to Drive a Standard Transmission Made Easy
© 2002 by
Kyle Busch - Author of
"Drive the Best for the Price ..."
reprinted with permission
can learn to drive a standard transmission
when they put their mind to it, right? Not!
However, almost anyone can lean to drive a
standard transmission if they go about it
the right way (or rather the left foot way).
way to learn how to drive a standard
transmission is simply by first focusing
entirely on the left foot (letting its
coordination to become equal to that of the
right foot). Sounds simple, but training the
good old left foot is really the biggest
part of smoothly moving down the road.
To get started, have someone who has a
vehicle equipped with standard transmission
drive you to a large flat vacant parking
lot. Be certain to have your friend in the
passenger's seat to provide supervisor when
you drive. Also, make certain that you are
covered by vehicle insurance from your
policy or through the policy of the person
who is letting you drive his or her vehicle.
parking lot with the vehicle's engine turned
off, apply your right foot to the brake
pedal, and practice getting a feel of the
clutch pedal by pushing it in and out with
your left foot.
Next, view the shift pattern shown on the
top of the shift knob. 1st gear is usually
located by pushing the gearshift lever
the clutch pedal pushed all the way in to
the firewall, move the gearshift lever
through the gears (i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th,
5th, and reverse) a few times and then put
the gearshift lever into neutral.
located in the middle of the shift pattern.
In simplest terms, picture the shift pattern
as a H (reverse and 5th gear are also added
of the H represents neutral. When the
transmission is in neutral, you should be
able to move the gearshift lever to the left
and to the
right. If you need help, ask your friend who
drove you to the parking lot. So far, so
Feel of it:
With the transmission in neutral, start the
engine and then press the accelerator
lightly to get the feel of the accelerator
your right foot off of the accelerator
completely and let the engine just idle.
Push the clutch pedal in completely, hold it
in, and place the gearshift into 1st gear.
moment of truth (just kidding, you will be a
pro in no time!) Continue to keep your right
foot off of the accelerator, but very slowly
let out the clutch (try to become aware of
how far you have let the clutch pedal out
when the clutch just begins to engage) until
the vehicle just begins to creep forward.
This is accomplished by moving the clutch
pedal in and out just a little bit (about
1/2 inch) to get the vehicle to begin slowly
slowly letting the clutch pedal out until
you can get the vehicle to move forward at a
couple miles per hour in 1st gear without
touching the accelerator. If the vehicle
stalls, it is no big deal. Just push the
clutch pedal in, and restart the engine.
Your goal is to be able to smoothly let the
clutch pedal out (with no accelerator) and
have the vehicle move ever so slowly
forward. The purpose of this step is to
allow you to focus solely on training just
your left foot for a smooth controlled
training of the left foot will help you to
avoid the old herky, jerky, stall, "Here!
You take the keys" routine. A routine can be
so frustrating when you are first learning
to drive a standard transmission vehicle.
Once you are
comfortable not using the accelerator and
letting the clutch out smoothly, you can
practice pressing the accelerator lightly
and letting out the clutch.
After you are
able to drive the vehicle in 1st gear,
practice releasing the accelerator, pushing
the clutch in all the way, moving the
gearshift in to 2nd gear, and letting out
the clutch (shift out of 1st gear at about
15 miles per hour and 2nd gear at about 25
miles per hour). Drive in the large vacant
parking in 1st and 2nd gear (most slow speed
turns are achieved in 2nd gear) until you
When you feel comfortable and want to begin
driving on public streets, have your friend
drive you to low traffic secondary roads and
accompany you to provide supervision. The
next step would involve your planning to
drive routes that will allow you avoid
starting and stopping on roads with hills.
With a few miles under your tires, and
continued use of your left foot, you will
soon be able to hold the vehicle on a hill
when starting out.
In no time at
all, you will be driving like a pro and
shifting into 5th gear overdrive. Then one
of your friends will soon ask: "Can you show
me how to drive a standard transmission so
that I can get my kid's vehicle out of the
driveway?" You can then respond, "Well, it
all begins with the good old left foot."
Kyle Busch is the author of Drive the
Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used
Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or
Minivan and Save Money. He has over
300,000 miles on his 1986 Volkswagen Jetta -
a used vehicle that he bought in 1991 for
$2,600. For more information call: 1 800
839-8640 or visit: