How to Drive a Manual Gear Shift on a Steering Wheel Columnby Jack Burton
The 3-speed "H pattern" gear shift on the column was standard equipment for many American-made vehicles up to the mid-1970s. After that, the gear shift on most cars moved to the floor. The "H pattern" for manual transmissions was called this because a full shifting of gears resembles the letter "H."
Press on the brake with your right foot while pushing on the clutch with left foot. The gear lever may be in neutral or first gear. Neutral is in the crossbar of the "H" -- or as if the lever were pointing towards the 12-minute mark on a clock's face -- and allows you to move the lever backwards and forwards. First gear will not allow you to move the lever from front to back, and it is as if the lever were pointing to the 5-minute mark on a clock's face.
With the clutch depressed and your right foot on the brake, pull the gear lever towards you and up to put the car into first gear from neutral. First gear is in the upper left of the "H."
Remove your right foot from the brake and ease the gas pedal downward, while slowly removing your left foot from the clutch. The car should slowly move forward. If it stalls, turn off the car and start the process again.
Depress the clutch with your left foot when the car reaches approximately 10 to 15 miles per hour and move the gear lever to second gear. Move the lever straight down from first, past neutral, into second. Second gear is in the bottom left of the "H." Release the clutch and continue to accelerate.
Depress the clutch with your left foot when the car reaches approximately 20 to 30 miles per hour. Move the gear level to third gear. Move the lever straight up, then back towards neutral, then away from you, then up again -- as if you were tracing the "H" from the bottom left to the top right of the letter. Release the clutch and continue to accelerate.
Reverse the process by shifting from third to second, or second to first, as your car needs to slow down. Shift to first gear when you come to a complete stop and start from there again to shift up into third gear.
Reverse the car by first moving the gear lever to neutral. With the clutch depressed, push the gear lever away from you and downward, as if moving the lever to the bottom right of the "H."
- Practice moving the gear shift through the "H" pattern with the clutch engaged many times before you start the car for the first time. Only attempt to drive the car when you have the "H" pattern memorized and can remember which gear is in which position.
- It can take several days of driving a vehicle with a manual transmission before it begins to feel comfortable.
- Only start the car if it is in neutral or if the clutch is depressed.
Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980 with articles in "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. He has managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. Burton holds a B.S. in broadcasting from John Brown University. He is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Navy/Navy Reserves and the Navy Seabees.