A Primer on how to Drive a car with a Manual Transmission

Driving a car with a manual transmission has been slowly becoming a lost skill over the last few decades, with the percentage of cars with manual transmissions now representing just 3.9% of new car purchases, in 2018 (multiple soutces).

Nevertheless, I and a number of the population believe it is a good skill to have. For me, I found it necessary to learn when I became a longshoreman and encountered vehicles with manual transmissions that needed to be driven off or onto ships. I have found a surprising number of my colleagues who do not have this skill since I have learned it.

This post is meant to serve as a guide for anyone who has never driven a vehicle with a manual transmission to theoretically be able to get into one, start it up and get it moving. Below is a video illustrating the steps.

The first frame of the video shows the three pedals: (from left to right) the clutch, the break. and the accelerator.

Step one: Sit in the driver’s seat and get comfortable, ensuring the seat is positioned so you will be able to fully depress the clutch.

Step two: Place your right foot on the brake and fully depress the clutch with your left.

Step three: Turn the key in the ignition

Step four: Shift the knob into first gear

Step five: Release the handbrake

Step six: Look to your left, release your foot from the brake, and slowly begin to release the clutch. When the car begins to move forward you have found the “bite point”. This is where the clutch engages.

Step seven: Gently apply the throttle and fully release the clutch.

When the car reaches between 3000 and 4000 RPMs (indicated by a gauge on the dash), you will need to shift into second and shortly thereafter, third gear. This will enable you to drive the car on surface streets, with the proper downshifting techniques, which we will discuss in another post. Below is a video of my footwork, from starting the car to shifting into third gear. The camera is attached to the steering column and the viewing angle does turn a bit. My apologies.

Lastly, is a video of operating the gearshift for posterity.

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