics, they weren’t going to teach their children the ways of the stick.

217 Jeremiah October 30, 2012 at 1:25 am

Anybody learned double clutching? I use it in place of brakes when situation does not call for immediate speed drop, for example approaching a traffic junction.

Cruising to a slow speed while matching the speed, gear and engine rev at every point without using brakes or disengaging the gears.

I would use engine brake and air resistance to bring the speed down before putting on the brakes. I wouldn’t need to explain the techniques as it’s quite lengthy and easily found on the internet.

218 Brad October 30, 2012 at 8:13 am

I’ve been driving stick for about 7 years now and have put 95k on my chevy cobalt using the downshifting and engine-braking to slowdown technique with no problems from my clutch or transmission, still going strong.

One advantage with this method is that many modern cars are coming with some sort of Deceleration Fuel Cut-Off (DFCO) feature where, essentially, during deceleration, if your foot is off the pedal and you are in gear, almost no fuel is being used to power the motor, just enough to keep it running. This saves me probably 2-4 mpg ( I compared normal driving after disabling DFCO with tuning software) on my 2006 chevy cobalt.

Another advantage of staying in gear during deceleration is maintaining that control that a manual transmission gives you. The car stays much more balanced while in gear, especially when turning just as a bicycyle does when you’re pedaling. If you’re not riding the clutch and mkaing proper downshifts, this should put no more wear on your clutch than accelerating normally would.

Thoroughly enjoyed the article though and just wanted to bring up some points for consideration.

219 Fábio October 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Man, there is no big deal at driving stick shift. But try to do it *without* using the clutch, and maybe we’ll be talking about art.

http://www.caranddriver.com/features/how-to-drive-a-stick-without-a-clutch

220 Craig October 31, 2012 at 11:14 am

I had worked on cars forever with my dad before I became driving age, so when I finally drove a manual for the first time, it made perfect sense and it was totally natural.

THEN my dad restored his Model A. Learning to drive an unsynchronized tranny was… challenging. Not just shifting, either, but even starting the car. Makes you appreciate modern cars a lot, but driving vintage is definitely more manly.

And yes, now I can even crank start a Model A.

221 Heartless November 1, 2012 at 3:27 am

When you want to start uphill from dead stop, you don’t have to go backwards, towards someone’s front bumper.

1. You keep your brake pedal to the floor
2. While having the 1st gear on, you slowly release the clutch until you start to feel the engine tremble a bit. Release a tiny bit more, but not too much as it’ll stall and shut down. This takes some practise somewhere without anyone behind you.
3. If you have it correctly, you can carefully release the brake and the car will remain motionless by the power of the clutch alone.
4. Then you nicely add gas while releasing the rest of the clutch.

222 Chanan November 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm

One tip that I noticed was missed in the explanation and something that I was taught in drivers education. When releasing the clutch in gear from a stop there is a point during the release where the gears catch. My instructor called this the “catch point” its the point at which you can feel the gear catch and will begin to move the vehicle without addition of the gas pedal. It’s also a good way to know you’re properly engaged when you’re doing a hill start. If properly employed, when you remove your foot from the brake pedal on a hill you should be able to hold your car in place with just the clutch and then feather out the clutch as you engage the gas pedal.

223 Andi November 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm

If anyone wants to show that he is a beginner here in italy a rule of thumb is to put a big printed “P” (A4 paper) in the back window of the car(first letter of “principiante” = noobie), so other drivers will be cautious.

224 Tae November 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm

There is actually a third option for coming to a stop. Leave the car in gear and coast to a near stop, then shift to neutral before stopping (stalling). Best option because:

1) Saves gas. Brad said it – no fuel is used when decelerating (coasting) in gear. A tiny bit of fuel is used when coasting in neutral. No fuel is better than a little.

2) No wear on clutch. You’re not racing – there’s no reason to downshift/engine brake to stop at a red light. Use your brakes to stop your car. That’s what they’re for.

225 EJRT November 4, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Nothing about the rationale here convinces me. The problem is the assumption that the reader actually enjoys driving, and that expanding one’s toolbox will expand the reader’s horizons in the joy that is this functional act. Any practical concerns seem very conditional; under these very specific conditions, and with a bit of work and finesse, you might hypothetically see a slight difference.

I’d be willing to hear a series of considered arguments on the real-world pragmatic value. For me, driving is a chore; it’s a way to get from point A to point B when there is no convenient public transit. I don’t care about cars in and of themselves; they’re the tools that enable this inconvenient solution. It’s not difficult to find an automatic car that’s cheap and gets good gas mileage. I don’t have any drunken friends. I’m not going to find myself in Indiana Jones situations. So what practical good is being a little more hardcore about driving?

How does safety compare, if at all? How about wear and tear? Cost and ease of repair? Are there any real-world situations (mountains, maybe?) where the low-level control of a stick shift could make a huge difference in where a car can go, what it can do, and how easily? How does this to apply to non-passenger situations — other kinds of vehicles that one might plausibly find one’s self in a position to drive? Not cool vehicles; I’m talking vehicles that might mean the difference in a bunch of money hiring someone to do a task or otherwise being stuck. I think moving vans are available in automatic, but this is the kind of situation it would be nice to hear more about.

226 Justin November 5, 2012 at 12:32 am

EJRT, it depends on where your from, in the US that may be the case, but around the rest of the world manual is not uncommon.

Wear and tear are about the same in my experience, unless you ride the clutch, cheaper and easier to repair a manual transmission, at least in my location. You are correct, most trucks including multi-combinations are available in automatic these days, easier to drive for those too lazy to learn to drive manual. I can ride a motorcycle, sail a boat, fly an aircraft, and even drive crash box, does that mean I do all that regularly, hell no, I have not got the time, nor the funds to do so. but if the situation calls for it, or I want to do something, I can do it

As has been said before, try a crash box (Road Ranger/Non-Syncromesh box, then get back to me)

227 Parker November 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I always shift into neutral and use the brakes to come to a stop in a manual. My reasoning is that brake pads are cheaper and easier to replace than a clutch.

228 Robert November 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Down shifting to decelerate is something that many experts argue about. Some say its harmless others say it causes wear. I personally spoke to a technician who said it was harmless but I only down shift around turns, when coming to a complete stop I go into neutral, it’s just faster, its all about preference.

229 Mark November 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Interesting you put the deterring auto theft example on there. I had a friend in baltimore who was mugged. The muggers took her keys and jumped in the car. The first robber in the driver seat started the car, but yelled “it’s an f***ing stick.” The muggers jumped out of the car and threw the keys back.

