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How to Drive a Stick Shift

by Contributor

Learning to drive a manual transmission car, or a stick shift, can be challenging, but with a little patience and practice can become as easy as driving an automatic car. Follow these steps to get started.

Getting to Know the Transmission

Step 1

Notice there are three pedals instead of two. The pedal furthest left is the clutch and it helps you shift. The brake and gas follow from left to right.

Step 2

Locate the gearshift in the center console of the car. Study the diagram on the top of the gearshift, which tells you where each gear is located. The diagram will look like two H's stuck together.

Practice in a parking lot or in an unpopulated area where you won't hit anything. Pull up the parking brake and put the gear shift in neutral.

Hitting the Road

Step 1

Place your right foot on the brake and start the car. Put your left foot on the clutch and move the gear shift to first gear-the top of the first H. Don't take your foot off the brake.

Step 2

Release the parking brake and take your foot off the the brake pedal when you're ready to begin.

Step 3

Place your right foot on the gas and slowly apply a little pressure. Ease your foot off the clutch, and when the engine start to slow start applying pressure to the gas pedal. Make sure you are applying as much as you are releasing. This will get the car accelerating in first gear.

Step 4

Take your right foot off the gas when the car starts to rev to 3,000 RPM, and push your left foot down on the clutch. Pull the gearshift straight down as far as it can go to put the car in second gear. Release the clutch while simultaneously pressing on the gas.

Continue to use these same steps to shift up a gear each time the car hits 3,000 RPM. Move only one gear at a time, around the H, until you hit fifth gear. You will only use fifth gear if you are driving on the freeway.

Slowing, Reversing, and Stopping

Step 1

Downshift when you want to stop. Drop the gearshift to second while applying the clutch and the brake.

Step 2

Place the car in first gear and apply the parking brake when parking.

Put the car in reverse by applying both the brake and the clutch and moving the gearshift all the way to the right and all the way down. Release the clutch and gas pedal simultaneously slowly and the car will start to move backward.


  • If the car starts to shake while releasing the clutch, apply the gas to keep the car from stalling.
  • Find a friend or family member who knows how to drive a stick shift to sit with you in the car as you learn.
  • Driving a manual transmission can save you money on gas.


  • Don't strip the gears. Careless or rough use of the gearshift can cause wear and tear on the clutch and the transmission.

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