This article details how to drive a manual transmission – stick shift car. We will begin by describing the benefits of driving a manual transmission, preview the key controls, detail the applicable conditions of each gear, and thoroughly examine the step-by-step procedure of operating a stick shift vehicle. Certainly, the manual transmission is the ultimate driving experience and is the recommended mode of all car enthusiasts.
Why is the Manual Transmission preferable to Automatic?
1: Manual Transmissions are about Control.
The manual transmission allows the driver to instantaneously select the ideal gear for the situation. The proper torque may be delivered to the engine to combat specific grades of road, banking, weather conditions, and the need to accelerate. Experienced operators may effectively preview and commit the vehicle’s transmission and engine to deal with the highway.
2: Stick Shifts Cost Less.
According to buyingadvice.com automotive research, manual transmission vehicles average $700 less than comparable automatics. Also stick shifts are 15% more fuel- efficient that translates into thousands of dollars in savings over the lifetime of the car. The economy arrives courtesy of design. The manual transmission is attached to the engine with a rigid clutch – rather than the automatic torque converters and hydraulic pumps that waste power.
Repair and towing costs are lessened by the ability of the manual transmission automobile to “push start” in the event of an emergency until the necessary repairs can be made.
Of course, stick shift owners are not concerned with the messy scenario of associates pleading to borrow the car. 87% of vehicles sold in North America are automatic and the fact that operating the manual transmission is indeed a lost art nearly eliminates the costs of frayed relationships, catastrophic damage, and basic wear and tear upon the vehicle to due to unnecessary additional mileage.
Excuse / Problem Solved: “You cannot drive my car because you do not know how to drive a stick!”
3: The Cool Factor.
When was the last time you saw an actor throw a car into “D” and peel off as the primary catalyst amidst the inevitable high-speed action movie chase?
The Key Controls of the Manual Transmission
1: The Clutch
Manual transmissions carry three pedals – rather than the basic accelerator and break automatic grouping. The additional pedal to the left is the clutch pedal. The clutch separates the vehicle’s engine from its transmission and allows the operator to switch gears effectively and to stop the car without stalling.
The clutch pedal is fully depressed to switch gears and to stop the automobile. Ideal use of the mechanism requires anticipation, coordination, muscle memory, and the proper symbiosis of man and machine.
2: Manual Gear Shift
The manual gearshift designates reverse and a numerical progression of “1,2,3,4,5” that varies from the standard automatic “P, D, R, N, 1,2” pattern. The manual classification is denoted by the amount of gears. For example, “5-speed” refers to a vehicle carrying five different gears and is the standard manual transmission. Analyze and identify the respective gear configuration and situational directives of these gears before attempting to operate the stick shift vehicle.
The diagram mounted upon the top of the stick shift fixture specifies the pattern and location of the varying gears. We will utilize the BMW 3-series pattern illustrated with this presentation as a model, describe the requisite conditions for the particular gear, and parallel the specifications with that of the automatic transmission.
Neutral: There is no “N” designation on the gearshift knob. The automobile is in neutral when the stick shift rests loosely in the middle of the configuration. Drivers recognize the car to be in neutral by easily toggling the gearshift from right-to-left. Motorists do not need to depress the clutch in neutral. Thus, neutral is ideal for tollbooths, extreme bottlenecks, and various situations that may require personal movement within the interior of a STOPPED car. Do not coast in neutral.
Reverse: Reverse is an outrageous pull to the left and forward away from the body. The reverse position is typically a significant distance away from the primary gears in order to avoid a disastrous mistake of accidently throwing the car into reverse while switching gears at high speeds.
Numerical Gears are associated with the automatic “D,” Drive or “1,2.” Reverse and all numerical gears firmly settle into place and cannot be toggled without adequate force.
1st Gear: First gear is a slight movement to the left and forward push away from the body. First gear is typically used to start and set the car in motion at low speeds of 0-10 mph. 1st is ideal for parking lots, alleys, and stop-and-go traffic. Lower gears generate the most torque and handling control. Hence, first gear will be the method of choice for navigating snow and rain at low speeds.
2nd Gear: Pull the stick shift knob directly backwards towards your self to put the car into second gear. Second gear is primarily used for speeds at 10-25 mph and is the preferred gear for side streets, slow-moving traffic, cul de sacs, and the obvious first through fifth gear acceleration progression. We recommend starting in 1st – but the car may be started and moved by experienced drivers at second gear.
3rd Gear: Third gear is the most important configuration for urban drivers. The gear is perfect for 25-35 mph (or 40 mph) street traffic. City dwellers will note the fact that the vehicle remains in third gear for the majority of trips. With the exception of red lights and the first-to-third gear shifting progression – there is little need to shift out of third amidst surface level street grids. 3rd gear on the BMW stick shift indicator is a forward push from second, combined with a slight movement to the right and onward towards the top of the configuration.
4th Gear: Fourth gear is a direct move backwards from third. Drivers may even cheat their hand motions slightly to the right to ensure that the manual transmission is not accidentally thrown into second gear. 4th is suited to handle speeds from 35/40-50/55 mph. Fourth gear is applicable to secondary roads, parkways, and city expressways – where traffic remains free flowing, yet dangerously congested.
5th Gear: Fifth accounts for the most mileage of rural drivers. The 5-speed automobile reaches top-line speed in 5th gear. Obviously, fifth gear is the primary designation for open expressways and interstates that safely carry vehicle speeds of over 50 miles per hour. A far right outward and push movement away from the body per the aforementioned illustration mark fifth gear.
Tachometer – Revolutions per Minute (RPM): The tachometer located upon the dashboard specifies engine speed in thousands of revolutions per minute. 3,000 RPM is a key benchmark with which to shift gears. Of course, spectacularly high RPM that approach the red zone of the scale are dangerous to the integrity of your engine and are to be avoided at all costs.
