How to Drive Stick or Manual Cars

Want to learn to drive a manual car? Learning to drive a stick shift requires patience and lots of practice, plus a wide open space to learn. Here's a guide on how to drive a manual transmission car.
Written by Nicholas Wilson
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Updated on Apr 27, 2022
Before you get a manual car, you should borrow a friend or family member's manual car so you can practice learning how to drive a stick.
Driving a manual transmission car is quickly becoming a lost art. In comparison with driving manual, a car with an
automatic transmission
is easy to drive, and most choose the easier path.
But there are many reasons to learn to drive manual or "stick shift," such as increased control over, and more interaction with, the vehicle. You may also just like acquiring new and rare skills that most people don’t have.
Whatever the reason, learning how to drive manual is easily within your reach. Read on to learn how from
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Learning how to drive manual

Step 1: Get your hands on a manual car. It will be much harder to learn how to drive manual if you don’t have a
car with a manual transmission
Obviously, you don’t need to go out and buy one. You may hate driving this way and end up stuck with a car you don’t want. Find a friend or a family member who has a stick shift and see if they’ll be willing to let you learn on it. You could even have them come along with you to give you a few pointers along the way.
Step 2: Go to an abandoned lot. Practicing driving manual should not be done on the the open road with other cars around until you perfect the skill, so find an empty area.
A relatively unused parking lot is a good spot. The fewer cars around you, the better. This will keep you safer and spare you embarrassment when you inevitably stall out.
Step 3: Familiarize yourself with the manual setup. Manual cars have a slightly different setup than you are probably used to, so you’ll want to get a sense for this before driving.
Locate the gas pedal and brake pedal, and then to the left of these you’ll notice the clutch pedal. The clutch is used for shifting gears, and you’ll use your left foot to depress it when needed.
Find the gear shift and get familiar with the numbers on the shaft. You’ll need to know how to shift into each of these gears when you start moving.
Finally, locate the parking brake. You’ll use this every time you park the car to keep it from rolling.
Step 4: Start the car. Starting the car is not as simple as in an automatic transmission because you need to depress the clutch in order to get the car going.
With the clutch pressed all the way to the floor, turn the ignition and start the car. Press down the brake pedal. Keeping the brake pedal pressed will prevent you from rolling.
Step 5: Drive in first gear. With the clutch depressed, shift the car into first gear by moving the shaft into the proper location as described on the face of the shifter.
At this point, you can release the parking brake. The clutch should still be depressed as before. Now, rev the engine until it reaches a little lower than 2,000 RPMs. You should feel the clutch start to engage, and you can begin to lift your foot off the clutch. The car should start moving at this point, and you can use the gas pedal to accelerate.
If you have done anything wrong, the car may stall. If you don’t rev the car up enough or if you confuse the sequence, for example, you’ll stall.
Don’t get frustrated or frightened; this is perfectly normal for a new driver. If it happens, just put the car back into neutral and try again until you get the hang of it.
Step 6: Attempt to shift into higher gears. Once you feel comfortable shifting into first, you can follow the same process to shift into higher gears.
When the vehicle reaches around 3,000 RPMs, push the clutch and shift into second gear.
Step 7: Stop safely. When you come to a
, you have to put the car back into neutral and press the brake to keep from rolling.
Driving a manual car can be fun and rewarding. As you get more comfortable, start practicing in traffic and on
. If you are thinking of buying a
new or used manual car, it's a good idea to practice on a friend's car first to see if you like it enough to buy one for yourself.


Is it hard to drive stick shift?

Driving stick shift is harder than driving an automatic, but it's not difficult to actually learn how to drive a stick shift.

How long does it take to learn to drive stick shift?

Learning how to drive shift stick should only take you around an afternoon. Having someone who knows how to drive a manual to help you learn is highly recommended.
Though you can learn how to properly drive a shift stick relatively fast, it will take months before you learn all of the nuances of driving a shift stick and can shift gears perfectly smooth. Like any other skill, it takes practice and time.
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