Learning how to drive a 5 speed takes practice, patience, and a first-rate sense of humor. It's important to take the time you need to learn this useful skill, and a clear set of instructions can help too!
Understanding a Manual Transmission
Before you start learning to drive a stick, it might help to know the function of a manual transmission. A little background information can give you the big picture while you're discovering how to use a stick shift.
You've probably noticed that there is a tachometer on your vehicle. This gauge represents the revolutions per minute (RPM), or the number of times your engine crank turns in a 60-second period. Generally, higher RPMs mean higher horsepower, but you'll notice that the tachometer also includes a scary-looking red area.
This red part of the gauge is informally called the "red line." When the tachometer needle reaches the red line area, it becomes dangerous for the car to continue accelerating without shifting gears. That's where you come in.
Don't worry, you'll know it's time to shift long before your tachometer reaches the red. Your car will be making a loud roaring sound at this point, and your instincts will tell you it's time to change gears.
How to Drive a 5 Speed Transmission
It's best to practice driving a 5-speed in a large, empty parking lot or other open area. It's easier to learn to shift when you don't have to worry about hitting any obstacles.
Start out by sitting in the driver's seat and pushing in the clutch. Get the feel for the clutch and practice by slowly depressing it and releasing it.
Keep one foot on the brake. While holding the clutch in, turn the key in the ignition. A manual car needs to have the clutch in before it can start up.
With the clutch pedal still depressed, move the gear shifter to the left and up until you find first gear. You'll feel the shifter move into place when you find the gear.
Next, take your foot off the brake and slowly ease off the clutch pedal while simultaneously stepping lightly on the gas. This part takes some practice. The car may lurch forward or stall out, but after a few tries, you'll learn the proper balance of clutch and gas. Generally, it's helpful to keep the RPMs around 2,000.
Now that you're moving, it will soon be time to switch to second gear. You'll hear the engine revving a little higher, and the tachometer needle will be somewhere around 3,000 RPMs. Take your foot off the gas pedal, push in the clutch, and shift the car into second gear by pulling straight down from first gear. Now step on the gas as you ease off the clutch.
Continue shifting through the gears as shown in the diagram on your gearshift. You'll probably have to practice the higher gears on the road, since you won't be able to go fast enough in a parking lot.
If you need to slow down, you will want to downshift. You will do the same process as shifting the car up, but you will also use the break pedal to slow the car down to about 2,000 RPMs. Then you will push in the clutch and shift to the lower gear and release the clutch. Adding additional break if needed.
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Time to Stop?
You may notice that stopping completely is a little more complicated in a manual car. If you simply step on the brake, your car will stall out. Instead, you need to make sure your car is in neutral when you come to a stop.To stop your car, push in the clutch pedal while stepping on the brake at the same time. Move the gear shifter into the neutral position and remove your foot from the clutch. Keep stepping on the brake until your car has come to a stop.
There are a few things that might make it a little easier to learn how to drive a 5 speed. You're already on the right track by reading up on the subject, and with a little practice, you'll soon be on your way.
It's always a good idea to have an experienced friend sit next to you and offer advice. Make sure the person is someone who does not actually own the car you are driving since such a situation could cause a little extra tension.
When it's time to shift gears, take your foot off the gas pedal. If you forget, you'll hear a loud roaring noise when you push in the clutch.
Avoid starting your car on a hill when you're first learning to drive a stick. After you feel comfortable with the basics, take some time to practice on hills.
When you want to back up, simply move the shifter into reverse position and follow the same procedure as starting in first gear. Find the R on the gearshift for your car to know where to move the gearshift into reverse.
If you're learning to drive a car for the first time, practice on an automatic transmission before learning to shift a manual transmission.
Driving a manual transmission is a useful skill to have. When you feel comfortable driving a stick, you'll no longer have to worry about borrowing someone else's car or driving a manual transmission in an emergency. With practice, driving a stick shift will become second nature.