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

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how to drive a stick shift car visual guide infographic

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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.


  • Reply March 4, 2014


    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!

    • Reply March 4, 2014


      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.

      • Reply March 4, 2014


        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. 😉

        • Reply March 4, 2014


          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

          • March 9, 2014

            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!

          • March 10, 2014


            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! 🙂

          • March 23, 2018


            You are painfully right. Cheers!

      • Reply June 5, 2015

        Brian Barnes

        Honestly, I’m 30 years old and have driven for half my life in an automatic. I had to look this up just to make sure I knew how to drive a standard as I’ve never had one until now. I feel a little cheated…

      • Reply March 23, 2018


        True, the vast majority. Unfortunate!

    • Reply March 4, 2014


      I just wanted to ask the same question 🙂

    • Reply March 4, 2014

      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.

      • Reply March 4, 2014

        Adam Brewton

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

        • Reply March 23, 2018


          How is your now 19 yr old nephew doing? Hopefully driving a stick shifter on occasion.

      • Reply March 10, 2014


        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.

        • Reply March 23, 2018


          That’s why they came out with the ‘triptronic’ shifter that most of today’s automatic shifters come with. It’s just not the same but a simple appeaser. Still have to use the tachometer if you don’t have a keen ear with the quieter engines these days.

    • Reply September 11, 2015

      William Avery Peete

      It is rules of the road. Signs laws etc. Once you get behind the wheels it’s usually an automatic economy car. That has no posibilty of tire spin on dry pavement.

    • Reply August 12, 2017

      Barbie Varner

      lol I just got my first Volkswagen lol abd this is very helpful to see this I’ve never driven a standard

      • Reply March 23, 2018


        Barbie, VWs are known to have a nice feel on the standard/manual shifter with a short throw. Drive it a lot, you’ll soon become very adept and grow to enjoy it. Cheers!

  • Reply March 4, 2014


    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.

  • Reply March 4, 2014


    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.

  • Reply March 4, 2014


    Awesome article.

  • Reply March 4, 2014


    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.

    • Reply March 4, 2014



    • Reply March 10, 2014


      That’s a fair point.

  • Reply March 4, 2014


    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.

  • Reply March 4, 2014

    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.

    • Reply March 5, 2014


      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.

      • Reply March 23, 2018


        It’s called incremental learning. Works on a flat surface great, but take them to a slope and do the same thing. Now, they’ll find they have to use a combo of clutch release and gas pedal pressure.

  • Reply March 10, 2014


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

  • Reply March 10, 2014


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

  • Reply March 11, 2014


    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.

  • […] haircuts, sensual massage techniques and positive self-development, I found this handy beginners’ on how to drive a stick shift. Since it was one of the only things on the site I had any real experience with, I looked it over […]

  • […] haircuts, sensual massage techniques and the power of positive self-development, I found this handy beginners’ guide on how to drive a stick shift. Since it was one of the only things on the site I had any real experience with, I looked it over […]

  • Reply March 23, 2014


    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.

  • 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!

    • Reply October 26, 2014


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

  • Reply June 18, 2014


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

    • Reply March 23, 2018


      Much easier and a true sense of a joyful experience. That’s, as long as they don’t switch cars. Each car has a distinctly different ‘biting’ point or clutch feel. That’s the true transitional/crossover point that separates a good driver from a great one. One who is ecstatically connected with the ‘experience’. Cheers!

  • Reply June 19, 2014

    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”.

    • Reply March 23, 2018


      Ya, that’s truly sad! Hopefully they still rent ones equipped with manual shifters. May have to p/u one in Germany perhaps. I believe they’ll never disconnect with the ‘true’ and only way to be fully engaged in the responsible process of driving, lol!

  • Reply June 23, 2014

    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.

  • Reply August 26, 2014


    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.

  • Reply November 25, 2014


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


  • Reply January 7, 2015


    Hello! I have two questions. When gearing to a higher gear, should you start giving gass before the clutch is fully out? Or wait for the gass until you take your foot off the clutch.

    The second question is, what do i do wrong when it smells burned after driving?

    • Reply January 12, 2015


      First queston: When shifting to higher gears you can release the clutch fully before applying gas but once you get confident it is smoother to apply a small amount of gas as you release the clutch.

      Second question: The smell is the clutch burning.

    • Reply March 23, 2018


      Never press down on the gas pedal while shifting up or down on the gears. There’s that happy place where you would second clutch if you double clutch, as required in some commercial vehicles.

  • Reply April 13, 2015

    Aradhana Siva

    Awesome blog and having excellent tips for the learners.. Get more useful tips from here: https://www.asafewaydrivingacademy.com/

  • Reply May 11, 2015


    Cool infographic. Almost everything you need to know in one image. Don’t need to read a long article. Cool, keep it up with the good info you share and keep it up with your blog’s theme. Thumbs up!

  • Reply May 20, 2015


    I just bought a stick shift, which I am about to learn how to drive. This website seems to include everything I could ever need in order to drive a stick shift car perfectly. A big shout out to whoever took his time to make such important information readily available to people like me!

