General Question

seekingwolf's avatar

Any tips for driving a stick?

Asked by seekingwolf (10407points) June 5th, 2009

Okay, so my parents bought me a car this week…a purple Honda Fit. It was for a great price and I love how it’s so good with gas. I’m very happy with it.

My dad insisted that I get a stick shift so we did. I can drive it okay but I’m still learning…I need to learn some tips/tricks to make the driving go more smoothly…(it’s a 5 speed by the way)

So can anyone offer some tips/tricks to keep in mind while driving a stick?

I’m mostly concerned with acceleration. Whenever I stop (at a stoplight or a stop sign) and I start up again in 1st gear, I find it hard to accelerate quickly enough not to annoy the people behind me! How do I accelerate quickly without “revving” too much?

Any tips or advice would be appreciated! ^^ Thanks!

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20 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar

Practice, Practice. Practice.

You do anything enough times in a row it becomes second nature.

seekingwolf's avatar


Yeah I’m doing tons of that!
I just want to make sure I learn it the “right way” though, you know?
I am sooo worried about hurting my new car with my “practice”

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Learn to ignore the people behind you while you learn. Trust me, it’s not the first time they’ve encountered new drivers and as you become more proficient, it’ll become second nature to you. Have fun, stick is great!

arnbev959's avatar

You have to get used to letting off the clutch while giving it gas at the same time. It has to be done evenly, but every car is slightly different. It’s just something you need to practice, until you get the feel of your particular vehicle.

The car will “rev.” That’s normal, especially if you’re on a hill. {I’d recommend practicing hills somewhere where you know no one will stop behind you. When I was learning to drive a stick that was the most frightening situation imaginable. For the mean time, if you do end up in that situation, you can try using the hand brake so you don’t roll back.} Don’t be afraid to give it gas.

And listen to @hungryhungryhortence. If you’re at an intersection and you stall the car a few times and people start beeping, just ignore them. And make sure you’re in first gear. Sometimes when you’re getting used to the car you might think your in first when you’re really in third.

gailcalled's avatar

Find a paved parking lot that is empty and practice while there’s no one behind you to make you nervous. Then stop and start a dozen times. Eventually you will have muscle memory (like playing the piano) but moving the two feet in harmony is not intuitive.

When my father gave me driving lessons on a stick shift (he was a very bad teacher), he had me park the car on a steep hill, facing up and then turn of the ignition. When I restarted the car, it kept rolling, slowly, down the hill. My father made me so bloody nervous that I couldn’t have driven a tricycle in his presence.

I finally got my boyfriend at that time to show me how.

jca's avatar

don’t shift too soon. get up some speed before shifting from first to second. the car should pull and you should hear it rev a little. if you shift too soon you’ll feel the car feels like it has no power. the foot going up and the foot going down should be smooth. this will become mindless to you really quickly, like in a week. in the meantime don’t be nervous. practice in parking lots to get used to it. sit in the driveway and practice moving the stick shift with your foot on the clutch, just to get used to feeling your hand and getting used to the positions first, second, third, etc.

chyna's avatar

I learned to drive a stick as Gailcalled did. My friend took me to a steep hill and made me stop and start hundreds of times. He felt that if I could drive on a hill, I was good to drive anywhere. As I said, it took hundreds of starts and stops.

whatthefluther's avatar

I agree with the @gailcalled recommendation to use an empty paved parking lot for practice. Proficiency will come much sooner if you don’t have to concern yourself with all the distractions of the roadway. And once proficient you will be able to focus on and deal with all those distractions which unfortunately, it seems, not all drivers seem capable of doing.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

1. Place the stick into a car.
2. Drive away.

whatthefluther's avatar

1. place one end of stick on the ground with the stick perpendicular to the ground (latter not necessary but highly recommended)
2. pound other end of stick with a mallet

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Here is an idea. Ignore the people behind you. Second, the less you use your clutch, the longer it will last. Clutch replacement is around $1600 or so, depending on the make of the car. Brakes, on the other hand, are about one sixth of that. Everytime you put that clutch in, you are producing wear on the throw-out bearing.