230 Kendrick November 7, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I have to say I learned to drive stick at the young age of about 6 years old. I grew up on a farm and it started I would shift for my dad while he drove than at about 10 or so it was hear are the keys go move this. I got my license in an automatic and currently drive an automatic as my daily driver. I however also have a 1978 f350 truck with a 12 ft stake side bed. this is a big truck and I do not care how good you are with a new car the big trucks role back on starts. I still love that people do not understand that in the US. I know that people would say I am not good enough at driving stick how ever like I said started at 6 and I am 26 now. as for the crash box around my parts we say granny shifting is required.

231 Jacob Bischoff November 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm

My dad says that you should shift down at around 2000rpm or it will wear the clutch pad out faster. It could vary depending upon the car and our cars are all old.

232 Ben Greathouse November 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I had to quickly relearn how to drive manual when my brother bought a pickup from my uncle. Since my brother had never driven manual, I drove it home. I had not driven a stick in several years, so I was a bit worried about stalling. I made sure I gave it plenty of gas when I took off, since I knew I would take less abuse for peeling out than for stalling.

233 Kevin November 17, 2012 at 5:02 am

You have mastered the manual transmission when you can execute a perfectly rev-matched downshift (using all three pedals at the same time), with the stereo blasting, and without ever having to glance down at the tachometer.

I might also add that when slowing on snow or ice, it is safer to simply put it in neutral and gently apply the brakes making sure never to break traction, than it is to rely on downshifting. That’s just my opinion. Especially with rear wheel drive. If one were to let out the clutch pedal too fast, it would have the same effect as yanking the e-brake. The rear wheels will slow too quickly and break traction, potentially causing the vehicle to enter an uncontrollable slide.

234 Lawless November 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I am surprised how many of the comment posters here in the United States claim to currently own and drive a manual transmission vehicle as they are extremely hard to find.

Over the past twenty years I have had three standard transmission cars. I need a car for work since job entails travel. Each time I’ve traded in the fall at the end of the model year and three times the automobile with a stick shift was the last lonesome one on the car dealer’s lot looking for a new home. Dad was not too thrilled to start out teaching me to drive a stick shift and pleaded with me that the family station wagon with automatic transmission would be so much easier to drive. But for small kid leery of safely maneuvering a big vehicle around in the street his Volkswagon Beetle seemed a more appropriate size in which to start out. I rationed with him that if my eighty (80) year old grandmother could shift gears and dive around in a VW Bug just like his, learning to shift gear couldn’t be that difficult!

Last new car I bought a year ago does not have stick shift and I thought I would miss it, since it give me something to do to pass time when driving around, but fortunately came with a “gas mileage monitor” light, so I now pass my time watching it and trying to come up with strategies as to the best way for getting the most miles per gallon by gradually accelerating, coasting to stop and waiting for light to change, etc. With new computerized engine technology integrated into new cars, the difference in gas mileage between automatic and standard transmission cars has diminished significantly.

Winter time driving is the one situation when it is nice to be in a stick shift vehicle, on a slippery patch of ice it feels a lot more comforting quickly kick in the clutch and get vehicle into neutral, rather than relying on the brakes alone! Similarly, in an automatic transmission car, if you slide or pull into a snow bank or drift and get stuck getting out can be difficult. With a stick shift starting out at a slow speed with no wheel spin is much easier. With an automatic transmission I always wind up digging deep icy ruts just trying to get out.

235 Bill December 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

I’m astonished by the advice to put the car into neutral and then brake. I was taught in driver’s ed back in 1969, when most cars were manual, to be in gear when you start braking. If you are in neutral, you are free-rolling which means you are not in control of your car! If takes much longer to stop and you could go off in unexpected directions in wet or icy conditions.

As for clutch wear, braking in neutral wears the brakes. There’s no such thing as “wear-free” stopping. And braking emits particles into the air, too. If you’re worried about wear and emissions, anticipate your stops, and stop gradually as you come up to a stop sign or signal. Worst thing you can do for your car and the air is to roar up to a stop then jam on the brakes at the last minute. Look up hyper-miling techniques.

And what’s with blaming baby-boomers for the popularity of automatic cars? We baby-boomers all drove manual, and a lot of us still do. The younger generations are the ones who went automatic. The lazy, sniveling punks! They think cooking is pushing the big button on the microwave, too.

236 Bill December 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

Oh, and another thing. I taught my kids to drive stick shift. They thank me for this, especially my daughter whose first job was on a farm. Her employer was impressed that she was able to hop into a farm truck and drive it with little instruction.

She then applied for a job as a photographer’s assistant. One of the duties was to drive the bosses’ manual-shift car on errands.

“Can you drive stick shift?” he asked.

“Yes!” she said.

“Then, you’ve got the job!”

237 Josh | Traveling 9 to 5 December 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm

This had been the number one thing I wished I knew how to do until this year. I had always wanted to learn but no one would let me practice with their car.

Finally, I rented a 4×4 Toyota Hilux in Johannesburg to drive for 22 days on our self-drive safari. So I taught myself how to drive, right before driving through sand and wild animals for 3 weeks, in a foreign country, where you drive on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right. It was crazy, but a great trial-by-fire for learning!

238 Eric December 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I live in rural Canada and there are automatics in lots of new vehicles but older stuff is mostly manual I learnd to frive stick in an 1985 f-150 with no syncromeshat age 4 because they needed someone to drive the hay truck then from there I moved on to the 12 speed tractor so when I did my driving test in a manual I had no problems.
When doing a hill start using the handbrake is fine if you have one but around here trucks and fullsize cars don’t have handbrakes the emergancy brake is a 4th pedal so you have to use the friction point for hill starts which can be especially difficult with a 10 000 pound trailer

239 EJRT December 12, 2012 at 8:43 am

Justin, I don’t know what a crashbox is and unless there’s a practical reason to know I’m not particularly interested.

You seem to conclude that the only reason someone wouldn’t want to drive manual transmission is that he’s “lazy”. That’s interesting. I wonder what that word means to you. I have never played and have no intention to ever play football. Is that because I’m too lazy, or because the subject holds no interest for me? Because at least to a resident of North America this article and this thread are selling manual transmission less on its real, meaningful practical value than on prestige, lifestyle, and the general sport of it.