Listen to the Vehicle
Beginners must leave the radio untouched. Listen to the car.
Learn the language of the manual transmission. Every vehicle communicates to the operator via gauges, performance, and the sound of its moving parts. The motorist will understand the signals of his respective automobile’s dialect with experience.
Loud revving, sputtering hesitation, herky-jerky movements, and the obvious engine shut down are vital indicators telegraphing that the car is being mishandled. Thoughtful acknowledgement of the revolutions per minute (RPM) gauge is absolutely essential to driving a manual transmission with the proper technique.
Driving the Manual Transmission Stick Shift Car
Ill-timed movements will cause the vehicle to lurch forward, shake uncontrollably, or cut off completely. Timing and situational awareness are everything at this point.
Fasten your seat belt and check all mirrors prior to operating the motor vehicle.
Simply getting started is the hardest part.
Use both feet to depress the clutch pedal located at the far left and the brake pedal. Push the clutch all the way down to the floor and steady the brake pedal to keep the car in place. The clutch is fully engaged at this position and the car will roll according to the incline without the proper braking.
Turn on the ignition.
With both the clutch and brake pedal still depressed – put the vehicle into 1st gear or (Reverse). Remove your right foot from the brakes and quickly position it over the accelerator. Slowly release the clutch pedal will pressing upon the gas. Ease into this motion to get a feel for the automobile. Quick release of the clutch will cause the car to stall and over eager accelerator pedal action will over work the engine with excessive revving or a potentially disastrous jump forward.
A delicate balance between clutch, break, and accelerator must be maintained in order to navigate parking spaces and close quarters. Slightly push on the gas and release the clutch more so if the vehicle begins to stammer towards stalling. Abort the mission and regroup by simultaneously braking and depressing the clutch at floor levels.
Dangerously hilly conditions and inclines may require that the driver utilize the emergency brake as a crutch to hold the car in place while he navigates the proper footwork. Release the emergency brake immediately after gaining traction.
Manual Transmission Shifting from Reverse into First Gear
Use both feet to depress the clutch and brake pedals. Braking steadies the car, while the clutch decouples the engine from the transmission – both readying the vehicle to shift gears and prevent it from cutting off. Move the stick shift from Reverse to 1st by pulling the gear handle out of the reverse socket into the neutral zone and moving it upwards according to the shift knob diagram.
Slowly release the clutch pedal and step on the gas to initiate movement as indicated earlier.
Progressing through the Gears of a Manual Transmission
Again, merely starting the car and generating movement are the most difficult tasks. Accelerating through the standard gear progression will logically fall into place once the dynamics of the clutch-brake-accelerator footwork are mastered. Although we designated varying speed brackets pertaining to each gear – actually minding the RPM meter while accelerating through the 1st-5th-gear progression is the preferable method.
We are assuming that the car has already begun to move forward in first gear and that the rookie stick shift motorist is seeking to accelerate to highway speed.
Slowly push on the gas pedal while completely releasing (slowly) the clutch pedal. Watch the Tachometer – RPM gauge. As the engine clears “3” (3,000) RPM, simultaneously release the gas and depress the clutch pedal to the floor (notice RPM dropping). Yank the stick shift from 1st gear directly backwards into 2nd gear the moment that the clutch hits the floor. With the gearshift firmly in second, smoothly release the clutch pedal and step on the gas (RPM increases back towards 3,000.) The mechanics of this complete shift should not take more than one second.
Envision the tapping of alternate feet in-step with slow to medium paced music.
Again, as the needle crosses 3,000 RPM hit the clutch to the floor, release the gas, move the shift lever up, over, and up from 2nd to 3rd, and step on the gas while disengaging the clutch.
Repeat this release gas / step on clutch / shift and then step on gas / release clutch pattern through 5th gear.
You have successfully shifted gears and the engine will reward the driver with the trademark Vroom-V-Vroom purring noise that has become a staple of our collective imagination since the earliest days that we actually remembered to think.
Downshift to accommodate the slower traffic and adverse weather conditions that call for lower gears. Experienced drivers may also downshift for additional power. This method is executed in the very same clutch/accelerator/shift pattern as indicated earlier. The only difference is that gears and speed are being reduced in a 5,4,3,2,1 descending progression.
Operating the manual transmission controls in a 5,4,5 gear pattern will increase torque, power, and ultimately acceleration at speeds that are approximately at 50 mph. Experienced drivers may use this technique to quickly navigate around isolated, slower moving traffic in tight spaces.
Stopping the Manual Transmission Stick Shift Car
The stick shift car may be stopped in any gear. Some motorists prefer to downshift to slow the car before stopping. Recognize that inefficient shifting techniques from 5th gear through 1st will stress the clutch mechanism and lead to expensive repairs. I would recommend a happy medium of downshifting to 3rd gear from high speeds before stopping and simply maintaining 1st, 2nd, or 3rd gear configurations at lower speeds before bringing the vehicle to a complete stop.
In order to stop, simply press the brakes and depress the clutch pedal down to the floor. Rest at a complete stop with both feet in this position. Shift the car into first gear (reverse if applicable) to ready the vehicle for movement as traffic clears or the traffic signals cycle back to green.
The car may be parked and turned off in any gear.
Some city dwellers park their vehicles in neutral upon flat surfaces to mitigate damage from the maddeningly wayward motorist that is a bane to parallel parking. The neutral configuration allows the car to give way and repel some of the impact.
This risky technique may preserve your automobile while imperiling others.
1: Man meets machine at the confluence of the manual gearshift, RPM gauge, and clutch, brake, and accelerator pedals.
2: The exhilarating manual transmission is the preferred method of the true car enthusiast.
3: You are officially ready to rock and roll.