• Jun 25, 2010
That's my wife, and despite the two thumbs up and big smile on her face, she just stalled our long-term 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT for the sixth time in a row. Turns out that the Legacy is not an ideal practice car in which to learn the fine art of cog swapping. It's too bad, too, as tomorrow the Mrs. and I are heading off on a 2,000+ mile road trip vacation to Bar Harbor, Maine in the Legacy. While I love a long road trip behind the wheel and prefer the driver's seat to the passivity of riding shotgun, it's going to be a long trip and I wouldn't have minded a copilot to take over when my eyelids get heavy.

The problem with learning stick in the Legacy is its clutch. The take-up point comes on quickly, after only an inch or so of pedal travel, so you have to be very nuanced in the application of your left foot within that span of space. Experienced manual drivers can get the hang of it, though it still takes concentration not to make your passengers buck back and forth when shifting gears. As for my wife, she just couldn't get the hang of the Legacy's manual tranny. Her left leg just didn't have the degrees of control necessary to pull away from a stop without letting the engine bog down and die. She actually did it the first time she tried, but couldn't duplicate her success on the second or eleventh try.

Now, I shouldn't fault the Legacy alone, as my lesson in shifting began with highly technical expositions of how the accelerator and clutch pedal were affecting the car's mechanicals and ended with me shouting "Give it more gas. More GAS. MORE GAS!" Our next lesson will be in a friend's 2002 Ford Focus, which we're assured has a suitably mushy clutch that's perfect for beginners. If you've got any tips on how best to teach someone manual driving, let us know in the comments.

PS: Thanks for the response from readers on my update about the Legacy's backwards E-brake. Since then I've tried to consider the E-Brake as more analogous to ye olde foot brakes and am having success. I've also discovered that if you're in gear and have your seatbelt on, the E-brake will disengage as soon as you apply some gas. Yes, electronics can be your friend.




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 70 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just have them peel out. Nobody's incapable of revving high and then dumping the clutch! And once you're moving, 2-5 no prob...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I taught myself how to drive stick in a 2004 WRX STi and it was very difficult for the same reasons as the GT. I still tend to "buck" people around when shifting gears but I'm getting a little better over time. It just took me a lot of stalling and a lot of nervous sweating in traffic to get the thing moving properly. Good luck with hills!
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's actually really easy. A short physics lesson is in order. The problem is that when the car starts to move forward, as the clutch engages, momentum will tend to accelerate the car away from your foot, meaning that you'll actually let the clutch out the rest of the way faster than you were bringing it up. The trick is to get the newbie to counter that action with pushing a little harder on the clutch to maintain the same rate of clutch travel, or even slow it. It's OK for them to slip the clutch a lot the first few times...that's how they will get the feel. I've always taught that you must feel like you are actually pushing back on the clutch when the car starts to move, thus avoiding 'dropping' the clutch and stalling.

      Give that coaching a try and I think your wife will get it in the first couple of tries!!

      OKcarguy
      • 4 Years Ago
      LOL

      americans figuring out something that everyone with a licence in europe knows

      but seriously, you should get your licence on a manual! and only then use an automatic

      not that you should use an automatic in the first place!!!

      besides, trusting a woman with a Legacy 2.5GT immediately after her first attemt with a clutchpedal is mental, even if shes your wife!!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've found with my wife and daughter that if you tell them to bring the engine up to 2500 rpm and then ease out the clutch it will generally do it without stalling. Squeals tires a bit, but the nanny helps.

      They've been able to shift gears upwards/otherwise with no problem. They still will stall the engine on stopping unless I remind them....more practice is necessary.

      BTW...most cars can be moved/started with the engine just idling...it takes a soft foot and some practice but it's good practice...removes the issue of gassing it and lifting the clutch foot. They'll stall the engine a lot at first but it's idling so no problem. Once they get the hang of getting the car moving with the engine just idling maybe they'll catch on to giving it some gas at the same time.