Once we weed out the thrill and machismo (which is a totally different thing from manliness), and start talking about the functional necessity of the thing, then we can start having a meaningful conversation. If in the end we conclude that there is a significant practical value to manual transmission and I still conclude that I don’t want to bother with it — then in this regard you can call me lazy. Because then I’ll be faced with a problem and its solution and I will refuse to take it, possibly because I don’t want to put in the initial energy. That’s laziness.

Meanwhile, Lawless presents the best argument in the entire discussion:

“Winter time driving is the one situation when it is nice to be in a stick shift vehicle, on a slippery patch of ice it feels a lot more comforting quickly kick in the clutch and get vehicle into neutral, rather than relying on the brakes alone! Similarly, in an automatic transmission car, if you slide or pull into a snow bank or drift and get stuck getting out can be difficult. With a stick shift starting out at a slow speed with no wheel spin is much easier. With an automatic transmission I always wind up digging deep icy ruts just trying to get out.”

Now THAT’S practical. More like that, and we’re on our way.

240 EJRT December 12, 2012 at 9:02 am

To put it another way, at least in North America manual transmission seems to be a solution looking for a problem. And on the basis of this discussion (Lawless’ excellent example aside) it seems pretty desperate.

If you want to make a good argument for manual transmission, the functionality does seem to be there. Look at the icy road example. There’s got to be loads more like that — tangible real-world situations that any driver might realistically encounter on a day-to-day basis. Time, safety, money, effort are on the line — and manual transmission is your easiest out. Put together a dozen of those, and you begin to paint a very good argument.

Saying “but I can drive anything if I want to!” doesn’t really add much value. Good for you! I’m sure I have frivolous skills that you don’t.

241 JasonA December 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm

EJRT, manual transmission vehicles are cheaper than their counterparts. This is stated in the article. At first it may seem like the cheaper prices are from a function of supply and demand, but if you read carefully it states that a manual transmission vehicle in-and-of-itself is generally cheaper.

Not sure if you think a lower price is not a practical reason to own a manual or you just didn’t pick up on it.

But if paying more money for an easier-to-drive vehicle, with all other factors being equal, is not lazy then I don’t know what your definition of lazy is. (Even though it’s just being lazy to a tiny extent).

242 Gustavo December 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm

As a kid who learned to drive in a mechanic transmission car due to living in a third world country, I was surprised when I saw this article. However, thinking about it, I realized I myself know a handful of people who cannot do this, and I realized the problem must be bigger in the US.
Also, being able to drive stick shifts gives you a sense of subtlety and care that an automatic doesn’t. You become more sensitive to what is going on, and you definitely feel like you are one with your machine. I don’t know if this helps you in other tasks, but I believe so.

243 Diego December 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm

in Europe we are lucky because are taught to drive manual transmission cars for an obvious reason: automatic are rare and not demand for mainstream market. From my experience, some rental car companies do have them but only for american tourists.

244 IanH December 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm

EJRT, It is ironic that you’re bemoaning the bias of this article towards stickshift on account of style. This whole website is all about emulating and maintaining a certain style of gentleman from a bygone era.

But if you want more practical arguments:
Manual gearboxes are much cheaper to build and develop because they are of a simple design. You can also get away with cheaper alloys to build them as they’re less complex. So an otherwise identical car will be significantly cheaper in manual livery.
They are lighter than an equivalent automatic box, or robotized manual gearbox, hence providing better acceleration (power to weight being higher) and fuel economy (less weight to move around). Apart from perhaps a few new sports car with launch control automatics where this wouldn’t apply (we’re talking expensive cars here).
If you are a capable driver your manual gearbox can go forever. All you will need to change every now and again is the clutch plate. Manual gearboxes can also be rebuilt, which is very useful on classic cars. Automatic are much harder to fix as it is a complex machine in comparison. On a classic car this often means buying a gearbox which is from another (more modern) car, decreasing the value because you’ve lost authenticity.
Manuals also have no delay in acceleration or gear shifts, we all know those annoying delays before your automatic car starts moving at the lights.
Manual gearboxes are also better for you brakes on account that you can use the engine brake by shifting down. There is really hardly an wear if you know what you’re doing (e.g. 6th to 2nd in one go is extreme, 3rd to 2nd is fine).
And if one gear breaks you can still actually drive the manual car if you’re lucky (depends on what is broken in the box), automatics are just broken.

If you were into racing or fixing cars, some of us are, I could also touch upon the option of changing gear ratios, or the lack of need to be an electronics graduate to change anything on a modern automatic (the mechatronics on them are immense)

Overall, a manual gearbox adapts to your mood at any point in time, your actual hand is in control, it is a subconscious and mostly unobtrusive movement. So, except if you drive start-stop traffic every day for hours, where pressing the clutch can be boring, a manual still makes more economical sense.
Note also that the traditional automatic is slowly disappearing (my opinion), Manufacturers are moving to double clutch robotized manual gearboxes.

245 Matt December 31, 2012 at 8:49 am

Nearly all current automatics outside the cheapest models let you change gears yourself. Heck I can do it in my 02 Hyundai and most sport models do it faster than any person.

And I guess license tests are easy in the US – roll back on a hill start more than a foot is a failure here in Aus :) We’re taught to use the handbrake so you don’t move back at all. If you did roll back and hit a car, the vehicle reversing is assumed at fault.

246 Roger January 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Love the article. When I taught my housemate daughter to drive, I made her learn in my Isuzu Trooper w/stick shift. I told her that it was one of the five things in life everyone should know how to do.(Remember the scene in the movie, “Independence Day” where Vivica Fox drives the dump truck? Bet that wasn’t a automatic). After learning in the Trooper, her first car had a manual transmission.
By the way, the other four are:
1.know how to shoot a firearm
2.Know how to start a fire without matches
3.Swim
4.Know how to find water or purify it in any enviroment
Cheers!

247 Ron January 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I was taught how to drive in an automatic but my dad refused to let me go to college without learning to drive his old 86 Toyota pickup. It was a nightmare with a lack of power steering. If all manuals were that tough then I was prepared to never buy one. It turns out that the others were a piece of cake after mastering that vehicle where I had to add about 10 lbs of pressure to turn the wheel.

I totally agree with the lower pricing comment. Those interested in any of the Jeep Wranglers can get them at a lower cost if you go for the stick options!

