How to Drive Stick Shift

stick shift gears

Understand How the Gears Work

Before you can shift around, you have to know what each gear does. You’ll notice right away that there is no “park” gear. Depending on your terrain (flat or hilly), a parked manual car will either be in first gear or neutral — a matter of personal preference — and the emergency brake will be on. You’ll see reverse, gears 1-5 for a five-speed, or 1-6 for a six-speed, and neutral. Neutral may not be marked, but it’s when your shifter is idle in the middle. As silly as it sounds — memorize your gear shifting patternYou shouldn’t have to look down to see what gear you’re putting your car into each time you need to shift. Keep your eyes on the road!

You’ll also notice that you have an extra pedal, all the way to the left. That’s your clutch, which you press when starting the car, and when switching between gears. The #1 piece of advice I received when learning how to drive a stick was, “Treat your clutch like a sponge instead of a light switch.” No fast, abrupt movements. Press and release it slowly until you learn the release point.

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