Social Question

jordym84's avatar

What do I need to know about stick-shifts (and driving in general)?

Asked by jordym84 (4742points) December 3rd, 2012

Tomorrow one of my friends is going to start teaching me how to drive and she has a stick-shift. I will eventually learn how to drive an automatic vehicle, but from what I’ve heard it’s better to learn how to drive a manual first because it’s supposedly harder, which will make driving an automatic a breeze.

Now, I’ve never driven a motor-vehicle before (except for a golf cart that had a maximum speed of 12 mph a few years ago). My whole life I’ve lived in places that were either within walking distance to everything and/or had very reliable public transportation, so I never felt the need to own a car, and thus never got around to getting my license. However, now I live in southeastern US and, even though I live relatively close to everything (i.e. my workplace, the grocery store, the major shopping areas, the bank, etc), nothing is really walkable because you need to get on the main roads to go anywhere and there are no sidewalks. Additionally, I have no access to the public transportation here because, not only is it very limited, but also the bus stop closest to where I live is about a 45-minute walk away.

But, anyway, back to my question: I’m familiar with the rules of the road and have been reading the driver’s manual prior to taking the written exam, but I’m a bit nervous about the driving part. Not that I don’t think I can do it, but seeing as I’ve never driven a vehicle before and have no idea where to even begin (though I’m sure my friend will go over all of it with me tomorrow), I was wondering if the collective had any general advice on driving? I don’t even know what specific questions to ask, so any and all advice will be greatly appreciated :)

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

35 Answers

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

While you are initially learning how to operate a vehicle with a stick-shift and a clutch pedal, it is a good idea to do it in a quiet parking area rather than on the roads so you can focus on starting, stopping and gear shifting without having to focus on all the other important skills associated with driving a vehicle on public roads.

Coloma's avatar

Stick shifts are highly inappropriate driving choice if you are a left handed, right brained blonde, otherwise, you should pick upon the procedure fairly easily.
Practice in a safe place as has been suggested by Dr.Lawrence above.
Practice makes perfect!

You just have to put the miles on driving, but, before you know it you’ll be completely comfortable and what seems intimidating now won’t even be remembered.
Do you have a friend or family member to teach you driving skills?
You might want to take a driving course in your community if you feel really anxious.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

PLEASE don’t try to learn on the roads! Find a large, empty parking lot where you can stall-out and make mistakes to your heart’s content. Once you get the hang of shifting gears, it’s a very easy thing to do, but it takes time, patience, and practice to learn. You need to let yourself get accustomed to how the clutch and gas pedal interact.

After you’re comfortable on flat ground, you’ll want to master the fine art of starting on an incline. You need to feel confident when you start both uphill and downhill and both forward and in reverse.

jordym84's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence yesterday, while riding in the car with my friend, she mentioned that, initially, you need to pay very close attention to the sounds of the engine to know when to shift gears, but once you get used to it you’ll be able to tell by the “feel” of the car. Is that correct?

@Coloma LOL so in that sense I guess I’ll be a good driver then, seeing as I’m neither left-handed, right brained, nor blond? ~
One of my friends will be teaching me on her car and once I’ve learned stick-shift, my other friend’s boyfriend will teach me how to drive his automatic car. I’m not so anxious as to not be able to drive, just a bit nervous since I’ve never driven before lol

@PaulSadieMartin yes, we’ll be driving on a big, empty parking lot by where we live. Knowing myself, I’ll probably practice the heck out of it before I even think of allowing myself to start practicing on the roads haha Ah yes, I’ve heard a lot about the dreaded up/downhill on a manual…can’t say I’m really looking forward to it lol

marinelife's avatar

Think of merging on the freeway as weaving a basket.

Drive slightly odd speeds like 67 in a 70 mph zone. It will keep you between bunches of cars.

When stopping, make sure you can see the tires of the vehicle in front of you. If you can’t, you have stopped too close.

Sunny2's avatar

I’ve always driven a standard transmission car. When I have to drive an automatic transmission car, I keep stomping on the non existent clutch, but I get over that in a day or two. I prefer the standard shift (and also smaller cars) because I feel more in control of the vehicle. I feel more focused when I drive. A larger car with automatic controls drives me. I don’t like that feeling.

gailcalled's avatar

Day one. Find a really large and really empty parking.

