Manual. Manual-transmission. Stick. However you call it, manual driving is a fun and engaging activity that also requires physical and mental alertness. Learned and performed properly, driving a manual-transmission car can be very rewarding and satisfying, and it can allow you to save money on fuel.
Driving a manual car puts all control on the driver, unlike in an automatic transmission car. All gear changes are left to the discretion of the driver and are subject to many situational aspects. Current speed, traffic congestion, road incline or decline, and cornering are only a few of the factors that a manual driver has to consider.
To begin manual driving, it is best to start with a car on a level, flat road. A good rule of thumb to remember before even starting the car is to check the gear shifter or lever: it must be in the neutral (center) position. Another safety rule is to keep the handbrake up while starting the car.
Turn the key to start the car. In some makes of cars, you might have to step down fully on the clutch pedal when starting. When the engine has started, get a feel of how it revs by stepping on the accelerator pedal. Cars respond differently to revving depending on how powerful their engine is. This also helps to give the driver an idea of how the car would react to acceleration.
Release the handbrake and step on the foot brake. Then prepare to shift into first gear. Step down fully on the clutch pedal, and push the gear shifter into the position marked “1”. This must be a smooth operation. If the clutch pedal is not fully depressed you will grind the gears, causing a loud grinding noise from the engine and possibly causing damage to the gears.
Ease the clutch pedal slowly out. You will feel the engine clutch engage and the car will slowly start to move. It is this halfway point at which the clutch engages that a driver should familiarize himself with, and it can differ from car to car. Avoid releasing the clutch pedal too quickly; this will cause the engine to stall. After the car has started moving with the clutch pedal still in the halfway point, you can then release the clutch pedal fully and the car will continue to move on its own. To build up speed, slowly press the accelerator pedal with a smooth, uniform movement. Stepping on the accelerator too quickly will result in jerky movements.
After having built up the speed, and to continue to go faster, it is time to shift into second gear. Smoothly release your foot from the accelerator and in one continuous movement bring your own foot down, also smoothly, on the clutch pedal. Depress it fully and still continuing the movement, move the gear shifter from the first gear position to the second gear position, then slowly release the clutch pedal. When the clutch pedal has been fully returned to its natural position, return your other foot to the accelerator pedal. This series of upshifts continues all the way until the top gear of the car, at which point you should be traveling at considerable speed.
To slow down, use the foot brake pedal. Slowing down will require you to downshift, that is to shift down the gears from a higher position to a lower position. Downshifting involves exactly the same steps as in upshifting, with the obvious exception of moving the gear shifter to a lower gear instead. It is necessary to do this to ensure smooth acceleration after having slowed down.
The process of shifting is really complicated at first, but it presents mainly a physical problem. With constant practice and experience gear changes become smoother and more natural, and the whole procedure becomes second nature. All this, combined with knowledge of road safety and defensive driving techniques, add up to making manual driving a safe and enjoyable experience for everybody.