248 Amelia January 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I know, I know…I’m a women on a website designed for guys but the articles are so helpful and informative. Anyways, hear me out. My dad made sure both my brothers and I could drive a stick shift and it has been a life saver many times, not to mention my first three cars were manuals simply because I prefer it to automatics. I only recently switched to an automatic because the car model I wanted only came in automatic. Now onto my tidbit of advice. I found that when learning to start a manual on a hill with traffic or on a really steep hill (the hills of San Francisco come to mind) I use my parking brake. Engage the parking brake when you come to a complete stop then when starting to get the car going in first gear disengage your parking brake in time with your clutch. When done correctly the parking brake should disengage smoothly and the car should start with no roll back or having to needlessly rev your car engine. It’s also a good security blanket for the less confident/newbie manual transmission drivers out there.

249 Tammi January 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I LOVE this site.

I learned how to drive a stick from my ex-husband. We bought a stick from our neighbor (a VW bug) for $200. It ran fine but was ugly. I was 21 and had never driven a standard before. So I got a 20 minute lesson in the driveway before I left for work and we lived in the Ozark mountains.

What a nightmare! I stalled it a few times and once the motorist behind me had to come up and remind me the basics but I got the hang of it by the end of the night. I think the desperation helped…LOL. We were poor, had no money, and I had to getto work.

P.S. It popped out of gear in third and you had to use a bungee cord if you wanted to use third for any amount of time.

250 Kamron January 9, 2013 at 9:15 am

Well, the same applies here in Jamaica, if you can’t drive stick you get a restricted license. I love my car (Corolla Levin with a 4A-GE blacktop engine) that is one of the sweetest cars to drive stick. My wife learned to drive it within a few weeks of my getting it, and it was surprisingly easy for her.

How could you forget to mention the whole double-clutch and heel-toe downshifting bit? The best part of driving stick, especially in those really curvy roads with lively stretches interspersed – driving heaven!!!

My wife’s car is automatic and I sometimes shift into 3, 2 or L to slow the car in slow moving traffic when going downhill, it works well enough only problem there is usually a delay in the gear engagement as is usually the case with automatics but it eventually does so but not with the immediacy of the manual transmission.

Driving stick lets the driver concentrate more on the road, less likely to fall asleep and rubbish the likes of calling and text messaging while driving are reduced, you never know when you may need to change gears and its a bit cumbersome with the cellphone in your hand to change gears (I am assuming).

251 RazZ January 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm

i’m from europe and here are mostly stick than automatic. i learn to drive on a stick car, thats becouse in my town all are the same, and also, my car is a stick one. i drive one with automatic, but i didnt like it at all. it’s like not feeling that you drive the car. i want to hear the engine sounds, the shifting cranks and feel it in stick. it’s like you are connected with the car. also it is more safe this way, in an emergency situation.
that handbrake(thats how i know its name, not the e brake, or emergency brake, its not right for me :)) tip, for a hill start is true, is much more easier this way. Also, in diesel cars, is more easier to start the car. If stick 1st gear, and if easily take the left foot off the cluth, you will feel in the pedal that the car want to start, like a tremble, a shaking of the pedal, and thats the moment when you will give some gas and start the car. Also, for a hill start, that shaking will keep the car im that place, without using the handbrake. But that is, mostly, for diesel cars.
Good luck and have patience, learning it right, and you will not regret.

252 Gabbo January 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm

As someone who learned to drive manual transmission cars in a relatively flat city, driving on a steep mountain highway with it for the first time was an education. Too steep an angle and the higher gears are useless. Guess who found that out the hard way? I had an 18-wheeler behind me on a highway (90 km/h limit) and was in 4th gear but saw the speed sinking down to 40, 35 even with the accelerator to the floor. At that point my passenger, alarmed, insisted I downshift. Once in 2nd gear, it was easy to maintain the flow of traffic. Nearly getting run over by a truck helped that info stick!

253 Jeff Lanthripp January 13, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I drive a Freightliner for a living. Its transmission is not only a manual-shift affair, it also has 10 forward gears. I have driven trucks with 9, 10, 13, and 18 forward gears. These trucks don’t have synchronized gears. That means you have to match the engine speed to the vehicle speed every time you shift. Beginners do this by double-clutching. Clutch to get into neutral, match the engine/vehicle speeds as well as you can, then clutch into the next gear up or down and hope it doesn’t grind too much. After a while, though, an experienced driver generally uses the clutch only for starting and stopping, and “floats” the gears in between. This is shifting without depressing the clutch pedal. Every now and then, doing this, you grind a gear a little bit – I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to grind one every now and then. Say, every few weeks. Anyway, yeah, driving a car with a manual transmission is a vital skill for any man.

254 Fabian January 16, 2013 at 9:13 am

c’mon.. people in america can’t stik drive? I’m Italian and we learn it as soon we make our driving licence. You can’t get, if you don’t know, how to shift gears..

255 Tiago January 18, 2013 at 10:35 am

I must say that, in Portugal, cars with manual gears are the rule. I don´t even remember ever catching a glimpse of a automatic gear car, without counting that when you take your licence, with all the classes that you have to atend, hopping for a automatic car is ridicullous.
Now I´m not saying that manual is better, but I strongly believe that you can have not only a more controled drive but also a more safe one.
I won´t never change a car with a manual gear for one with automatic. To me is not a evolution, is a lack of something really important for my driving exprience and road security.

256 bim flake January 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm

One of BMW’s great improvements that they have engineered into their cars with manual transmissions is a “brake hold”. When you are on an incline and stopped, when you release the brake pedal the car keeps the brakes held for a few seconds or until the transmission is engaged and you are moving forward. It is a brilliant improvement.

257 Della Vechia January 29, 2013 at 6:03 am

automatic gears are for lazy people,how can a man call himself a driver if he does not know how to change a gear??theres a joke that says that no one will rob a manual transmission car in USA cause no one knows how to drive it,Sorry for any english mistakes.