        • 4 Years Ago
        That's actually not a bad sounding idea, I'll have to give that a try sometime.
        • 4 Years Ago
        +1 on this.


        Tell her to hold the throttle at 3k rpms no matter what and then let the clutch out as slow as she wants.

        It's on loan from Subaru, who cares if you burn it up a little.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yeah I know what it feels like. My 07 3.5SE Altima with the six speed stick was a real be-atch in the first 25,000 kms to drive smoothly. The clutch felt like it fully engaged in the first 1/4" of pedal travel. I have been driving stick for years but felt like a total novice in this car. The remedy was to let my wife drive it a couple of times. She bedded in that clutch really well (if you know what I mean) and now the car is a joy to drive. It however has lost that frenetic, gun shot like reaction to the gas pedal being touched, but at least we don't stall it anymore.

      I have found Honda's are the best cars to learn to drive a stick. My first go was on my Dad's 1983 Honda Civi wagon; a very easy car to learn on. The worst was a Renault Feugo, even God would have difficulty finding the right gear in that car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      all of my friends that ive taught, i teach them the same way.

      first i teach them to start the car, clutch in, foot on the brake, car in neutral.
      next, i tell them to let the cluch out completely a couple times and let it stall so they know what it feel like, and so it doesnt scare them when they feel it happening.
      then, tell them to put it in 1st gear. hold the clutch in and slowly let it out until the car starts to move forward on its own without applying gas. once it starts moving, thats your engagement point.
      make them do that over and over and over until they can do it smoothly.

      after that let them start applying gas

      Hondas are pretty forgiving when it comes to learning how to drive stick. taught most of my friends on my 1990 prelude.

      also i tell them the same thing that my brother told me. new tires are much cheaper than a new engine/transmission, so dont be afraid to give it some gas, and spin those tires.

      dont forget to tell them
      when youre coming to a complete stop, use that clutch.

      • 4 Years Ago
      IMHO, as with the others, find the "biting point" with the clutch. Easier to learn with a car that has a shorter "bite range" than one with a long one - how's the Subie?

      And voila, let your eyelids get heavy and dream away...

      Don't be scared at first (this only applies in a very open parking lot), otherwise, SYP!!

      God Bless and Good Luck.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Find someone with a MINI who's brave and will let her practice in it. It's a very forgiving manual transmission.
        • 4 Years Ago
        One of the easiest small cars i've ever driven was a 92-95 Honda Civic hatchback. Everything was so light... the clutch, the car, the throttle... its incredibly easy. The other bonus is that era of civic can take a beating too... a friend of mine had one that we used to bag the piss out of (burnouts, handbrake slides, generally unsafe speeds), and it never complained. They'd make fun little autox machines.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Tooltime is right. I can be stopped on the steepest incline and never worry about rolling backward, even a smidge. Of course, some of it is my current level of skill, but I don't think it's entirely me. It's just very easy to modulate the MINI's clutch. Calling it "communicative" is very accurate. You can really easily make micro-adjustments along a seemingly large friction zone. Most "auras" of stalling are able to be recovered from, and thus avoided, which is also a valuable teaching tool, to gain a feel for how to deal with slow-speed driving (e.g. bumper-to-bumper traffic).
      • 4 Years Ago
      I do the handbrake thing sometimes sitting on inclines. But I leave it engaged and just take my feet off the pedals (I leave my foot close to the brake just in case). When the light turns green, I put it in first, give it some gas and at the same time let off the parking brake. Or I just come to a stop, take it out of gear, keep my foot on the brake and when the time comes, put it back in gear and go.

      I don't do what some people do and rock back and forth at a stop.

      I have only been driving a stick for a year (actually learned when the day I got the car) and stalled it out twice on the first day. My starts were a bit quick until I learned the sweet spot for taking off. But other then a few occasions of grinding gears (I cry when I do that), I got it down.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Bare feet.
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