Driving stick shift can seem daunting for people who have never developed the knack for it. With practice and some tips, any driver can learn to drive a stick shift. Knowing how to drive stick is a great skill to have. You may find yourself confronted with a stick shift vehicle that you must operate. Moreover, many drivers actually prefer to purchase and drive stick shift vehicles as they feel more in control while driving. If you are a stick shift newbie, the following tips can help you become a confident stick shift driver.
#1 – Both Feet Forward
Many people are naturally insecure about using both feet for operating their vehicle. Somehow this all falls into place once you get familiar with the car’s controls. Every make of vehicle is different, and stick shift models can vary considerably. Therefore, you have to get to know your gears and where all your controls are found. Knowing the ins and outs of your driving panel will give you more confidence as you learn to operate the vehicle.
#2 – Ask a Stick Shift Veteran to Train You
While you can learn to drive stick yourself or from watching video tutorials, it’s a great help to actually learn from another driver at your side. Knowing when to shift gears involves some nuance that language can’t always convey. Drivers develop a ‘feel’ for when to shift based on the sound of the engine, the speed, and so forth. Another driver at your side and help you decide when to shift. Eventually, of course, you’ll get to know to shift without any thought, but it helps to have someone along in the beginning who knows how to drive a stick shift vehicle.
#3 – Practice
Drivers should spend considerable time driving their stick shift in parking lots or areas without traffic so they can get used to operating their vehicle. When learning to drive stick, it’s fairly easy for the car to stall if the shifting is performed improperly or the driver removes their foot from the clutch at the wrong time. For many stick shift novices, stalling just goes with the territory. Even so, you don’t want to be in a high traffic setting and experience a stall. Be sure to practice until you have all the basics covered.
#4 – Be Careful of Hills
Driving up inclines can be a challenge for new stick shift drivers. It’s important to remember that you can and will roll backward if you don’t provide the car with the extra gas it needs after accelerating from a full stop. Inclines also involve practice. Try to go to an area with hills so you can practice. You need to develop a feel for your vehicle and how it particularly responds to inclines. Again, while it may seem difficult at first, drivers eventually handle hills automatically while driving a stick shift. It just takes some practice.
#5 – Don’t Panic
If you stall or feel the car roll backward, you might be tempted to panic. The best thing you can do is keep calm. This will allow you to perform the right fix for the situation. If you stall, simply restart the vehicle and try to remember what you learned about shifting from lower gears. If you begin to roll downhill, use your brake. You may even want to use your emergency brake as you try to get your bearings and get a handle on the situation. Apply what you learned calmly and you’ll most likely be able to operate the vehicle–provide you practiced before you hit the streets!
#6 – Keep Your Hands Free
Driving stick shift requires drivers to have both of their hands-free. You can’t effectively (or safely) operate a stick shift vehicle and eat a sandwich or hold a cell phone. You need to be able to shift at a moment’s notice and keep control of the vehicle. When you’re just beginning to drive a stick shift, it’s a good idea to drink your coffee at home and leave the cup holder free. You need to concentrate on driving–and only driving.
#7 – Hire a Professional Instructor
If you don’t know anyone who can drive a stick shift, you might consider working with an instructor. It won’t require extensive training to learn. If you already know how to drive and have your driver’s license, you can effectively learn to drive stick within a week. You may simply need one or two training sessions and then plenty of practice. You’ll feel better once you know you’ve gotten excellent instruction. You’ll feel much safer too!
Advantages of Learning Stick Shift Driving
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, most cars nowadays use automatic transmission, so what’s the need to learn stick shift driving?
Driving a manual can indeed be a bit more exhausting. But despite the availability of automatic cars, the vast majority of cars available for driving still use manual transmissions. And since manual driving requires different skills and experience, adding manual driving to your driving skill toolkit is not a bad idea.
Here are some advantages of learning stick shift driving:
Keeping the Manual Mindset
When I say “manual mindset”, I’m talking about the fact that manual drivers learn to pay more attention to different road conditions, other vehicle speeds, and the road grade. Those who learn how to drive using manual vehicles turn out to be more involved because they have more things to think about while driving.
And, manual drivers can easily transition to automatic driving, and that mindset gets carried over – making them more effective drivers. The same thing can’t be true with automatic drivers transitioning to manual.
You Can Drive Classic and High-End Vehicles
Well, luxury vehicles are often available as manual transmission vehicles. One reason is that classic vehicles were invented way before the technology for automated cars was invented. Another reason is that manual transmission vehicles give drivers a chance to “experience the road”, so high-end vehicles are created with that in mind.
Become a Flexible Driver Wherever You Are
Although few cars in the US have manual transmissions, we cannot say the same for other countries. If you check the stats, you’ll find that a higher percentage of the vehicles sold in European and Asian countries still have manual transmissions.
So what if you find yourself in another country and the only available car for you to drive is a manual vehicle? What happens then? Learning stick shift driving makes you a flexible driver wherever you go. You will be ready to drive a rental car in other parts of the world. This skill will come in handy if you enjoy traveling.
In the last couple of years, sales of stick shift vehicles have increased. While most people drive automatics, many drivers insist on manual shifting gears as it enhances their driving experience. Many vintage cars, too, are designed with a stick shift and drivers that want to own these collectible cars simply have to learn how to operate them. With a bit of instruction and practice, anyone can master stick shift driving.