A Beginner’s Guide to Driving Stick Shift: An Animated Visual Guide

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  • Henning

    Hi, this is a great website and a great visualized tutorial, but I have to ask: What do you Americans learn in driving school? ;D

    Greetings from Germany, keep it going!

    • JCallaway

      While there are independent driving schools in the U.S., most students learn to drive through optional classes during high school. Typically, these optional classes teach only basic driving skills, and all practical coursework is done in a vehicle with an automatic transmission, as that is what the vast majority will use.

      • Henning

        Oh, I see- well, I just was confused, because in Germany you have to take the practical test in a non-automatic vehicle and asked several questions concerning engine and stick shifting in the theoretical test. ;-)

        • http://rlcamp.com/ RCAMP

          I wish that was a requirement in the US. I think having experience driving a manual makes you a better driver (you have to think more about your actions!). Although I’m probably biased since I drive a stick. :p

          • Douglas Aldrich

            I agree. I drive an automatic, and looking for a car now, I’d like to learn more about a standard. Of course, the worse time to learn is after you bought it!

          • http://rlcamp.com/ RCAMP

            There’s no better incentive to learn than when you don’t have a choice! Ha ha. I actually didn’t know how to drive a stick when I bought my car, but I knew I wanted to learn. With driving every day, it took me about 2 weeks to get Stop to 1st gear consistent without stalling and about 3 months for all the shifting it to feel natural. At 6 months, I was starting on steep hills, downshifting into corners, gliding into gears, and having a blast. :) I’ve had my car for almost 6 years now and haven’t had any problems with my clutch or transmission despite all the mistakes I made at first. So… go for it! :)

    • Bastian

      I just wanted to ask the same question :-)

    • Adam Brewton

      Just echoing what others have already said. My 15 year old nephew just passed his HS Driver’s Ed course (with flying colors according to the instructor) and passed his driver’s test (written and driving). He was riding with me this weekend in my manual transmissioned Jeep and asked why I set the hand brake when we stopped for fuel. After some discussion, it turns out that they did not cover manual transmissions AT ALL! Not even in theory. Kudos to Germany and any other country with similar testing requirements.

      • Adam Brewton

        I also realized that I have some serious work to do with him :)

      • http://rlcamp.com/ RCAMP

        You would think manuals might at least get a gloss over since many cars these days are coming out with hybrid auto/manual transmissions. It could be like an optional add-on to the course or something.

  • http://rlcamp.com/ RCAMP

    Nice visual with good tips. I would just suggest that a beginner always use the emergency brake when parking the car. Hill, flat, or otherwise. Just a good habit to get into since you never know what might come along and hit your car while you are away from it.

  • Ken

    Nice article. The only thing I would add to it is advice on “roll starting” a car if it won’t start otherwise. I did my driver’s training in high school, and we used cars with automatic transmission. As another poster mentioned, we did only the basic skills in class.

  • BYC

    Awesome article.

  • Tyler

    Good article. I am happy I learned to drive on an automatic and learned stick later. When you first learn how to drive, there is enough going through your mind with the rules of the road and gaining confidence. If you learn stick later you are able to devout your attention to actually learning stick and not necessarily driving.

    • Tyler

      *devote

    • http://rlcamp.com/ RCAMP

      That’s a fair point.

  • PatricKY

    I grew up on a farm with older equipment and trucks so the basics of a clutch and shifting we’re taught and learned at an early age. The tutorial above is excellent but one pointer to help calm nerves when accelerating from a stop is to not look at the pedals or the gauges, keep your eyes looking forward at where you intend to go and not overthink the acceleration and worry about stalling. Just my 2 cents but by all means the mechanics of shifting are spot on above, my comment just addresses the confidence, which is key as well.

  • Judson M

    I currently drive a manual and have taught a lot of my friends how to do so. In the number of 20 or so. I used to think it was crazy that people didn’t know how to drive a stick, but seeing recent stats on the number of cars these days sold with manuals it doesn’t surprise me anymore.

    Anyways, I completely agree with getting people to start learning the catch or bite point of the clutch first then learning to hover the throttle. It is the exact method I use and wish it was the way I was taught. Learning to feel the clutch is the most difficult part, if you ask me.

    So as a daily driver of a manual, I whole-heartedly approve of this guide for anyone learning how to or teaching others to drive a manual transmission.

    PS, If you live in an area with a lot of traffic, better start working out your right leg because your left one with start to bulk lol! I have been sore before simply from being in a traffic jam for a few hours.

    • Jose

      So true. Learning the clutch pedal “bite” point is the first thing I always teach too. I just have them get the car started by moving the clutch only, then push it back all the way in. Repeat this step over and over until they can do it quickly, then slowly add in the gas pedal.

  • http://www.distancedirection.com/ Patrick

    Fantastic! As always, graphics are very well done and easy to follow. Now I just need to go find a car to practice with…

  • http://maddendude.blogspot.com/ Baseman

    This is probably the best tutorial I’ve ever seen on driving stick. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.

  • JolleyMan

    I’m on my fourth manual transmission car. The easiest one I ever drove was a 5-speed Ford Explorer. That truck had great low-end torque and was almost impossible to stall. Plus, there’s something fun about that crazy long shifter. Felt like I was driving a big rig… with only 5 gears. This wasn’t mine, but it was the same.

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  • RoswellMatt

    There are two things I would add. First, the minimum acceptable engine speed increases as you go into the higher gears. It’s perfectly acceptable to drive around in first gear at 1200 rpm, but it’s not a good idea in top gear.

    Also, I would recommend a momentary pause in neutral while upshifting, to give the input shaft a chance to decelerate. When you’re upshifting, the newly selected gear will require the input shaft to be turning more slowly before it can be engaged by the shift mechanism, and a momentary pause in neutral will give it a chance to slow.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/bigtruckseriesreview bigtruckseriesreview .

    MY CARS simply allow me to put the stick into drive, FLOOR THE ACCELERATOR and DRIVE. This guide is CUTE, but far too goddamned complicated!

    • Blastergamer

      but you have less driving fun, more fuel consumption and is more costly to repair an automatic.

  • tellingyouthetruth

    I think once someone gets the hang of shifting it becomes much easier for them

  • Captain Checker

    Here in the UK majority of us drive manual cars as opposed to the majority who drive automatics in the States. There’s a common belief that “auto” are for lazy drivers. Manuals are the skillful drivers and once you get the hang of it, the brain works in auto mode as things flow smoothly; when to shift gears when turning corners or speeding up (or down) etc. The sad thing now here in the UK is that more and more people are starting to drive “autos”.

  • Just A Bloke

    If you pass your test in a manual car, you can drive both manual & automatic cars. But if you pass in an automatic, you can only drive an automatic.
    So if you can manage it, pass in a manual. If you can’t, so what, drive an automatic, at the end of the day it’s about getting from one place to another.

  • Sorry

    Yeah, none of this is animated. And all of it is too overwhelming, convoluted, and filled with jargon to be an effective “beginners’” guide. I appreciate the effort, though.

  • Bowie

    Great article! Here are some Transmission tips for anyone interested…

    http://www.nissanofbowie.com/transmission-problems-you-cant-ignore.htm