When coming to a stop, rather than downshifting, leave the car in whatever gear you happen to be in, and use your brakes. Leaving it in gear will help to slow you down, and the drag on the motor doesn’t hurt anything. Then, just before the car dies, pop it out of gear, without using the clutch. Pulling the gear shift out of gear without using the clutch does NOT hurt the trasnmission. This is advice from my mechanic, who should know, as he hasn’t replaced the clutch on his chevy truck yet, and he bought it new in 1993.

There is a fine line between feathering the gas pedal and the clutch when starting out. You want to use enough gas to get you going, and yet, you want to get off the clutch as soon as you can. When I teach people to drive a stick, I tell them pretend the clutch is a fireplace, and you don’t want to keep your foot in the fire.

About the only time I downshift is if I need to stop quickly and want control at a lower speed, cornering, and when coming up on other slower vehicles. Using a stick works best as far as gas mileage goes is if you keep your revs low.

Driving a stick is the most fun you can have in a moving vehicle, unless you happen to have 4 wheel drive and there is a foot of snow on the roads. I have both, and winter is a blast with 4 wheel drive.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’m 52, and have only driven a stick since I was 16. You will get used to the clutch the more you drive; it takes practice getting used to how it feels. It usually takes about two weeks to feel really comfortable with it, to where it becomes second nature.

You can tell from the tachometer when it’s time to shift up, and from the sound of the engine. If you are in a stop and go situation, you will need to keep your foot on the clutch, because you’re going to be shifting up and down, and you need to be shifting up and down. When you come to a stop, you will need to keep the clutch in and shift back to first. You can only start from first. You need to downshift when turning a corner or going around a tight curve. The person that taught me to drive a stick said to shift up or down for every 10 miles per hour speed you’re going. This is pretty close to the truth. If you’re on the expressway and driving 50 mph, you should be in 5th gear.

I agree with @evelyns_pet_zebra , it is a lot of fun. And sometimes there’s situations where the only vehicle available is a stick, and you’re the only one that can drive.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

Just jam that thing in 1st as hard as you can…. don’t press the clutch in, she’ll still give eventually…...and whats it’s in 1st… just drive around on the highway, ensuring the care makes as high pitched a noise as possible

seekingwolf's avatar

Thanks for the advice everyone!

Yeah, I guess I just need more practice. I’ve been driving to a lot of places lately and I’m a lot better than I was. I learned just last week before I got my car, my dad taught me in his beloved Subaru. When we were done, he was nearly in tears because I had ground the gears so much and there was this funny burning smell. ><

I guess after I get back from the gym, I’ll go on the empty country roads here and try my start ups with your words of advice. I’ll get there! ^^

Mr_Callahan's avatar

Its never easy. My dad only bought ” standard ” transmission pickups so we all had to learn how to drive column shift which was just as hard to learn. Its a very delicate mix of acceleration and release of your clutch that only trial and error will solve. Luckily its like riding a bike afterwards, you never forget.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Two weeks, I’m telling you. Don’t get discouraged that you don’t get the hang of it right away. There’s a muscle memory thing to it; it becomes physically intuitive.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@seekingwolf here’s a common mistake many new drivers make. When sitting at a light, or at rest, do NOT hold the clutch in. Keep the vehicle in neutral, right foot on the brake, left foot hovering over the clutch, or at least close to it. Every second that clutch pedal is pressed down, is one more second that the throw-out bearing is engaged, and wearing out. It really doesn’t take long to wear your clutch out, trust me. I’ve seen people replace clutches every six months because they think holding the clutch in with the vehicle in first gear at a stop light doesn’t hurt anything. Those people aren’t using their heads. Learn coasting in neutral while moving, and sitting in neutral at a stop can be your two best friends.

seekingwolf's avatar


omigosh, thanks for telling me!

I’ve been holding in the clutch when I sit at a light. I’m going to remember to NOT do that…wow, I didn’t know that was bad. I know about cruising at neutral though…my dad does that all the time and he said it’s fine…just change it back to a gear when you want to accelerate again.

El_Cadejo's avatar

heh i just answered this :)

row4food's avatar

When I was learning, I didn’t use the tachometer. I knew it told you the RPMs but my dad didn’t mention that you could use it to know when to shift. Instead, I made sure the radio was off and I listened very carefully to the engine to feel when to shift. Once you get comfortable with your car you’ll be able to turn the radio back on.

My dad taught me in his truck. He whined about me leaving all the rubber from his brand new tires out on the roads… both dads and cars survive learning. =)

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