Sit in driver’s seat.Learn to adjust seat, front mirror and side mirrors. Fasten seat belt.

Listen to your instructor about regulating the clutch and the gas pedal..clutch comes slowly up while gas is depressed.

Breath in and out several times.

Make sure gears are in neutral.

Depress clutch.

Turn on ignition.

Shift into first gear and slowly, slowly release clutch while giving the car some gas. If the car moves forward without leaping about like a Mexican jumping bean, you have done well. If it jumps, join the club

Put on the brake. Stop the car. Turn off ignition.

Repeat many times. It takes a while to realize that you don’t need three feet to handle the three pedals.

Take two aspirin and call your friend in the morning.

Tomorrow; first and second gear.

Next week, third and fourth.

Graduate school…reverse.

Brian1946's avatar

Before you apply the brakes when you’re preparing to stop the vehicle, depress the clutch pedal or you’ll probably stall the engine.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Go easy on the clutch. Release it very slowly on level ground. On an uphill incline use the emergency brake to hold the car before you release the clutch. When you start driving on roads don’t tailgate. You can’t see anything like that. And always keep your eyes moving around. Don’t stare straight ahead. A lot of danger comes from the sides.

CWOTUS's avatar

Once you’ve started to learn the basics of starting and stopping and managing gear changes (which should definitely be done on a deserted parking lot or deserted road), then you should learn to manage those things on a hill, too. You’ll have to do it eventually, so it’s best to learn how to do the starts and stops on hills of varying steepness. Again, do that practicing on deserted roads to the extent possible.

For now, don’t worry about hurting the car. You’re going to stall a lot; you’re going to do jackrabbit starts, and you’ll more than likely grind the gears a few times. Don’t sweat it, just practice through it.

josie's avatar

There is a difference between riding in a car, and driving the car.

If you want to drive, learn to use stick.

If you want to merely be a semi passive operator of a steering wheel, stick to automatic.

jerv's avatar

First off, most of my manual cars lacked a tachometer; you could only tell by listening. The engine is generally capable of revving a little higher than you might be used to hearing, so don’t be afraid of a little noise (that may cause “short-shifting” and stalling), but don’t rev the piss out of it either. There is also an element of touch there. With practice, you will eventually be able to hear and feel when to shift without even thinking; out just takes practice.

Also, know where the gears are before you start the car. Some have wide patterns, narrow, some (like VW) put Reverse next to 1st, and you need to get the right gear without taking without taking your eyes off the road. You do not want to go from 3rd to 2nd when you were trying to hit 4th! Again, it doesn’t take much to figure out, but take a few seconds to feel where the gears are.

Once you get the basics, practice starting on a hill. It will take more practice than level ground since the timing is more crucial, but once that becomes easy (and it will), you’re ready to hit the open road.

Sometimes the Rules of the Road must take precedence over the law. For instance, many roads around Boston are 55 zones, but if you do less than 70, you risk getting rear-ended. The safest thing to do is follow the herd; blend in without causing any disturbance in the flow of traffic. Keep a safe distance from others, especially as stopping a manual is more than just hitting the brake pedal.

Above all, don’t overthink. Driving is easier than constantly analyzing and worrying about everything, and instinct is quicker than thought. Thinking also causes stress that may cause other problems. Relax, and trust your instincts.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

CWOTUS’s comments reminded me of something else someone working me with did. You can hold a car on an incline by slipping the clutch. Don’t do that for very long. She was stopped in a construction zone on an uphill incline. She held the car in place by slipping the clutch. For a while, while they tried to figure out what was smelling hot. It was the poor clutch.

gailcalled's avatar

When my father taught me on a 1946 Pontiac, he took sixteen-year old me to a steep hill (luckily deserted) pulled over, pulled on the emergency brake, turned off the ignition, got out of the driver’s side and settled me in it.

Then he told me that driving an automobile was like having a loaded gun.

Then he said to start the car and drive up the hill.

