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There are certain things that you keep to yourself when you're fairly new to a workplace. While I consider myself to be a good driver, there was one aspect of my driving that I was reluctant to bring up around my AOL Autos co-workers: The fact that I had no clue how to drive a stick.

While not embarrassing to most people, the fact that I didn't know how to drive a stick was a sore point for me. With no access to a manual vehicle at home and no one to teach me, I did what any other self-respecting person would do. I scoured the Internet for a video that could show me how.

A simple search on YouTube of "how to drive a manual" yields about 918,000 results. After sitting at my computer for over an hour watching shaky cellphone videos of people trying to explain how to drive a manual while filming and driving at the same time, the only thing that became clear to me is that none of these videos were going to help. So we here at AOL Autos set out to create the video of record to teach you how to drive a manual. Senior Editor of Autoblog Steve Ewing was chosen to be the teacher, and I was to be the guinea pig.

Driving a vehicle with a manual transmission has become less and less common these days. According to Edmunds.com less than 7% of cars sold are manuals. One selling point used to be gas mileage, but many manufacturers now offer automatics that get as good or better gas mileage than manuals. Another advantage to driving a manual is control, but many new vehicles feature some kind of automatic sport shift mode that allows you to shift without a clutch.

Driving a stick does still offer some of the advantages it once did.

"For a lot of people now the manual has a lot more to do with driving pleasure than it does for any sort of efficiency gains," says David Buchko, of BMW of North America. "It's all about the driving experience and the engagement in the driving process."

I, for one, can attest to the enhanced driving experience. After learning how to drive a stick, one thing is for sure: my next car is going to be a manual.

You can read a transcription of Part I of our video tutorial below.
Chris: Hi, I'm Chris McGraw with AOL Autos. I'm new to the team here, but overall I'd consider myself to be a fairly good driver, with one glaring exception: I don't know how to drive a stick. Today I'm going to learn how to drive a manual, and Autoblog Senior Editor Steve Ewing is here to teach me.

Steve: So when you first get in the car you want to familiarize yourself with it because you've never driven a stick before. So obviously you've got three pedals down below. You've got your accelerator on the right, brake in the middle and then clutch on the left. You want to make sure that you're sitting close enough so that, when you depress the clutch all the way, your foot's all the way in, without having to reach out like that on your tippy-toes. You want to have a nice, firm placement on the clutch.

In the middle is your gearbox. In the case of the Mazda it is a six speed manual transmission, so over and up is one, two, three, four, five, and six. To put it in reverse, everything here in the middle is neutral, but to put it in reverse, you push down and go all the way over and up for reverse.

AOL Autos Tip: Reverse Lockout – Most vehicles prevent you from accidentally shifting into reverse by requiring an additional input, such as depressing the shift knob.

And then right here is your parking brake. You can leave the car in neutral and engage the parking brake and the car won't roll around. So let's just hit the road.

So to put it into first gear, what you do is you let off the brake, take the parking brake off, and as you accelerate, you lift your foot off of the clutch and that will engage first gear.

So now first gear is engaged, you're driving, and when it comes time to shift into second gear, you depress the clutch, take your foot off the gas slightly, put the shifter into second and then reengage the clutch again.

For braking, when it comes time to stop the car, what you can do is, push in the clutch, put the shifter into neutral and then hit the brake. You can be on the brake and the clutch at the same time. For example, you can be driving and you can already start to hit the brake in gear, and then push in the clutch and put the shifter into neutral. A key thing to know is if the car is at a complete stop, you either have to be in neutral with your foot off of the clutch, or you can be in gear with your foot on the clutch, but if you take your foot off of the clutch when you're in gear at a stop, the car will stall.

So when it's time to shift, you've got what's called your powerband in the tachometer here. Those are your shift points within there. The powerband is usually right about in the middle or sometimes on the even lower end. In the case of this car, it's about, say, 1750 RPM up until about 4000 RPM, so that's where you want to shift. So we can stop the car, put it back into first gear, and then I'm driving, I get it up to about 3000 RPM, and that's when I shift. Then as you go into a gear it goes back down.

What's happening is every time you pressing in the clutch pedal, you're releasing the clutch from the flywheel, which is connected to the engine to make it all move, and it's allowing the transmission to grab the next gear that you're selecting, and then as you reengage the clutch it's making the car go forward again at a higher speed.

If you forget to shift, you'll notice, and you can actually hear the engine revving really high, and you shouldn't be doing that ever, you need to shift into gear. And then on the opposite end, if you're revving too low into a gear, like I'm in second gear right now, and I'm revving way down almost to idle, when you push in the gas, the car sort of chugs forward, or you'll even feel the engine, in this case, if you let it rev down really low in second gear, you can feel the engine sort of struggling to get power, that's when you want to down shift.

