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learning to drive manual cars

From a very early age I've always been very good with manual transmission vehicles.  From my earliest vehicle, a Sears lawn mower tractor from the 1960's which had a 3 speed transmission and a semi automatic clutch / pedal.  This would engage the drive belt when I pushed down the gas pedal as you would with a car, the tractor would start moving.  But the engine rpm's were controlled by a standard throttle lever on the dashboard.  So in order to get used to shifting from my early age, all I had to do was put it in first, push down on the pedal till it was going it's max speed for first gear.  Then release the pedal, shift to 2nd and then push down again till 2nd was maxed out.  The third gear and reverse worked just like the previous two gears.  The whole thing was very easy for anyone to be able to figure out. 

While this experience helped me learn how to shift a manual, the tractor transmission does not work like any other manual transmission car, truck or big rig truck I've ever driven.  The tractor was missing the traditional clutch and gas pedal.  The gas pedal on the tractor was more like a clutch than a gas pedal. 

In any case learning to drive manual cars can be fun and easy as long as you understand what the parts of the car are, what they are for, and the basics of how they function.  I hope you will find my advice helpfull and that you will understand that it is easier to write about this than to do it.  It may take you several attempts to get it right, but as long as you keep the radio off, distractions to a minimum, and not get in a hurry, you'll find what you read below helpfull.

The gas pedal - this controls the speed of the motor and how much thrust is applied to push the vehicle.  The heavier the car is, and the faster you want to go the harder you'll press on the gas pedal naturally.  I don't think that there is a kid in America which doesn't understand that concept.  However, the only way you'll ever move is if your wheels are directly linked to every turn of the motor. 

The Clutch - in order to connect every turn of the motor to the wheels, you first need to push the clutch in.

(Just to clarify, the clutch is always on the left side, with the brake in the middle and the gas pedal on the right.  3 foot pedals in all.  The Gas and the Brake pedals are always to be operated independently of each other and never at the same time by the right foot.  Your left foot is only for the clutch to engage and disengage the connection between the engine and the transmission.)

The Shift Lever - once you have the clutch pedal pushed down/in/to the floor grab a hold of the shift lever with your right hand.  You'll want to put the car into first gear at this point.  Most all cars will have some kind of diagram to show the layout of the gears.  A standard H is most common with older cars while newer cars will have a 5 and possibly 6th or 7th gears to utilize as well for higher speeds.  No matter the number of gears however, you most always can depend on shifting to the top left corner for 1st, then for second pull back towards you for 2nd, and then for third you'll want to push half way back towards 1st-slide to the right and forward (or away from you to the upper right side of the H) for 3rd gear.  Fourth gear is just as easy as second gear as you just pull straight back to the bottom right leg of the H for 4th gear.  

How to engage the gears for traction and get it moving...
Now that you know where everything is and what each piece of equipment is for, let's talk about how to get your car in gear and moving forward.  Since you are new to this, it will help to make sure that you are on a flat surface and that the car will not roll on it's own untill you are used to driving with a clutch.

With the engine running, push the clutch pedal in and move the gear shifter into 1st gear(while doing this your right foot should be on the brake to keep the car from rolling).  Before moving your right foot from the brake over to the gas pedal, you should train your left leg to know where the clutch begins to engage the motor by letting the clutch out slowly.  You'll know when this happens because the motor noise and RPM's will begin to decrease.  At this time move your right foot to the gas pedal and try to keep the motor running by feathering the gas while still letting out the clutch.  You won't want to press the gas too hard or you might break the tires loose from the pavement.  If you keep your engine rpm's between 1000 and 2000 rpm (for cars) you should be just fine.  The car will start moving forward. 

To go to second gear is much easier.  While still in first gear, get the car going midway through what your rpm range is and then press in the clutch.  Pull the shift lever from first to second which is normally a fluid and easy stroke now that the car is moving.  Once you have the gear in 2nd, just let out the clutch without giving it any gas till clutch is all the way back out.  Then press on the gas pedal till you are again midway through the rpm range of your car.  To go to third gear, just press in the clutch, move the shifter to the third position and let the clutch out and resume your foot on the gas pedal.  Fourth and any of the higher gears are done in exactly the same way.

Stopping the car with a manual transmission is very easy.  If you know that you will be coming to a complete stop, you can just pull the shift lever out of gear (with or without using the clutch) and use the brake to come to a stop.  If you just need to slow the car, leave it in gear and use the brake to slow as much as you need to for safe operation of your car. 

Downshifting your car can be done by feel so that you don't have to keep watching your rpm guage.  But at first, you'll want to know what it should feel like.  So since you are learning now, try these few steps.  While allowing the car to slow on it's own and watching the rpm guage go down till it is close to 1000 rpm or it's resting idle speed, push in the clutch and move the stick shift down one gear from what you had previously had it in.   Then, like when getting the car going, slowly let the clutch out so that the motor doesn't go into shock if you went down too many gears.  As long as you didn't go down more than one gear the rpm's should climb about 1500 rpm's which is ok, and you can then wait for the engine to slow again to the lower range to downshift again. 

As long as you are not coming to a complete stop and you're still rolling, you don't or shouldn't downshift into first gear unless you have rolled to a stop.  Otherwise if your car is rolling, you should be able to accellerate out of 2nd gear and back though the gear ranges to your cruising speed.

By this point you should be able to operate a manual transmission well enough to drive around your town to practice.  When first starting out, always make sure that you have enough room to get the car up to speed and back down to a safe stop.  Otherwise, look for another place to practice.  While a parking lot might be


Created: 11/29/2009
Tags: learning to drive manual cars, learning to drive standard cars, learning to drive automatic car
Description: A in depth explanation on how to learn to drive manual cars and the main differences between automatics and standard transmission cars.

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