Words fail me but the memory is very sharp. I thought he was really mean.

gailcalled's avatar

@jerv: Another rule of the road is to not drive in Boston until you have had at least two years’ experience under your belt.

hearkat's avatar

There’s lots of good advice here. I learned to drive automatic first, then stick. That is also how I taught my son. It seemed better to have a mastery of the basic aspects of driving first, then to add the complexities of the clutch and gearshift. We both felt more comfortable taking the road test in the automatics, too.

jerv's avatar

@gailcalled As someone who spent half their childhood there, I simplify it; “Don’t drive in Boston”. Those dents in their cars are not from incompetence; they are from homicidal intent!

@Adirondackwannabe My first VW had no real way to tell whether you were in 1st or 3rd. The first day I had it, the test drive went fine, but on the way home I stalled it three times trying to get off of this hill onto the highway. As you might guess, it was because I was launching in 3rd gear… and actually succeeded on the third try!

jordym84's avatar

Thank you so much everyone!!! I really appreciate your input :)
It’s kind of hard to visualize any of it without having set foot in the car yet, but I’m a bit less nervous now after reading your comments and I’ve made note of what everyone’s said so I can ask my friend to show me tomorrow. I’ll let you all know how it goes! Thank you once again!

JLeslie's avatar

Personally, I think it is better and safer to learn on an automatic first, but many people believe learning on a manual first is better.

I agree with those above who say start in a parking lot. Empty area of the lot. In fact, once you start moving try parking within the lines or with your right tire right on a line, or your left tire on a line. Do each of those three, stop the car, and get out of the car and see how good you are at knowing where the car is in the “lane.”

Now about the manual shift, most people advise to let the clutch out slowly and at the same time apply the gas. Most new to driving a clutch car hear that as bring out the clutch and then apply the gas. They understand it has to be done simultaneously, but they still tend to focus on letting the clutch out. My advice is think about it in the reverse, give it some gas and then ease up on the clutch (both done steady’ slowly, and smoothly) especially if it is an older car or a car with a lot of power like a Corvette or Porsche.

Lastly, it is very unlikely you will be able to judge when to shift by how the car sounds or how the petals feel when you are first learning. I agree that is how an experienced driver decides when to shift, but not a new driver. Although, maybe men tend to be better at that? Anyway, for the most part you shift around 3–4,000 RPM’s in most cars, depending on how fast you are accelerating, and from 1st gear to 2nd it will be a little less than the higher gears most likely. Watching the RPM’s is much easier for new drivers than try to listen to the engine I think. It’s like I know when to turnover food by how it sounds while cooking on the stovetop, and most people who have never cooked would not have a feel for that at first.

If you do go out on the road know how to start the car! If you stall, which you likely will, you will possibly have to quickly restart.

Let us know how it goes.

RocketGuy's avatar

Maybe you should start with a driving game on an XBox, then go on to driving school. I learned a lot from driving school.

@Rarebare once described for me his technique for manual transmission:
Imagine there is a lever between the clutch and the gas pedals, with your two feet operating it. When you are stopped or want to shift, the clutch pedal moves down, the gas pedal moves up. When you have shifted, and now want to accelerate, the clutch comes up smoothly and the gas goes down smoothly.

For me, I just tried to keep my engine at 3000 RPM while balancing the clutch and gas. It was a high revving Honda engine so needed to be revved that high to have any power. Toyota’s would be happier at 2500 RPM.

jordym84's avatar

@JLeslie Thank you! I’m afraid of getting too lazy and comfortable with an automatic car and then having to learn to drive a manual. Once I’ve mastered the stick-shift, the automatic will be kind of like a reward that I earned lol

@RocketGuy I’m terrible with video games as I have very poor hand-eye coordination with that sort of thing. Besides, I get bored real easily playing video games. Thanks for the suggestion, though!!

JLeslie's avatar

@jordym84 The thing is, when you are a new driver you have to think about everything. Adding in thinking about shifting and not stalling and it is more to think about. At least when someone is an experienced driver they don’t feel unsure about the road, rules of the road, where the car is in the road, how to make a good left turn (which by the way you drive kind of straightish into the intersection before making the left, turn the wheel too fast and you will have a hard time staying in your lane depending on the intersection) signaling, etc. Let alone if something unexpected happens. I am not trying to make you nervous, just explaining why. I am sure you will start out in parking lots and less traveled roads and it will be fine, but more stress for you with the clutch. But, many many people learn to drive on a clutch, you can do it, I have total confidence.