Now that I've given you the quick little intro, I think it's time, time for you to get behind the wheel.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 14 Comments
      Ron Wizard
      • 2 Years Ago
      When I'm at a stop sign/light. I leave the car in 1st gear, foot on the brakes and the clutch at its sweet spot for easy acceleration when the light change to green or its time to move. Screwing around to put the car in gear when its time to move will surely prompt cars behind you to blow their horns. And if you're at a stop sign/light on a hill. Its better to leave the car in 1st gear and foot on the brakes, so you don't roll back and hit the car behind you. To learn this you need to know where the clutch sweet spot is on your vehicle. For easy acceleration when its time to move.
        Jan Henrik
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ron Wizard
        Wow, I don't want to be your clutch. What a clueless woman. with a weird name.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ron Wizard
        Yes about the hills, but holding the clutch at the engagement point just at a stoplight? That's got to be hard on the clutch. Even though technically, it's mimicking what an automatic does.
      Prilly1977
      • 2 Years Ago
      I know how to drive a stick. My very first car was a stick, which brings me to another advantage of sticks. They are cheaper. That's why my first car was stick. It was a few thousand less than the same in an automatic. It didn't take me long to learn, about 15 minutes. Even though, I remember once when I had the car about a week, I got stuck on a big hill and couldn't make it up without stalling a few times. After I learned, I loved driving it. I ended up getting a few more cars that were sticks. At this point, though I prefer automatics. Especially living in the city.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Prilly1977
        I always find it interesting to hear stories like that--driving stick is fun, but there comes a point when the city driving and hills make it no longer worth it. I've driven a year in a manual car now, and I honestly wonder how I feel about it. It's engaging and good to know how, but I have to be on top of my game to come anywhere near the smoothness of an automatic. I kind of which everybody learned how, but I understand why they're unpopular. It's cultural, though. I think in Europe they make everybody take the driving test in a stick, and if they need an automatic to pass, it's like they didn't really pass at all.
      handbraaaake
      • 2 Years Ago
      Several problems: 1. 3-4k is NOT an average shift point, 2-3k is. 2. The power band is NOT in the middle or bottom end, it's near the top, the smaller the engine, the more true this is. 3. No one puts it neutral as soon as you brake, then you're no better than an automatic driver. You start braking while in gear to utilize engine-braking before the rpm's get low, THEN you clutch in to a stop. I don't even mess with the shifter until my foot is off the brake (unless I decide to downshift).
        • 2 Years Ago
        @handbraaaake
        How is coasting in neutral "no better than an automatic driver?" Automatics always use engine braking, with the exception of some automated manuals like the Smart ForTwo. Coasting in neutral is a far more natural capability and habit of manual driving, improper as it may be. It is improper, I guess. I have read that coasting in neutral results in failing the driving test in Europe.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Not my favorite instructional video. I -disagree- with using the handbrake on hills. I mean, it works, but I've never liked doing it. It's just adding another step. It's possible to hold the hill with only the clutch, and it's also possible to "heel-toe" into a hill by sliding the right foot from brake to gas with the clutch held at the engagement point. Both methods minimize rollback, in my experience.
      mechatricity
      • 2 Years Ago
      I disagree with putting the car in neutral and letting the clutch out while still in motion. Potentially very dangerous if you need to get out of the way of something.
      • 2 Years Ago
      You don't even leave the car in neutral when you park a car; you definitely don't use neutral when you're driving the car. Always have the car in gear.
        Rock Ranger
        • 2 Years Ago
        For long waits in stopped traffic, putting the shifter in neutral and releasing the clutch pedal is preferable. Keeps the clutch release bearing from spinning under load for extended periods. Also gives your left foot and leg a break. And unless you can smoothly execute downshifts when approaching a stop, there will be moments when the car is "out of gear" either by disengaging the clutch or selecting neutral. It is not advisable to coast at road speeds without the drivetrain connected. Back many years ago, it was called freewheeling and was prohibited by law. Better to have compression braking available in an instant by lifting off the accelerator than to futz about with stepping down the clutch pedal and reselecting the proper gear. Some trannies get balky about re-engaging when some gears have been spinning at output shaft speed and others have slowed considerably. For the neophyte, this can result in excess alarm when coasting has already resulted in speed higher than desired and/or crashing of the synchros and crunching sounds in the gearbox. However, since the engine must be disconnected to the final drive when slowed significantly and when stopped, it is impossible to "always have the car in gear." I learned to drive "stick" in a six year old 1962 Ford Falcon with that notorious 144 cu in six and the column shifter called "three on the tree". The engine and the gearing conspired to provide a serious performance lag between topping out second gear at 45mph and third gear which didn't seem to accelerate with any enthusiasm until about 55 mph. Between those speeds was "I hope I don't get run over". Its single action fuel pump made for wipers that would come to a standstill when acceleration cut the vacuum. Usually had those wipers stop when a car showered us with water and the view was seriously obscured. Most challenging car I ever drove. Then when the grommets wore, and the shifting became imprecise, going over a rain gutter for a side street while shifting from first to second could get both gears vying for engagement simultaneously. Fun to jockey the linkage under the hood at the base of the steering column. Impossible if the car was uphill or downhill with the weight of the car binding every thing up. Never really liked Fords after that Falcon. . .
          RAYFIELD
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Rock Ranger

          USE PARKING BRAKE WHEN STOPPED ON A HILL

          Rock Ranger
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rock Ranger
          I learned how to double clutch down into first gear on a 1951 Dodge "Job Rated" dump truck. Love the sound of those old flat head sixes. Had that same engine in the first car I drove, a 1949 Dodge Coronet. A slightly smaller version of that flathead six was in a 1951 Plymouth with owner installed Overdrive from a '52 Plymouth I also enjoyed driving. My '50 Buick had Dynaflow--would have preferred a manual transmission. And my '51 Packard had Ultramatic behind the flathead straight eight. That transmission had direct drive on upshift in each gear: Low and Drive. Great car.
      rayfridjr
      • 2 Years Ago
      One note to Rock Ranger: That '49 Dodge Cornet transmission was a semi-automatic called "fluid drive". The car's clutch was marked "safety clutch". The shift pattern resemled an upside down chair. In traffic, starting to move you could either leave the shift lever in first and to shift to the next gear, let your right foot off of the gas pedal to hear a loud clunking sound. This put the transmission into third. If yiou wanted to shift to second, you would push the lever up and down again for third.. Fluid drive was standard equipment on Dodges, DeSotos*(extinct), and Chryslers untio 1952, when it was discontinnued.
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