258 Matt Holmes February 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I came across this site by accident and just had to comment. Americans make me laugh calling it a ‘stick’ its called a ‘standard H’ for a start. Next thing is if you were from the U.K as I am almost everyone drives a manual or standard H, only lazy or bad drivers (and disabled) people drive an automatic. As for you Bim Flake who cant find the biting point on the clutch and hold it in one spot without the brakes i find this so funny BMW would never bother with such aids in the U.K or Germany, We can drive :)

259 Rhino February 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

I’m age 65, I’ve driven both auto and stick for 50 years in all areas of the USA and definitely prefer stick. Yup, many of us ‘Mericans say “stick”
1. If you don’t ride the clutch, a stick has virtually no maintenance, and repairs are cheaper than fixing or replacing an automatic. My 97 Camry is on its second clutch–installed around 2000. The first one was burned out by my younger son in his learning stage, he had major problems with riding the clutch. My dad’s stick ’55 Pontiac never had a transmission problem, it was driven daily into the 70′s.
2. Teach your kids to drive stick first, any maroon can drive an auto. I bought my Camry with a stick so I could teach my kids to drive. Especially for girls, knowing that when they are out and about, that in a pinch they can hop in any car around and get home is a good feeling. I smile knowing that both my daughters have bought cars with stick shifts as adults.
3. For EJRT. So sad you don’t enjoy the drive. Maybe mastering a stick would improve your driving experience. Stick is just a lot more fun to drive than an auto, although it can be a nuisance if you are in a big metro area where you crab along and end up doing lots of low speed shifts. On the good side, the shifting will become an automatic reflex, like breathing. After a short time you will know/feel your car and its behavior and will be in the right gear at the right time, all the time.
4 Stick gives you much better control of your car. Not just in ice/snow where the difference is most dramatic, but in normal driving where braking and being in the right gear to move quickly is critical. I’ve always found the stick makes the typical sedan much more nimble,
5.When first learning, plan to spend a lot of time sitting in the parking lot. The most important thing to master is where the catch point is, where the transmission first engages as you release the clutch. Practice letting out the clutch to this point repeatedly, no gas, just find the point and know where it is. It is different on every car, so you have to re-educate yourself when changing cars. Do a lot of starts/stops staying in first gear and learning to use the clutch when stopping. My experience teaching others is that it will take a few stops with the car bucking like crazy, my repeated “clutch” yells being ignored, and then stalling before the newbie masters the fact that you absolutely have to depress the clutch when stopping.
6. Hill starts: You have to practice this. Know your catch point, use the parking brake. Prove you are a man and a competent driver by demonstrating co-ordination in releasing the clutch, feeding gas, and releasing the parking brake at the same time, never roll back at all.

260 sasha February 8, 2013 at 10:15 am

i am from(born and raised) in america and i find it funny how you people from other countries are basically calling us incompotent just because manual shifting cars are not common here. for the record, if all automatic cars were to dissappear into thin air then rest assure that we would have no problem switching over. and congradulations on having to take your drivers test in a manual! hold on to that because thats the ONLY thing you can do better than us, so i understand why you hang on to it. if you are wondering i am a girl. i drive an automatic but i am a beast at driving a manual. took me 30 minutes to learn the basics and about a month to master so please dont pretend that driving a stick, yes i said it “stick” is of any significance when it comes to being a “man” because the are about 10 other qualities that i can think of that solidify what being a man is to me and driving a stick aint one of em.

261 1.8 T February 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

To be fair, a lot of manual’s advantages are being nullified by “manumatics”, otherwise known as automatics that let you choose when to shift if so inclined.

1) If I can pick a low gear, icy driving becomes a wash. If I get stuck, I can still feather the throttle and let the torque converter do the work, similar (kind-of) to the control offered by the clutch.

2) Automatics have gotten awesome at equaling and at times surpassing the MPG offered by manuals. Upshifts are programmed for max efficiency; computers are more consistent than your right hand (or left for those who drive on the wrong side)

3) With preventative maintenance, any transmission is reliable, although yes, stick is cheaper to fix. Take care of your ride in the first place and this will never be an issue.

4) Aggressive driving is possible with a manumatic. So late shifts are possible regardless of tranny. Several fancy cars are even FASTER in the quarter miles with the auto doing the work for you. (Again, computers v. your sweaty paw)

5) Manuals are cheaper, but not by much. Spend where it counts; your car is an investment. And push starts are nice, but only useful once or twice in a lifetime. (Who doesn’t keep jumper cables in their road pack? And a conscientious driver should keep tabs on the battery.) These are the only unique practical advantages, and they don’t hold much weight with me.

I think the take away is that there are some nice things about manual, but they are being blended with modern automatics… so pure manuals are not really practical. It’s likely economy cars and commercial trucks/lorries will keep the manual, but in time, there will be better alternatives to driving stick. Modern engineering has kept the good and gotten rid of the bad. Automatics will continue to improve.

It’s like shaving with a straight razor or using raw linseed oil to finish your craft projects. There are better ways, but some people prefer “flavor country”. And you now what? That’s what this article is about.

Personally, I think driving stick is still a useful skill because there are many automobiles that still have it, and it will be around in some form or another for a while. To give you some perspective, my daily driver is an auto, and I battle rush hour traffic on a daily basis in a large metropolis.

262 Tom February 16, 2013 at 5:47 am

I live in the UK and i drive a manual car (1999 VW Golf). recently went on holiday to AZ in USA where we rented an automatic car, i found it quite unplesent to drive. it feels wrong waiting for the car to get into gear when you can hear and feel the engine straining. though on long highways and similar having cruise control would save a foot cramp.

263 Mike February 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Some of this article is misleading. I’ve driven everything from 3 speed standard to an18 speed eaton fuller in a semi, and I never let it coast to a stop and was taught that this was not safe in most conditions. I also very rarely use the clutch when shifting gears. Just use the throttle and match the rpm to slide in or out of gear.

264 Girish March 7, 2013 at 4:02 am

Although I prefer manuals myself, I believe that the arguments that manuals are cheaper and faster than automatics may no longer necessarily be true. Case in point, I just ordered a 2014 Mazda 6 GT (manuals are available in GT trim in Canada whereas they’re not in the U.S.) and the manual and automatic options are the same price. The automatic is bound to cost more for the manufacturer but the cost-savings are not passed onto the consumer probably due to the low-uptake rates. Furthermore, all of the websites that have reviewed this particular car, claim that the automatic used in this application is not only faster but more fuel efficient than the standard transmission. However, sometimes the ‘fun to drive’ factor trumps the logical decision.

265 one too many March 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

Maybe someone already mentioned it, but nevertheless: never engage handbrake/emergency brake bellow 0°, because it can freeze!

Instead always leave it in first or reverse gear. This should be enough even on slopes. Although in that case handbrake is necessary. If it is cold put large stones below the wheels.

I find this funny, because I can’t imagine how to drive an automatic.

How do you overtake?
I mean, you are driving after a slow car in fifth gear, but to overtake it fast, you have to put in third gear (or fourth it depends) even before moving left. How fast does automatic does this? I know DSG are good at this.

