Drive Smoothly with a Manual Transmission

Driving a manual transmission is a task that takes some training, but can be accomplished by pretty much anyone who puts their mind to it. Driving a manual transmission smoothly, especially one in a truck or other large vehicle, takes some knowledge and finesse. Larger vehicles, with a manual transmission are more difficult to drive smoothly because of the larger engine, more rigid transmission, and heavy flywheel, but anyone can learn to drive any manual transmission vehicle with enough training and practice


Starting Out

  1. Make sure the hand brake is disengaged by pushing the lever all the way down.
  2. Depress the clutch fully.
  3. Depress the brake pedal if you feel any slight movement from the car rolling with the clutch pushed in.
  4. Move the stick into neutral by putting it in between first and second gear. (when you're in neutral, the gear stick should move freely from left to right)
  5. Start up the car.
  6. With the clutch fully depressed, push the stick into the first gear.
  7. Slowly release the clutch and add to the accelerator, until it begins to engage slightly. You notice a point reaches that the head of the car in front of your sight jolts a bit up. Release the hand brake at this point but don't release the clutch. This will be indicated by a slight decrease in the engine's RPM.
  8. Press on the gas, but only rev the engine a little above idle.
  9. Continue to slowly release the clutch as you press on the accelerator slowly. Keep the RPMs only slightly above idle: manage this with the throttle as you consistently release the clutch with your left foot.
  10. Continue slowly adding more throttle and slowly release the clutch until it is all the way open.
  11. Accelerate as normal.


  1. Determine when you need to up shift by the engine's speed. When your engine RPM starts to get above the normal range, you usually need to upshift.
    • Note that when you need to accelerate quickly or climb a hill, you should usually let the engine revolutions higher than when traveling a constant speed or on a level surface.
  2. Begin the upshift process by removing your foot from the gas and depressing the clutch. Make sure that clutch is fully depressed before moving the shift lever or you may grind the gears.
  3. Move the shift lever to the next highest gear.
  4. Release the clutch and add the throttle. As with starting out, the clutch and throttle should be managed together to ensure a smooth shift, although generally when the car is already moving, you can release the clutch a little more quickly than when starting out.


  1. As with upshifting, you should use the engine's speed to determine when to downshift. When your RPM start to get too low, you will feel the engine lag a bit, and the accelerator will become less responsive.
    • A common time you will need to downshift is after you have decelerated for a corner. In general, you should decelerate with the the brake before you enter the corner.
    • Once you have decelerated, downshift, and use the engine to pull you smoothly through the corner. Do not coast through corners, as this greatly reduces your ability to control the vehicle.
  2. Begin the downshift by removing your foot from the gas and depressing the clutch. You want to remove your foot from the gas a little ahead of the clutch movement to avoid the engine from revving up as the clutch releases.
  3. Depress the clutch fully, then move the shift lever to the lower gear.
  4. Slowly release the clutch. This will begin to bring the engine up to speed. Gently use the gas pedal to match the engine's speed to that of the transmission.
  5. Release the clutch fully.

Braking To a Stop

  1. Leave the vehicle in gear, and begin braking.
  2. Decelerate until the RPMs are just above idle.
  3. Depress the clutch and bring the stick into the neutral position. Once the stick is in the "free" neutral position, you can release the clutch (to rest your foot and save wear on the clutch bearings).
  4. Continue braking normally until you are about to stop.
  5. Just before you stop (usually less than a mile-per-hour) release the brake more until you have no pressure on it. This removes the last little jerk the vehicle does as the weight transfers from being mostly on the front suspension back to the rear and front suspension evenly just before the vehicle stops. Don't release too early, or you may roll past where you wanted to stop.
  6. Apply the brakes again once stopped. This is for safety or if you are on a slope, so you don't go somewhere you didn't intend to go. In addition, you want traffic behind you to see your brake lights as an indication that you are stopped so in case the driver behind you is distracted, they will not plow right into you.

Stopping on an Incline

Method One (hard on clutch)

  1. Begin braking as normal.
  2. When you've almost stopped, release the brake, allowing gravity to finish your stop. As you do so, make sure the vehicle is in first gear.
  3. As it stops, depress the clutch and rev the engine a little. Release the clutch a small amount and balance the gas with the clutch to hold yourself in one spot. If you begin to roll back, release the clutch a small amount. If you start to creep ahead, depress the clutch a small amount. Do not use this method for any significantly long stop such as at a red light because it is very hard on the clutch, but its fine to do this for a short amount of time--such as at a stop sign with no other vehicles in the intersection. Its recommended that you practice this technique away from traffic. Any hill will work, the steeper the harder, of course.
    • Note. Doing this will drastically shorten the life of your clutch, wearing the friction surfaces faster. Avoid using this method unless absolutely necessary.

Method Two

  1. Brake as normal until you have almost come to a complete stop, then use the parking break to hold your car in place without rolling backwards.
  2. When you are ready to take off again, release the clutch a little while gently applying the gas as you would do in method one above.
  3. Once the car starts to "bog down" release the parking brake.
  4. At this point the car should move forward, but it may take practice. Continue to gradually let out the clutch while gently applying more gas until the clutch is all the way out.
    • The quicker you release the clutch the less wear, so the idea is to release the clutch as quickly as you can while still making your car move forward smoothly.


  • Don't focus too much on the engine RPM, but rather focus on the balance between releasing the clutch and pressing the accelerator. Imagine them as opposites when accelerating from a dead stop. For example, picture a two cylinder engine; as one piston goes down, the other is forced upward, each in an opposing position. Try to mimic this motion with the clutch and accelerator.
  • Put your leg on the floor when not using the clutch. It prevents stress to your leg and early wear on the clutch system.
  • In Britain and many other countries, "coasting" a car is not allowed. Coasting means stopping a car solely by braking while in neutral gear. This is a dangerous practice because the driver may need to accelerate to avoid an unexpected hazard in the road, and it will take time for him to shift out of neutral in order to do so.
  • In certain countries, except in sudden emergency stops, one should stop in "gear two." Also, when driver approaches a junction, cross road or a round-about or zebra crossing, should reduce the speed suitable to gear two even if there is no traffic light there.
  • The transition between slowing down and speeding up is much rougher in a manual than an automatic. The gear teeth are transferring pressure in one direction (slowing down) and must change and transfer pressure in the opposite direction when speeding up. An automatic transmission will be much smoother due to the viscous torque converter.
  • As you are accelerating or decelerating, try to time your shifts with bumps or dips in the road as the change in the road can transfer through to your engine and make the ride less smooth. In general, going over any unexpected terrain will be smoother with the throttle released.
  • Driving smoothly (in any situation that might be smooth in an automatic) is almost completely dependent on your clutch. Releasing the clutch slowly, and pausing to prevent the clutch lurching into lock will help the experience to be much more smooth.
  • Smaller vehicles like sedans (and the like) with lighter flywheels and less-stiff clutches will find many of these steps useful but not necessary as these cars will already drive much smoother than their larger brethren.


  • You should try practicing some of these techniques in a safe area away from other vehicles or pedestrians. The ideal place is an empty parking lot.
  • There is a myth that coasting a car going downhill, allowing it to accelerate by gravity in neutral gear reduces the fuel consumption. This has been proven incorrect and can be dangerous.
  • Always obey all traffic laws in your area.

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