  • […] of theories taught by the instructors. There are some theories in driving that may be difficult for beginners like gear-shifting. A good driving course should also present more opportunities for practical application of the […]

  • Reply June 24, 2015


    the post is really amazing. its really knowledgeable and good post.

  • Reply August 21, 2015

    Kima Nicole

    Thank you for posting this. I’m learning! Very helpful! 😊

  • Reply August 27, 2015


    This is a superb information on how to drive safely in different kind of roads. It is really helpful for the beginners to learn different tips and tricks about driving in any situation. Keep sharing such kind of articles.

  • Reply October 26, 2015


    This is a very helpful tips esp for beginners. They can really learn from this anything and almost anything and everything they want to know when it comes to driving methods. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Reply December 29, 2015

    Spoiled Dwarf

    hi what’s the difference between stopping and braking as mentioned above?

  • Reply January 28, 2016

    Drew Enoch

    Engine braking only brakes the drive wheels, vs regular braking usually brakes all 4 wheels. This is very important to know depending on what surface you’re driving on (particularly snow). Snow also makes matching RPMs when shifting a little bit more important.

    As you shift into gear, something called synchros get the gears matching in speed so that they don’t grind. Synchros provide resistance when pushing the shifter into gear, which goes away after a second when the gears sync up (another reason not to white knuckle it). Most cars don’t have synchros for reverse, so it is important that the car isn’t rolling when you shift into reverse.

    If the gears grind with a normal shift, you’re having problems with your synchros (or if it’s an old car, it might not have any). Try double clutching… That is put the car in neutral, release the clutch, then press it again, and put it into gear. I’ve had synchro problems on an old, used car go away by doing this for a few months.

    When parking, it is good practice to use the e-brake on both automatics and manuals (just more important on a manual).

    Cars with manual transmissions can be started by rolling them in neutral (with the ignition on), and then placing them in gear. This forces the engine to turn, where the ignition will do the rest.

    There is no shame in stalling. It’s part of the learning process. Just be quick to get it started again so you don’t piss off the drivers around you.

    • Reply February 4, 2016


      I grew up on a VW Squareback back in the early 1970’s; just bought a Subaru BRZ 6-speed after almost 30 years of at Landcruiser automatic (I still have it–LOL). There’s literally NOTHING as much fun as driving a manual sports car! Everyone should give it a try!

      • Reply February 7, 2016

        Catress Barber

        Can you please tell me how to get above 60 mph without going past 3000 rpm

  • Reply April 1, 2016


    thank you very much.

  • Reply May 18, 2016


    Having only ever driven manuals I have learned a lot! As an Audi tech I drove different cars everyday and NO clutch feels the same ever! Even with experience you will stall (performance cars more likely so.) When shifting up lift off the gas as you depress the clutch otherwise the motor will Rev a bit each timing causing undo wear on the clutch. Another good tip after getting used to the clutch and throttle modulation is to use your two middle fingers and thumb to shift you DO NOT need to slam the shifter around. New transmissions and most old ones have springs that center the shifter so you guide with fingers not slam with a fist…..you can shift too fast and grind gears. Some cars can be very hard to upshift smoothly….in that case when getting ready to shift ease up on the accelerator pedal and lightly with two fingers pull back on the shifter and when the engine load comes off the shifter will slide out of gear. At that point stop your throttle foot push in the clutch shift into next gear and continue accelerating. Other than using the clutch going into gear that is how semis do it. If the shifter pops out hard don’t pull on it with as much pressure. And lastly when downshifting ease off the brake as you reengage the clutch to prevent jerky downshifts. Once you master the last two tips you can drive like a bat out of hell smoothly!

  • Reply May 25, 2016

    Roxhannah Van Genechten

    I am learning how to drive a stick shift. I might be the only one but I prefer automatic transmissions. Although the workout will be great for my legs, cars are expensive enough, they should change their own gears! lol

  • Reply June 16, 2016


    This is an excellent infographic. Excellent tips which shows all the information and very well explained. Thanks.

  • Reply July 8, 2016


    Nice. There’s a stick shift simulator that uses your keyboard to control the clutch, brake, accelerator, and gear shifter….


  • Reply September 5, 2017


    I just don’t know why, after many decades of automatic transmission technology, that it wouldn’t just become the de facto standard and be included in every car (I’ve never driven a stick but from what I’ve read about manual trans, auto is MUCH easier – there’s a REASON auto trans was invented!), and the economies of scale being where the cost would have come down. No, it’s still like a $1000-$1500 option in every car (except in minivans and some SUV’s), which I think is asinine. Just like carpeted floor mats are still an *option* in every vehicle at additional cost! What?

  • Reply March 9, 2018


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  • Reply March 16, 2018


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  • Reply March 23, 2018


    I started driving with a manual shifter on the floor, then a manual column shifter. I preferred the floor jobbie, a lot more fun! A year later I rode a standard kick shifter motor bike. All were wonderful, loadsa fun and such a fun way to get around. You have to savor life’s best!
    Simple, if you can find a standard transmission car go drive one using info in this article. Great write up Andrew, very clearly explained. Cheers!

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