Or start on a hill?
One method is to engage handbrake, put on the gas and release the clutch (not fully) so, that you feel that car wants to move. Than you release handbrake. That way you start without moving backwards.

Starting on slippery surface: It is better to start in second gear. That way less torque is applied on tires. Almost all cars can get going in second gear without problem. Even in third gear is possible.

266 onetoomany March 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Automatics can overtake just fine. There is no clutch, but you can still shift manually. You don’t actually have to wait for it to do it for you – this is a common misconception. Some of the newer models will even do it faster and more efficiently than your han will, but you always have the option of doing it the old way. My current car has a handbrake, and 5 gears I can shift to manually, just like your manual, in addition to an optional 4 wheel drive mode. I can also start my car by remote from my iphone in the winter, alert me when I’m close to an object before or behind me, or one is in my blind spot, and it can parallel park for me if I don’t feel like doing it manually (although I can and definitely do all the time). I can turn all of that stuff off, but since I live in a city, it’s often quite useful. I had a stick and drove it for years with no problem at all. It definitely isn’t hard an isn’t any kind of sign about not being smart or lazy. You guys take pride in very strange, inconsequential things. The traffic around here is very stop an go, so the stick became tedious. I got a better job with annual bonuses, so I put it towards a new model vehicle that has tons of interesting perks, computer controls, cruise control, and other stuff like that. I will teach my own kids to drive both ways just in case, but I’m certainly not deluded enough to think that one preference somehow makes someone a better person. Your lives must be pretty empty if that is what matters to you and is the indicator that you’re a true man’s man. I would possibly miss the clutch in the winter time, but the four wheel drive, modern tire treads, ability for my car to start and warm itself and my seats is a pretty decent trade off. The cheaper cost was a big deal when I didn’t make enough money to make ends meet, but now I can afford a little more luxury in my life. I drive because my car is a tool, not because I want to have fun, but I think all the little perks in my ride make it more fun than manually shifting ever did, and if I’m feeling nostalgic or think I can gain an advantage in a given situation, I can always shift manually anyways. I gave my old cheap stick to a buddy of mine that was in need, but he has a nicer car now for himself as well. If I actually need a stick (although I certainly don’t know what situation that would entail), I can always go get it. It’s easy to have a bias if you have your preference and that’s all you use. If you actually use both you can look at this a little more objectively. The winter driving and natural engagement that comes from driving a manual are fine arguments, but so many of you are involved in a pissing contest right now and really need some perspective. How can you take pride in driving a stick if you’re from a country where it’s hard to even find an automatic and then call American’s lazy for also driving what is more readily available. If they are lazy for not seeking out the car that happens to be relatively scarce in their area, so are you for doing the exact same. In The United States, cruise control is a very useful feature. Driving a stick isn’t some sort of muscle man workout. You’re barely moving more than someone in an automatic. Get off your high horse. I’ve driven both extensively driving in general is more lazy than walking. Anyone driving any vehicle has no room to talk about being lazy. It’s not even relevant.

267 nik March 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

onetoomany is spot on!!!

driving a stick is fun sometimes.
i have a automatic 01 turbo beetle that
can kill most corvettes. it is an automatic.

when i bought it i went with an auto due to
chicago driving. a manual is no fun for such things.

now i dont have to do the chicago driving and the beetle is just a project car now.

as far as talkin bad about us due to the fact that we call it a “stick” ?
seriously? yall that bored?

some of ya smoke fags “cigarettes”
call car parts bonnets and boots
i could go on, but ya might have gotten the point

my truck is a stick, and i can drive it just fine

268 Bradley Dykstra March 28, 2013 at 12:06 am

My first truck was also a 1998 copper red Isuzu hombre, 5 spd, “space cab”! Fully loaded, still driving it. I laughed when I read this, ive never seen another one like it.

269 felix April 6, 2013 at 6:38 am

When starting from a stop, the primitive man revs the engine to 1.5k to 2k then lets out the clutch to catapute the car forward in hope that the engine doesn’t stall. The evolved gentleman lets the clutch to the friction point without touching the gas. Then he finesse the clutch to keep the rev close to idle as he adds as much gas as he deems necessary. Putting 1.5k rpm was rarely needed when I drove my lil Scion xB, with the 1.5L engine, even when starting on a step hill in San Francisco.

The primitive man also manhandle the synchronizers to get the stick in gears then lets the clutch out without attempting to rev match, jerking their passengers around. The evolved gentleman has a good grasp of matching engine speed to road speed for the gear, and would make an effort to smooth out every shift.

I once was that primitive man myself when it came to stick shifting.

270 JBSO April 8, 2013 at 12:22 am

I’ve always been a believer that driving a manual transmission makes the person a better driver, because they need to pay better attention to what the car is doing. It makes the person more aware of their surroundings. Plus, I think it keeps the driver more attentive, and safer than the automatic counterparts. It’s hard to eat a big mac, talk on the phone, and smoke a cigarette while shifting from 2nd to 3rd. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but in general people who drive manual transmissions generally allow less distractions when driving.

All of my vehicles are manuals, and whenever I drive someone’s car that is an automatic, the first thing I always do out of habit is stomp my left leg to the floor.

271 Paul April 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I wish I could get a stick but I don’t think it would be fun to drive a stick in a huge downtown area like the one I live in, I’d be changing gear every other minute.

272 Manual FTW April 26, 2013 at 8:52 am

JBSO,

Be careful not to mix correlation and causation. There is a very good chance that better drivers choose to drive manuals, and not the other way around. After all, the people who buy manual transmissions obviously care about driving enough to go out of their way to buy something that is more proactive and gives them more control.

273 Miki May 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I think it’s not fair to call people who drive automatic shift lazy. Especially when they are from the US where of all the vehicles sold in 2012 only 4% were manual shifts and the number getting lower for this year. You might find it even more expensive to get a new stick shift than automatic or not find one at all or you have to order it from the maker or even import it. Just don’t worth the trouble.
Its true manuals give better control, better feel of the machine, less distraction, pleasure of driving, all the margins of better mileage, lesser maintenance cost, rental and initial vehicle prices. But the majority of Americans have little time to negotiate these. Its simply easier to drive an automatic with hands and a single foot and be less worry about driving. I do enjoy manual but convenience is the order of the day after all.
Good article!

274 Benjamin May 10, 2013 at 7:42 am

all my life I have driven automatic transmission but with this article I get the feeling I can drive a stick without having to go to a driving school. Thank you very much.

