How to drive a manual car: 7 simple steps for beginners


Posted by: Joshua-Philip Okeafor

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Get the hang of driving a stick shift, or manual transmission cars in these easy-to-follow steps. You'll soon know how to drive a manual car after few hours practicing!

Learning how to drive a manual car, or a stick shift, for a beginner could be quite frightening at best. Everything looks twice as hard, and you can never remember what is called what. These simplified approach suggested by Naijauto experienced drivers for a manual transmission, will have you cruising in no time:

1. Know your car basics

The first thing you need to do is to know what everything is called. Some important names you will come across include the gear lever, clutch, brake and accelerator pedals, ignition, and handbrake.

Don’t worry though, no matter how confusing these all seem at first, you will begin to really know what each item is called, and what it does, after a few days of using them. A small pamphlet of the basic layout  of your car’s interior will be helpful at this point.


Understanding where everything is found is the first step

2. Handbrake

Once you are seated behind your steering wheel, properly put on your seat belt.

Safety is key to learning how to drive. Once you are securely fastened up, it’s time to make sure your handbrake is on.

You will find it usually to the right of the driver’s seat, usually behind the gear box. An upright position means it is on. If it is lying low to its support then it is off.

The handbrake makes sure the car doesn’t move while you are getting ready, or even if you do something wrong. To help matters, try to make sure your car is parked on level ground, not on an incline where it can roll back or forwards.


A handbrake keeps your car immobile, while you get ready

3. Make sure gear is in neutral

It is gear time now. Your gear, similar to your handbrake, is just to the right of you. Study the gear. Many different brands of manual cars differ in how the gear is presented. That’s not a problem; usually there is a diagram of the basic functions right on the gear knob.

This is the guide you must follow for each car. A car can be 4-speed (or 4 gears), 5-speed, 6-speed, or even 7-speed. The higher the number of gear levels, the higher the top speed of the car usually. The most common types are 4-speed, 5-speed and 6-speed. The “N” function means “neutral”, which means there is no gear currently engaged. It is important to make sure your car is in neutral gear before you start the engine. If it is in a gear already when you start the car, you will experience a violent jerk, which may even damage your car. When properly in neutral, the gear shift should feel free and easy to shake.


Gears help you to choose speed and direction

4. Start your engine

It is time to start your engine. Place the key in the ignition and turn it firmly clockwise. Keep the pressure steady until the engine starts. Ease off once the engine does start. Allow the car to idle, or run gently, for a while, especially if it is the first time you are starting it that day. Once the engine has warmed up, you are ready to begin.

5. Engage your clutch

Engage your clutch. Your clutch is the far left pedal below. Beside it are the brake pedal, and accelerator pedal. Use the order C-B-A to always remember exactly where your clutch is placed. This will help you when you are driving and you can't really recollect the order.


The Clutch-Brake-Accelerator order makes sure you don't forget!

Press down firmly on the clutch pedal with your left foot. Some clutch pedals are slighly stiff. You need to apply the necessary pressure. Hold the pedal to the floor with your left foot.


Don't be afraid of the clutch, press it down firmly

6. Engage first gear

While your left foot is holding the clutch pedal down, engage your first gear. Normally, this would either be gear 1 or the Reverse gear, if you want to move backward. Once your gear is engaged, your car is ready to move. Most beginner drivers abruptly take their foot off the clutch at this point. You must not do this because it will cause the car to jerk and stall.


You need to remember which gear does what

7. Engage accelerator and drive

Remember your C-B-A order? It’s time to move the car by using the accelerator. It is the pedal on the far right, with the brake in the center. Usually the accelerator pedal is larger than the rest, but this might be different in your car. Whatever it looks like, it is the pedal that gets the car moving. You must now do two things simultaneously. You must lightly ease down on the accelerator while easing off on the clutch. It is actually easier than it sounds, and gets even easier with practice. You need only do this for a second or two, until your car is moving smoothly. Keep your foot lightly on the accelerator and take your foot totally off the clutch.

Remember, when you need to up-shift or move up to a higher gear, you must use the clutch again, engage the gear, and then let go off the clutch. The same thing is applicable when you downshift or move lower in gears to reduce speed.

We hope that this article helps you on how to drive a manual car! Happy driving!

Easiest way to learn how to drive a manual car

>>> You can usually find great car driving information at Tips and Advice on

Joshua-Philip Okeafor
Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Car buying & selling

Joshua, or KK as friends call him, is a Filmmaker, Writer and Director. A Christian, Joshua is a product of Nigeria’s foremost film school, the National Film Institute, Jos, where he majored in Writing/Directing. Joshua began his writing career at age 18 when an older brother gave him a four page outline of a children novel. Joshua intends to keep writing and directing. His screen name is sometimes Joshua Kalu Ephraim (Writing), and sometimes Joshua KK (directing).

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