9 steps to drive stick shift in manual transmission cars

Updated Nov 30, 2022 | Same topic: Let's Drive Smart!

Driving a stick shift might be very complicated and difficult. That's why we are here and instruct you with steps to properly drive the cars with manual transmission.

Most cars we see today already have automatic transmissions which are easier to maneuver and drive. But there are lots of high-performance cars that are stick-only.

Not only that, even in slower cars, you’ll be able to drive with greater reliability, fuel economy, enhanced control, and improved performance.

That is why, if you're not familiar with a manual transmission or not aware of how to drive a stick shift, you don't need to worry. Philkotse.com is here to help you. We’ve prepared a step-by-step guide on how to drive a stick shift.

Driving a manual transmission car might seem to be complicated and difficult especially for first-timers. But when you get the hang of it, you’ll totally enjoy the whole new learning. You’ll be able to drive and operate your manual transmission car with ease and confidence. Let’s get you started.

1. 9 steps to drive a stick in manual transmission cars

Step #1

First, you have to familiarize yourself with the manual transmission car. While sitting in the driver’s seat, take a good look at the 3 pedals. The 1st pedal from the left is the clutch. The clutch pedal is only available in manual transmission cars.

Next to the clutch is the brake pedal and the accelerator on the right. You’ll be using your left foot for the clutch and your right foot for the accelerator and brake.

driving stick on manual transmission car

First, you have to familiarize yourself with the manual transmission car

>>> Read more: Top 9 biggest mistakes when driving a manual transmission car

Step #2

Before you start the car, notice the gear shifter. Mostly, manual transmission cars have gear shifters placed in the middle of the driver seat and the passenger seat. The 1st gear is usually located at the top left corner. The remaining 4 or 5 gears rotate from the top to the bottom, left to right.

These gear locations are usually marked on most stick shift cars. The vehicle will be neutral once the gear stick is placed in the center. At this point, you’ll be able to move the gear shifter back and forth easily.

Step #3

To start a manual transmission car, use your left foot to press the clutch pedal down to the floorboard. Make sure that when doing so, the gear shifter is in neutral. Next, turn on the ignition using the key.

If you’re sure that the car is already in neutral, you can take your feet off the clutch pedal. Ensure that the emergency or parking brake is not in use.  

press the clutch pedal

To start a manual transmission car, use your left foot to press the clutch pedal down to the floorboard

Step #4

In preparing the manual car, press the clutch pedal and the brake pedal (also called central pedal) at the same time. Use your left foot for the clutch and your right foot to use the brake properly.

Step #5

Then, move the gear shifter placing the transmission in the 1st gear. Once more, it should be the in the furthest position to the left and at the uppermost half of the gearbox.

Step #6

Take your right foot off the brake pedal. If you happen to be on a flat surface, which is best if you’re on the process of learning, the car should move a bit.

Take your right foot off the brake pedal

Take your right foot off the brake pedal

>>> Also check: Top 6 manual transmission equipped cars you would love to drive

Step #7

In a slow manner, start to put less pressure on the clutch pedal. You might feel that the car is slowly moving forward, depending on the car. As you release the clutch gently, start pressing the accelerator using your right foot.

It is a very delicate motion. Remember to not accelerate your car excessively. Take note the 1st gear is designed only for speeds of about 15 miles per hour.

Step #8

You might have released the clutch pedal completely at some point, and now you’re only pressing the gas/accelerator pedal. You’ll be driving in the 1st gear. Continue to drive and build speed until you finally feel the need to shift to the 2nd gear.

Again, this depends on the vehicle being used. You can depend on the motor sound, your car’s RPM gauge and your driving speed to know when you need to shift gears.

Step #9

Remove your right foot on the accelerator while activating the clutch pedal. The car will keep on rolling. Position the gear shifter on the 2nd gear. Then take your left foot off the clutch pedal as you start to press the accelerator again. Repeat the process to keep building speed.

Man shifting the gear

Position the gear shifter on the 2nd gear

In order to master the whole process you need to take note of the following:

  • The clutch pedal is the pedal located on the left which is used when shifting gears. It is disengaged when pressed down to the floor.
  • Neutral is not part of the gear. It is actually the absence of gears. When the engine is in neutral, you’re able t rev up the engine but you would not go anywhere. You’ll also be able to wiggle the shifter – which you cannot do when engaged in any gears.
  • For most manual transmission car, the 2nd gear is considered the workhorse. It will move through congested downtown as well as move you up and down steep hills.
  • The reverse gear is a little different for the rest of the gears. It has more range compared to the 1st gear but does not like going for too fast or too long.
  • The accelerator or gas pedal located at the far right works with gears in giving the engine power at different levels.

>>> Related: What does ‘S’ on the gear shifter mean?

2. Importance of learning how to drive a stick shift

Firstly, cars with manual transmission are less expensive than automatic transmission car. Manual transmission cars are relatively cheaper because not all drivers know how to drive it, and the demand is low. The driving process is a little more complicated compared to its automatic counterpart.

Secondly, cars with manual transmission are less prone to car theft. Carnappers will most likely avoid your car because they don’t know how to drive it or one wrong move can make a loud roaring noise. Thus, catching the attention of people.

Manual transmission cars

Manual transmission cars generally have better gas mileage

Next, the manual transmission cars are said to generally have better gas mileage. According to Consumer Reports, a stick shift can improve the gas mileage by two to five miles per gallon.

You might not know but some really cool cars are the cars with manual transmission and it cannot be denied that if you can drive a car with the manual transmission, you can be very skillful with other tasks. In other words, you can be multi-tasking. So, it is an advantage to know how to drive a stick shift.

Driving a stick shift might be very complicated and difficult and complicated most especially if it is your first time. But learning how to drive a stick shift has importance and advantages as well. The step-by-step guide is only the basic. You’ll learn most of the lessons on your driving experience. 

You can also find a full guidance on how to drive a manual transmission car here.

Hanna Sanchez

Hanna Sanchez


Hanna is one of the most competitive swimmers in the country during her day. It was not long before she discovered her passion for the automotive industry as well. Nowadays, she balances her passion through writing as well as coaching.

View more