If you're an experienced driver, you've probably heard the benefits of driving an automobile that has a manual transmission. For starters (no pun intended), cars with stick shifts are generally very fuel efficient, which is obviously a bonus in today's economy where the gas prices continue to rise. They also have fewer moving parts than automatic transmissions, require less maintenance and are easier to repair, which means they usually have longer longevity and cost cheaper.
Cars with stick shifts also respond better to the driver, which makes them safer (assuming the driver himself is safe). Due to the constant shifting and changing of gears, drivers have to focus more on driving, which means less time for texting, talking on the phone, or doing other dangerous activities that many people with automatic transmissions partake in.
But aside from the benefits listed above, you also must be skilled to operate one, which facilitates a certain sense of pride and confidence. And thus, even if you don't own a manual transmission, as a man you need to know how to drive one because it's just one of those skills that all men should posses.
Below is a simple step-by-step guide on how to drive stick shift. Hopefully, after you read this and you get behind the wheel, your learning curve won't be as high as a teenage driver who stalls out constantly with mom or dad shaking their head in the passenger seat!
Step 1: Knowing Your Ride
In order to learn stick, you must know the components of how to drive one first.
- Most cars have four or five forward speeds and one reverse.
- Neutral is not a gear and when the engine is running in neutral, you won't go anywhere (even if you rev the engine).
- Reverse is pretty self-explanatory, although it's important to remember not to go too far or stay in it for too long. If you're backing out of a parking space – fine. If you're showing your buddies how you can drive around the block backwards without crashing into mailboxes – not fine.
- The clutch pedal is located on the far left and is used when moving up or down from one gear to another. The clutch is disengaged when the pedal is pushed to the floor. The gas pedal, located on the far right, works with the gears to give the engine power at different levels.
Step 2: On the Road
- Place your right foot on the brake and start the engine. Put your left foot on the clutch and move the gearshift into first gear, which is at the top of the first "H." It's important not to take your foot off the brake in this step. (Note: When we reference the "H," we're referring to the gearshift, which resembles the letter "H" when you're looking down at it from the driver's seat.)
- Release the parking brake and take your foot off the brake pedal when you're ready to start.
- Place your right foot on the gas and slowly apply a little pressure to the pedal. Ease your foot off the clutch and when the engine starts to slow, apply pressure to the gas. If you do this step correctly, this will get your vehicle accelerating in first gear. If you don't apply as much pressure to the gas pedal as you are releasing the clutch, you'll stall out.
- Take your right foot off the gas when the car starts to rev to 3,000 RPM and push your left foot down on the clutch. Now you can pull the gearshift straight down as far as it can go and this will put the car in second gear. Release the clutch while simultaneously pressing the gas.
- You should now use the same steps above to shift up a gear each time the car hits 3,000 RPM. It's important to only move one gear at a time around the "H" until you hit the fifth (and top) gear. Only use the fifth gear if you're driving on the freeway.
Step 3: Coming to a Stop & Reversing
Once you're getting close to your destination, you'll obviously need to slow down and stop.
- Downshift when you want to stop by dropping the gearshift to second while applying the clutch and the brake. Place the car in first gear and apply the parking brake when you're parked.
- When you want to reverse, apply both the brake and the clutch while moving the gearshift all the way to the right, and all the way down. Release the clutch and gas pedal simultaneously (and slowly) and the car will start to move backwards.
Obviously, just reading our step-by-step instructions won't turn you into a stick shift pro. You're going to need to get behind the wheel and practice with someone who has experience driving a manual. But as you can see from the instructions above, the tasks can be learned in a mere couple of sessions (if not a couple of hours) and you'll pick up an easy skill set that all men should have. Best of all, you'll have fun, too!
Check out our Get Real Guide for Men regularly for more tips for the everyman!