Why Everyone Should Learn to Drive Manual

Standing roughly ten yards away you receive the subtlest nod possible. After a solid three seconds, you look to the right and see a man staring at you who abruptly looks down in fear of being noticed. Turning to the group you are chatting with, you create an excuse and head for the door. Once out of sight, you sprint to the get-away vehicle matching the keys you snatched from the valet desk. Your friend who gave you the nod to make a run for it jumps in after you yelling “GO NOW!” Reaching down to put the car into drive you notice the stick that you never learned to drive, and before you can ask your passenger if he knows how, you look up to see the barrel of a dangerous weapon staring you in the face.

Although highly doubtful that you will be placed into this action movie type situation- the moral of my short story is that you never know when you will need to drive manual. In a more realistic scenario, an old coworker of mine needed to take her mom across the country who was unable to drive herself. With great distress she explained to me that her car would never make the trip, she couldn’t afford to rent anything, and her mom’s car was needed where they were going. The problem was that the vehicle was standard, and she had never learned to drive one.

Knowing I drove one, she asked me for advice. I have heard a few rare success stories of first-time stick drivers, but reminiscing on my own learning experience, I was terrified to tell her how long it took me to pick up. She never did tell me the result of the trip, but if it was anything like mine, it was a disaster. Besides not knowing when you may end up in a situation where you will need the skill, after I mastered the stick shift I became more aware of my surroundings and all-together a better driver.

Most people on the road would hope that when put in a chaotic situation, drivers would avoid texting or other distractions. Unfortunately, once we as a society hear that all too familiar beep our eyes are diverted from the road, and our free hand moves directly to our devices; making us more susceptible to dangerous situations. However, when driving a manual, both hands are occupied about 75% of the time, which makes it harder to multitask, potentially creating devastating circumstances.

Outside of the driving factor, and what is good news for people living on a budget, cars with standard transmissions are actually stronger and built to last longer than automatic. Not to mention, when I was buying my last car, the overall cost of getting the stick was over $1,300 less. All inclusive, learning and choosing to drive a manual decreases risk, opens more doors instead of closing them, and provides a wider variety of vehicles to choose from that are both built with more endurance and significantly less expensive.

10 Tips for learning to drive manual when you are just not sure where to start:

1. I recommend that you learn to drive on an older vehicle, so that when you ‘kill it,’ which you will, you don’t risk burning the clutch in a brand new vehicle.

2. Make sure you push down the clutch all the way, which can differ depending on the age of the vehicle, but basically floor it when you are stopped.

3. YES, you use your left foot for the clutch, and your right for the gas and break like usual.

4. When you are ready to move, ease of the clutch and onto the gas at the same time. If you release the clutch too quickly without putting on much gas you will ‘kill it.’

5. BTW, ‘Killing it’, or stalling, is when your car engine turns completely off and you have to turn your key in the ignition again to get it to start. This could happen anywhere, even in the middle of an intersection, so until you get the hang of shifting, practice somewhere like a large abandoned parking lot.

6. RPM’s are on your dash board. Generally, when you hear your engine start to get louder it is between 2 - 3, this is when you should shift up to a higher gear.

7. If you are traveling uphill, your car is slowing down, and you are flooring the gas, so switch to a lower gear to get more power.

8. Once you are more advanced and driving regularly on the road, practice downshifting depending on your speed. This is always going to be good for your engine and help the preserve the vehicle.

9. Parking is a little different… To park, make sure you are in neutral and pull the emergency break. There is no parking gear. (It took me a while to remember that).

10. Learn with someone who is experienced in the passenger seat. They will always be able to give you pointers and help you out with any questions you feel are too dumb to ask.

Wear your seat belt, drive safely, and good luck!

-M