Learning to Drive With a Manual Transmission

Learner drivers are often daunted at the prospect of having to manually change the gears while concentrating on steering, hitting the accelerator or brakes and watching for road hazards. However, learning to drive in a manual car will set you up well, and drivers nearly always find that changing gears soon becomes an easy and almost "automatic" thought process.

There may be times when this flexibility will be very beneficial. For example, perhaps you will need to rent a car on vacation and find that the only cars available have manual transmissions.

Using the clutch and gear stick

The basis of manual-transmission cars is that the driver needs to press his foot on the clutch before shifting gears. And at the same time he should ease up on the accelerator pedal. So, if you're in first gear and need to go up to second, then you would press down on the clutch, ease up on the accelerator and then smoothly pull the gear stick back from first to second.

To begin with, it's usual for learners to have difficulties with stalling and bunny-hops. However, with just a little practice and instruction you should have ironed out these initial glitches. A good tip is to find a deserted car park and just practice moving through the gears until you reach a point where you're consistently making smooth gear changes.

Getting to know the gears

Cars have five forward gears, plus reverse. In addition, there is a neutral position where the car has not been put into gear. When at rest, the car should normally be in neutral. You will start the ignition, push in the clutch and then put the car into first gear. Having checked the mirrors and blind spot, the driver is ready to set off in first gear.

As the car speeds up, the driver will need to go into higher gears. One way of thinking of this is that first gear is like an elephant, powerful but not very fast, while fifth gear is like a cheetah, delicate but very fast. The faster the car is traveling, the higher the gear will be that will need to be selected.

Knowing when to change gears

If you are in a low gear and start to speed up the car will start to make a grumbling noise. This is its way of telling the driver that it's time to move into a higher gear. Similarly, if you are in a high gear and are faced with a steep hill or slow moving traffic, then the car again will start to struggle and splutter as the higher gears are not designed to work in these conditions.

As drivers become more experienced they will learn to instinctively recognize these tell-tale signs and their gear hand will move into action without the brain having to expend much effort. In the early days, drivers often find that failure to recognize these signs lead to the car stalling.

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