Although it seems intimidating at first, there’s nothing behind the combination of clutch, shifter and gas pedal that you can’t master with just a little practice. Check out these driving stick tips designed to help you understand how to get the most out of your manual transmission car.
The Key Is to Be Smooth
One of the fundamental concepts to grasp when learning to drive a manual gearbox is that the clutch is not an on/off switch. Whether clutching in or clutching out, you need to sync your left foot on the clutch pedal with your right foot on the gas pedal to transition from one gear to the next. This is most crucial when starting from a stop: letting the clutch out gradually while slowly pushing down on the accelerator is vital to get going without stalling.
If you let the clutch out too quickly, the engine won’t have enough torque to get the car moving. But let it out too slowly, and you run the risk of damaging the clutch over time as it tries to manage too much power. It’s a balancing act that demands smooth, deliberate actions with your feet.
Don’t Ride the Clutch
You might have heard someone warn you against “riding” the clutch. What exactly does that mean? You’ll notice in the section above that it’s not a good idea to use too much gas while slowly letting out the clutch. Riding the clutch is an extension of this — it’s when you keep the clutch pedal partially depressed during acceleration, normal driving or waiting at a red light. To avoid damaging the clutch, it’s best to keep the car in neutral at a longer stop, depressing the clutch only when you are actually changing gears.
The Right Gear for the Right Situation
Unlike an automatic transmission, in which a valve body or computer makes all the shifting decisions for you, a manual requires you to decide what gear the car needs. One of the best driving stick tips is to learn the characteristics of your car’s engine and gears so you can choose the right cog for high-speed cruising, for slow-speed corners and for creeping forward in traffic. Generally speaking, the higher the gear, the better your fuel mileage, because you’re keeping engine revolutions low. However, lower RPMs tend to equal less torque, which will limit your ability to accelerate and force you to use a lower gear. Lastly, by keeping your manual transmission in good shape through regular maintenance, it’ll be in better shape a day-to-day basis.
Driving stick is not as complicated as it seems. With a little practice using the tips outlined here, you’ll be crusin’ in no time!
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.