275 ronin May 13, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Hello there. I live in Europe, Romania to be more precisely, and in our country you couldn’t get your license on an automatic car until few years ago. Today, you can get your license on an automatic car but that license will allow you to drive only automatic cars. If yu get your license on a stick you can drive both types of transmissions. So it’s much more desirable to earn your license on a manual car. Considering those written above you understand that I know how to drive a stick..I don’t have any problem with that…but recentely I made the switch to an automatic car…and I can say to you without any doubt that is much more fun to drive an automatic..how can you event think that is more fan a stick? Maybe everyone wants the thing they don’t have…maybe because of that. And when you start up the engine in your car you don’t need to keep any pedal pressed. That’s true for manuals as well as automatics. In automatics you can’t start the engine anyway if the lever is not in Park or Neutral. In a stick car just make sure the stick shift is in neutral, not in any forward or reverse gear.

276 Clare June 27, 2013 at 12:38 am

Hi! This article was so helpful. I live in America and I’m aiming to have my first car be a 1977 vw bug. I am 100% willing to learn how to use a stick and all these comments along with such wonderful instructions/ tips means a lot. So thank you everyone.

277 shelby June 28, 2013 at 11:59 am

I would also like to add, I am about to buy a stick-shift (after being taught by my father so that I’d be able to push start my car if the battery wouldn’t start the car) for long nights of driving all over the state, on-call 24-7. A few notes: 1) this seems like a good purchase for if brakes ever ‘went out’ because you can always downshift to slow down or coast to a stop, 2) I’m pretty sure that it is a safer choice because instead of becoming mentally lazy and ‘zoning out’ on the road – especially if I feel myself growing sleepy – I think I will mentally be more involved in my driving or I will know if I’m having problems shifting then I need to pull over for a nap. 3) Again, a top safety pick, because I don’t have to have a car with a lot of ‘oomph’ (this car I’m looking at getting is not only lower priced than the rest and more fun to drive – albeit not in rush-hour bumper to bumper situations, that’s true – it is a 1.6L engine and drives a lot ‘peppier’ than the 1.6 automatic and the 2.0 automatic versions also sold by this make). I found I was able to pick up speed however quickly I wanted to than be at the mercy of the car’s eco driving wiles. You can downshift/use your gears to gain quick speed. My father always said this was important in case you have to pull out of the way quickly, and I tend to agree with him. Thanks for comments! This article was great! I’m definitely going to be teaching my boyfriend to drive manual (maybe on a rental haha) and I will also be super excited for the 3K savings from going with a peppier car that is better for so many reasons! Again, the only negatives for this are the bumper to bumper traffic that can be tiring to drive in and taxing on the car(?) (but good for my calf muscles) -Oh, and the fact I don’t get to choose any extra perks with my manual pick because the manufacturer doesn’t offer them on either liter manual transmission engine. Sad : ( Overall, I’m still more excited about feeling like I have a sporty car even if it only has a 1.6 (not racing material) engine.

278 Laura July 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm

The reason it is called the emergency brake is that one can use it to stop the car if the foot brakes have failed. In fact, very recently my husband (yes, I am not a Man) had a failure of the brakes in his rather old car. After calling me, he then nursed his way home, about 5 miles, by going slowly at 20 mph, and applying the emergency (hand) brake when needed at traffic lights, etc.

279 Laura July 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm

We recently bought a Scion that is manual shift. My husband and I both can drive stick. The car we are replacing was a stick. The other car we have is automatic. Our daughters both can drive the automatic, but we want to teach them stick with the new car. So I have been looking up on the web some info that I can pass on to them. This is an interesting and informative site, and I have been reading quite a few of the comments. Thanks!

280 Vidal July 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I like how some of the newer cars have dual transmissions where you can do automatic and manual now i know its not the true essence of a manual car but its a great way for a person to learn how to shift gears and what it feels like i also enjoy the shifters being on the steering wheel instead of over the transmission so.it would be easier to keep.my eyes on the road while im shifting there is no clutch so you dont have to worry about stalling or pressing it everytime you want to shift but i would like to learn how to drive a true manual car

281 James July 22, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I agree with the commenters that mention slowly letting the clutch out and getting used to finding the point at which the car starts to move and then release the clutch fully at the same time as giving it some revs. This was the way my dad taught me.

282 Girl August 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I am trying to learn how to drive a stick shift with my grandmas old Honda. It is really hard but I hope to come back to this successful! Also I’m from the US and almost no one drives Manuel. It is strange.

283 Skyler August 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm

My parents always told me I would have to learn to drive a manual before they would allow me to drive an automatic, just in case I ever got stuck in an emergency situation where the only car available to me was a manual. Sadly, they never enforced it. So now I’m about to turn 20, and I just bought myself a manual @006 Chevy Cobalt. I LOVE this car, but I suck at driving it. My dad taught me the basics, but got exceeding frustrated with me as the lesson went on. I kept releasing the clutch far too quickly, so his solution was to reach across the car, down to the floorboard, and hold onto my left foot as I practiced taking off from a stop. Though it was incredibly awkward, his unorthodox teaching “technique” really worked! I learn best by having a specific set of guidelines, so I had a million more questions about driving a manual (when do I have to downshift, is there a way to stop myself from rolling back on a hill, etc.). After reading this article, and the following comments, I am SO much more confident in what I am supposed to be doing! I’ve decided to take my car out and kind of teach myself how to do the rest.

284 Tony Waters September 9, 2013 at 12:15 am

When I heard Click & Clack advise a caller that using the brakes was preferable to using the gears to slow down, because of wear and tear on the clutch, I thought they were wrong. But they were wise not to give a more correct answer, which is that if you know how to change down without causing any more clutch wear than when you change up, then that is the best way to reduce speed. Had they attempted to explain how to increase engine speed between gears when shifting down, there would have been clutch plates being mangled all over this great nation that weekend. So they were wise, but demonstrably wrong because changing down causes no more wear than changing up, so long as the driver compensates by ‘double clutching.’ Not only does that driver have more control (compared with he who slips into neutral) but he will also have less wear on his brakes and tires.

285 Tony Waters September 9, 2013 at 3:19 am

Several people have asked why automatic transmissions have swept all before them in this country, while the rest of the world, with few exceptions, preferred and continues to prefer, manual transmissions. At the risk of being obtuse, I think a large part of the reason is the same as the reason why American put ice in everything, including refrigerated drinks.

