How to Drive a Manual Car in the Mountains

by Contributor

The mountains are where stick-shift vehicles really shine, giving you full control over shifting for steep climbs and descents. But if you're only accustomed to driving on flat land, you may need a primer before tackling the ups and downs.

Step 1

Pay careful attention to road signs identifying upcoming mountain passes or summits and steep downhill grades.

Step 2

When the road begins to climb, you'll feel the engine decrease in power if you're in a high gear. When this happens, engage the clutch and put the car into the next lower gear.

Step 3

If the engine continues to feel like it's lacking power and drops below about 1,500 RPMs, downshift again. On a very steep grade, you may need to shift several times into consecutively lower gears.

Step 4

Just as you reach the summit, take your foot off the gas. Be sure the car is still in a lower gear.

Keep your foot off the gas and let the transmission slow you down. Brake as necessary, but if you find you are braking frequently, downshift into the next lower gear.


  • Remember the general rule of thumb for both climbing and descending: The steeper the grade, the lower the gear.
  • When climbing or descending in a lower gear, your engine will sound different than it does on flat land. This is normal, so long as your RPMs stay well below the "red line" level on your tachometer.


  • In snowy or icy conditions, you will need to travel more slowly than you would when the road is dry. This may require shifting into a lower gear than you would ordinarily.

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