Shifting gears in a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission is a skill requiring considerable practice. You must operate a clutch pedal with your left foot while using a gear shift lever with the right hand to manually select the desired gear.

When the clutch pedal is pressed down, the connection between the transmission and the wheels is disengaged. This prevents the transfer of engine power to the wheels. It is while the clutch pedal is pressed down that the driver changes gears.

The clutch pedal is used to connect and disconnect the vehicle's engine and transmission. When the clutch pedal is not pressed down, there is a connection between the engine and transmission, and the power of the engine is transmitted to the wheels of the vehicle.

When starting the engine of a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission, the gear shift lever should be in the neutral position and the clutch pedal should be pressed down completely.

As you begin to release the clutch pedal by slowly lifting your left foot, the connection between the engine and the transmission will begin to be felt before the pedal is fully released. The point where this occurs is called the friction point.

It is at the friction point that you must slowly release the clutch pedal to prevent the engine from stalling. At the friction point, carefully using the gas pedal with the slow release of the clutch pedal will help achieve a smooth start. To learn to use the clutch smoothly, new drivers should practice using the friction point without the use of the gas pedal.

When driving a manual transmission vehicle, it is important to select the proper gear so that the engine does not lug (move in rough, bumpy fashion) or race (rev the engine but not move the car effectively). The vehicle's owner's manual will provide the approximate speeds at which you should change gears.

Shifting patterns vary between vehicles as do the number of gears. Your vehicle's owner's manual will describe the shifting pattern for your vehicle. A pattern is usually found at the top of the gear shift lever.

You can practice moving the gear shift lever, when the vehicle is not running and the clutch pedal is pressed all the way down, into the various gears until you are sure of the gear locations. You need to be able to find each gear without looking at the gear shift when you are driving.

When you are driving, be sure to remove your foot from the clutch pedal each time you finish changing to another gear. Leaving your foot on the clutch pedal unnecessarily is called "riding the clutch" and can cause extra wear on the clutch.

When you wish to brake or come to a stop, do not coast to a stop while pressing the clutch pedal. Pressing on the clutch pedal like this prevents you from being able to use the accelerator.

When turning corners, be sure your vehicle is in the proper gear for the speed of the turn, and that your foot is off the clutch pedal.

Only use the clutch pedal to start the vehicle, change from one gear to the next, and just before you stop to prevent stalling.

  • The Basics of Driving
  • Driving a vehicle with a manual (standard) transmission