Huh? you say. Lemme explain. Having ice meant that you had a refrigerator. Showing off the fridge itself, as by parking it in the living room, would have been thought crass. Putting ice in everything was a tad more subtle. During this country’s formative years, having a well-stocked ice-box was an indication of affluence, as was owning an electric refrigerator later on.

In similar vein, the automatic transmission was promoted as something that everyone who could afford it would buy. It was better than what went before, an improvement rather than an alternative. Only someone who couldn’t afford an automatic would put up with having to change gears.

There were other cultural factors involved as well. Because gas was cheap and Americans were wealthy, no one much cared that automatics used more gas. And because American cars had ludicrously oversized engines, no one much cared that manual transmissions were quicker. European car makers made their cars faster by refining their engines. The Americans did it by making them bigger. A big car with a big engine, and a suspension that mimmicks Grandma’s overstuffed rocking chair would not be much improved by the addition of a short-throw five-speed.

And there is one more reason why the founding fathers of the U.S. auto industry made sure that most folk bought cars with automatic transmissions: In time, they would need that free hand for the cell phone.

286 Marcelo September 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm

This is a wonderfull article! I am from Brazil, where the stick is the most sold cars. There is also a new transmission called “automatized” transmission which is a mix of manual and automatic transmission. Anyway, I always enjoyed driving stick cars, even when I lived in the US for a while, I have bought a stick car, for snow driving, it is amazing! You really have the control of the car, specially when braking down the car. Automatic cars are for sure more comfortable for heavy traffics and today, with 9 speed automatic transmissions, the mileage will be better.

287 Rbreban September 13, 2013 at 7:22 am

My first car was manual at 13 y/o
The last 5 cars all were automatics and all failed
I bought a 2013 manual car
My wife cried when she was learning
She said i bought the car on purpose so she coulndt drive it, i laught, she cried. Two days later she loves it. Never going to an automatic again.

288 Jack Fury October 9, 2013 at 10:07 am

I would like to the see the commentary on this in a few more years when the stick is long gone. It’s a shame…it’s about the overall visceral experience.
A great book for driving/shifting that I read awhile back was the “The Unknown Art of Driving”. If you are new the game or an ol’ Vet, you’ll learn a few tricks. However, it’s philosophical in nature.
Cheers

289 Hessel Stavast October 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm

here’s another tip. when waiting at the traffic lights, don’t keep your stick in the 1st gear. instead pull it to the middle so the engine can run stationary. this way you don’t have to press both the gear and brake panel at the same time while waiting. when the light goes green you just press the gear panel and slowly press the gas while releasing the gear.

290 Holly October 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

My one quibble with this article regards the parking brake. I live in the far north and if you leave your parking brake on in the dead of winter it can freeze into place. No better way to strand yourself in a parking lot. :)

Also, my boyfriend and I argue CONSTANTLY about whether or not to downshift when stopping. I was excited to see that you took my side. He refuses to believe that more than me and “one random person on the internet” thinks that you should pop it into neutral while you stop. Hahha. Wanting to keep the car in gear to maintain control of the vehicle makes sense to me, but he insists that it hurts the transmission to not downshift. Ridic.

291 Steve October 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Been doing it since the Sixties and it is a manly check list task. Also, it helps to refresh yourself every few years even if you like the convenience of auto–clutches and trannys are all a little bit different.

292 Adolf October 14, 2013 at 2:04 pm

In my country, there are still a lot of manual cars. I myself have never driven an automatic. My family and I prefer manual cars. It’s also more manly.

293 Eric October 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm

In both Iraq and Afghanistan I was shocked by the number of Marines that didn’t know how to drive a stick. Of course they are both great places to learn, especially when it’s a government rented Land Rover. We also had a dump truck that was a right side driver, manual shift that would stall out if you took your foot off the gas, and the breaks would lock if you didn’t feather them just right. That thing was a beast to drive.

294 James Abel October 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Being able to drive stick earned me some extra work while in the Army. One day one of the guys came into the TOC (tactical operations center) and yelled “who knows how to drive a stick?”. I answered that I could then immediately realized I’d volunteered to drive the crazy Kuwaiti highway at night.

295 Ted Larson October 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm

The only thing I have to disagree on with the author is about coming to a stop. I was taught by a professional driver to downshift. While it does cause some wear and tear on the engine, clutch and transmission, when used with the brakes it is a very efficient method of coming to a stop.

296 KarmaTiger October 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm

shifting into first is to the left and up, not up and to the left. Telling people to go up first will likely put them in 3rd gear.

297 Matthew Reider October 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Another advantage to driving a stick — they’re often the only thing available throughout the world. In Italy, Germany, and Jordan, it was a stick-shift or an outrageous increase in rental fees.

298 Manish October 15, 2013 at 12:09 am

Being an Indian, where 99.9% of cars on the road are manual transmission, this comes as an amusing article along with its practical value.

I’ve always driven a manual very comfortably and when it operates from your subconscious mind, its as good as an automatic.

If you’re skilled at Manual gear shift drive, you’ll also save a lot of fuel as the right gear at the right shift will optimize fuel comsumption.

299 Thom October 15, 2013 at 6:43 am

I’m living in California now, and tried living with a stick for the first few months. “Freeway” driving out here is an ENDLESS successions of start-stop-start-stop. Imagine your worst city driving for 30 or so miles.
After a few months, and the growth of my left thigh, I acceded, and now own automatics.
However my weekend drive continues to be an 81 Porsche SC Targa with which I cut through the Santa Monica mountains; double-clutch downshifting at every bend and regaling in the joy of precision machining meeting human interface. No airbags, no traction control and no ABS; I’m on my own and the master of my fate.

300 Adam Blevins October 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Something important that was left out.

Starting/Stopping on an incline or decline.

When I learned to drive, it was in an 89 Toyota pickup – 5 speed.

We went to an empty parking lot that was on a slight incline. My dad had me practice moving/stopping the car, from one space to another, only using the clutch and gas.

Once you learn this technique, you can master holding the vehicle still on an incline without the using the break.

This eliminates the fear of having the clutch depressed and rolling backward when switching between the break/gas while stopped on an incline.

When starting on a decline, I often start in second gear, with the clutch fully depressed, using the brake to moderate speed. Once I reach the bottom of the hill I release the clutch and use the gas to transition into second gear. This will save you from having to lurch through a gear that you are moving too fast for.

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