There are certain things that you keep to yourself when you’re fairly new to a workplace. While I consider myself to be a good driver, there was one aspect of my driving that I was reluctant to bring up around my AOL Autos co-workers: The fact that I had no clue how to drive a stick.
While not embarrassing to most people, the fact that I didn’t know how to drive a stick was a sore point for me. With no access to a manual vehicle at home and no one to teach me, I did what any other self-respecting person would do. I scoured the Internet for a video that could show me how.
A simple search on YouTube of “how to drive a manual” yields about 918,000 results. After sitting at my computer for over an hour watching shaky cellphone videos of people trying to explain how to drive a manual while filming and driving at the same time, the only thing that became clear to me is that none of these videos were going to help. So we here at AOL Autos set out to create the video of record to teach you how to drive a manual. Senior Editor of Autoblog Steve Ewing was chosen to be the teacher, and I was to be the guinea pig.
Driving a vehicle with a manual transmission has become less and less common these days. According to Edmunds.com less than 7% of cars sold are manuals. One selling point used to be gas mileage, but many manufacturers now offer automatics that get as good or better gas mileage than manuals. Another advantage to driving a manual is control, but many new vehicles feature some kind of automatic sport shift mode that allows you to shift without a clutch.
Driving a stick does still offer some of the advantages it once did.
“For a lot of people now the manual has a lot more to do with driving pleasure than it does for any sort of efficiency gains,” says David Buchko, of BMW of North America. “It’s all about the driving experience and the engagement in the driving process.”
I, for one, can attest to the enhanced driving experience. After learning how to drive a stick, one thing is for sure: my next car is going to be a manual.
You can read a transcription of Part I of our video tutorial below.
Chris: Hi, I’m Chris McGraw with AOL Autos. I’m new to the team here, but overall I’d consider myself to be a fairly good driver, with one glaring exception: I don’t know how to drive a stick. Today I’m going to learn how to drive a manual, and Autoblog Senior Editor Steve Ewing is here to teach me.
Steve: So when you first get in the car you want to familiarize yourself with it because you’ve never driven a stick before. So obviously you’ve got three pedals down below. You’ve got your accelerator on the right, brake in the middle and then clutch on the left. You want to make sure that you’re sitting close enough so that, when you depress the clutch all the way, your foot’s all the way in, without having to reach out like that on your tippy-toes. You want to have a nice, firm placement on the clutch.
In the middle is your gearbox. In the case of the Mazda it is a six speed manual transmission, so over and up is one, two, three, four, five, and six. To put it in reverse, everything here in the middle is neutral, but to put it in reverse, you push down and go all the way over and up for reverse.
AOL Autos Tip: Reverse Lockout – Most vehicles prevent you from accidentally shifting into reverse by requiring an additional input, such as depressing the shift knob.
And then right here is your parking brake. You can leave the car in neutral and engage the parking brake and the car won’t roll around. So let’s just hit the road.
So to put it into first gear, what you do is you let off the brake, take the parking brake off, and as you accelerate, you lift your foot off of the clutch and that will engage first gear.
So now first gear is engaged, you’re driving, and when it comes time to shift into second gear, you depress the clutch, take your foot off the gas slightly, put the shifter into second and then reengage the clutch again.
For braking, when it comes time to stop the car, what you can do is, push in the clutch, put the shifter into neutral and then hit the brake. You can be on the brake and the clutch at the same time. For example, you can be driving and you can already start to hit the brake in gear, and then push in the clutch and put the shifter into neutral. A key thing to know is if the car is at a complete stop, you either have to be in neutral with your foot off of the clutch, or you can be in gear with your foot on the clutch, but if you take your foot off of the clutch when you’re in gear at a stop, the car will stall.
So when it’s time to shift, you’ve got what’s called your powerband in the tachometer here. Those are your shift points within there. The powerband is usually right about in the middle or sometimes on the even lower end. In the case of this car, it’s about, say, 1750 RPM up until about 4000 RPM, so that’s where you want to shift. So we can stop the car, put it back into first gear, and then I’m driving, I get it up to about 3000 RPM, and that’s when I shift. Then as you go into a gear it goes back down.
What’s happening is every time you pressing in the clutch pedal, you’re releasing the clutch from the flywheel, which is connected to the engine to make it all move, and it’s allowing the transmission to grab the next gear that you’re selecting, and then as you reengage the clutch it’s making the car go forward again at a higher speed.
If you forget to shift, you’ll notice, and you can actually hear the engine revving really high, and you shouldn’t be doing that ever, you need to shift into gear. And then on the opposite end, if you’re revving too low into a gear, like I’m in second gear right now, and I’m revving way down almost to idle, when you push in the gas, the car sort of chugs forward, or you’ll even feel the engine, in this case, if you let it rev down really low in second gear, you can feel the engine sort of struggling to get power, that’s when you want to down shift.
Now that I’ve given you the quick little intro, I think it’s time, time for you to get behind the wheel.