RocketGuy's avatar

@jordy – I suggested a driving game so you can get used to what driving among other cars looks like. Also helps you gain coordination between the steering wheel and making turns of various sharpness.

jerv's avatar

On that note, there are certain of those games that also feature a Manual mode, a few of which are complete with clutch pedal. Some of the Manufacturer races in Gran Turismo are also good for that as some of them put you in a car like you might actually drive on the street; cars that corner at 20–30 MPH like a street car instead of 70–140 like a full-blown race car, and often lead to races where the cars are as close together as they are on actual roads.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder how the lesson went.

jordym84's avatar

Ok so here’s what happened: I chickened out… Well, sort of. I rethought the whole thing and decided that, as @JLeslie suggested, I’m probably better off learning on an automatic first so I can familiarize myself with a motor-vehicle and how everything works before I add in the gear shifting and all the other extras that come with driving a manual. I got a bit overambitious wanting to start off with a manual, but my common sense (aided by @JLeslie) kicked in and told me to go slow and not bite off more than I can chew. I’ll let you all know once I’ve had my first go at it (hopefully before the end of the week). Thanks for all the advice thus far :)

jerv's avatar

Everybody learns differently, and everybody has their own ideas on how much they are comfortable taking on. If your common sense tells you that you are not ready, then you probably aren’t. Just make sure that your fears are your own and not those instilled by others.

hearkat's avatar

@jordym84: Driving an automatic is easy, but what makes it challenging are the unpredictabilities that we encounter on the road – especially if you live in a crowded area. As I said, I learned on an automatic first in Driver’s Ed class, but my mom had a stick, so it wasn’t long before I was learning how to operate the manual, too. I borrowed a family member’s automatic for the road test, but ultimately preferred the control of the manual, and owned only manuals for 25 years, until it was time for my son to learn.

I bought an automatic for him to learn on, and gave it to him as his first car, then bought myself another manual, and that’s what he learned to drive stick on to get him ready for motorcycle lessons that we took together. Now he can drive anything – and I think it’s an important skill – but we’re both in automatics now because the newer VW transmission is quite nice, and we have paddle shifters when control is needed. But traffic is always bad where we live, so it gets tedious going back and forth between first and third gears.

Take it at your own pace, but please do learn the stick… I believe that knowing it makes a person a better driver, in general, because you understand the car better since you have to be more mindful of the process. Good luck!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@jordym84 Don’t be intimidated by driving. My grandfather taught me to drive our farm pickup truck out in the fields when I was 8 years old. He figured if I’m out there working with them and anything happened, I better be able to get them to help. It worked out just fine.

gailcalled's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: Aren’t you the guy who gets really angry frustrated when you encounter idiotic thoughtless drivers on the highway? The one who is not advocating the Peacible KIngdom on I-90?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@gailcalled Lousy drivers drive me friggin nuts. I want a RPG launcher in my car to take care of them. It’s not rocket science.

gailcalled's avatar

^^^ Ask Luckyguy. He’ll set it up in a short time, and isn’t very far from you, relatively speaking.

jerv's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Do yourself a favor; avoid Seattle. New England drivers may be crazy, but they are at least marginally competent. If you want to see stupid, watch a Seattle driver in the snow!

gailcalled's avatar

^^^Ditto for the drivers in Philadelphia. !/2” of snow, the schools close and people slither around on the beltway roads.

JLeslie's avatar

What @hearkat says is true. It is the unpradictibilities that place a new driver more at risk. The more experience you have driving the more you can deal with them as second nature. I think once you have been driving a month you can attempt the stick without fear. Still sticking to quieter roads at first. I agree that it is a great idea to learn how to drive a stick. It means in a pinch, God forbid someone can’t drive and their car is a stick, you will be able to do it. It also is more fun to drive stick once you are good at it. It takes a little bit to get to the fun of it, and then you are hooked. If you love cars and driving and ever consider racing or owning show cars a lot of the old cars are stick. Also, when travelling to some foreign countries the majority of the cars are stick, you have to pay extra for the automatic. Lots of practical reasons to be able to drive a manual.

I’ll add that just driving in a parking lot or on a farm like @Adirondackwannabe you can certainy start learning the manual right away. Starting up is the hardest part, the rest comes very easily.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther