How to Drive a Six-Speed Manual Transmission

by William Zane
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shifter image by Brett Bouwer from

Though six-speed gearboxes used to be a relatively rare thing, in recent years they have become more commonplace and are seen as frequently on Volkswagens as they are on higher-end cars like Porsches and BMWs. A six-speed is not really that different from a five-speed or even a four-speed gearbox, with the exception of having extra gears. This allows the gear ratios to be placed together for better acceleration while still offering enough gearing for comfortable and efficient highway driving.

Step 1

Familiarize yourself with the controls of the vehicle by first sitting in the driver's seat. The three foot controls are the clutch pedal (on the left), the brake pedal (in the middle) and the gas pedal (on the right). The other controls are the shift lever--which controls the gear you are in--and the steering wheel--which controls the vehicle's steering.

Step 2

Depress the clutch all the way to the floor. Turn the key in the ignition to start the vehicle. Place the shift lever into first gear, which on a six-speed manual will always be to the left and up. Second gear is straight down from first, third is up and over to the right a little, fourth is straight back down from third, fifth is up and over to the right a little and sixth is straight down from fifth. The location of reverse varies depending on the model, but will be either to the right or left past the forward gears and up or down.

Step 3

Release the clutch until you feel it engage and the vehicle move forward a little. Apply a small amount of throttle to keep the engine from stalling and to move the vehicle. While smoothly and slowly pressing on the gas pedal, simultaneously release the clutch. Do not release the clutch abruptly but also do not ride it, i.e., keep it engaged part of the way while accelerating.

Step 4

Shift into second gear at 3,000 RPM. Lift off the gas pedal, depress the clutch and move the lever straight down to second. Release the clutch once the lever is in the second gear position then continue to accelerate smoothly. Many modern cars have engines that rev quite high and can be shifted at 6,000 or 7,000 RPM. This should be done only after you have become familiar with driving a manual transmission.

Step 5

Continue shifting into the next highest gear as the speed climbs. On a car with a six-speed transmission, sixth gear will only be used at freeway speeds and is generally considered an overdrive gear. As opposed to a five-speed gearbox, a six-speed gearbox will need to be shifted more often since the gear ratios are closer together.

Step 6

Downshift from gear to gear as the vehicle's speed decreases. Depress the clutch, move the lever to the next lowest gear then smoothly release the clutch. Smoothness is one of the key aspects of driving a manual that will make this a more satisfying experience.

Step 7

Stop the vehicle by pressing on the brake and simultaneously depressing the clutch so that the vehicle does not stall when it comes to a stop. Move the shift lever to neutral when the vehicle is idling at a stop sign or a light. Reverse is controlled in the same way as the forward gears on a six-speed, but it is a much shorter gear that is only used for very short distances when the vehicle is being parked.

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