I had the good fortune to borrow a neighbor’s manual car. I ended up just driving it around the block, and asked her to run my errand, but I had a good time, and here’s my beginner clutch guide.
I was quite confused at first: with car in neutral, brake engaged, car doesn’t start when turning key. Huh??
Turns out you have to have the clutch all the way engaged to start the car. This makes sense, because once the car is started the clutch needs to be fully engaged, since you won’t be adding gas right off the bat.
Three pedals, left to right: clutch, brake, gas.
Clutch disconnects engine from wheels. As in automatic, brake stops the car and gas makes the engine rev faster.
Set yourself up
- Ensure car is in neutral (between 1 and 2 on the far left)
- Buckle up
- Adjust mirrors, seat
- If this is your first time driving stick, go for a simple loop that won’t put you into traffic, or go to a parking lot. It’s not easy if you’re used to automatic!
Start the car
- Left foot on clutch, right foot on brake.
- Press clutch all the way in. Hold brake.
- Disengage parking brake (apparently you’re supposed to do this after shifting to first gear, but I did it this way ok)
- Turn key to ignition.
- Put car in first gear, still holding clutch and brake
- (hard part: slipping the clutch)
- Still holding clutch down, take right foot off brake.
- Start to release the clutch as you feed gas. Car will move forward
- It might be more of a lurch. If you want to stop, fully engage clutch and use right foot to brake
- (Probably the car will turn off (stall out) here. It’s ok. Shift gears to neutral and go back to ignition)
- If you’re moving forward into the clear, as you release the clutch, press the gas.
- At any given time, either the gas or the clutch will be pressed.
- As you accelerate, let go of more of the clutch. Get a feel for this.
- If coming up to a stop sign, press clutch and brake simultaneously, then release clutch and press gas
- If the engine is really revving and you’re going too fast for first gear, press clutch, shift gears to second, and release clutch as you add gas. I didn’t get this far; stayed in first gear my whole drive around the block.
First manual experience: fun!
It took me probably 5 times to start the car successfully, and during the first drive around the block I stalled out twice. No stress. This was my mantra of driving stick shift.
I had to start the car on a hill for my last ignition, and this was tricky as when I let go of the brake I started to roll backwards. Eventually I got the car to lurch forwards alright; I didn’t have the finesse to use the parking brake here but I’m sure there’s a way to use it to good effect.
Remember: you can always press clutch to stop car from stalling out, and you can always brake.