Forum: Advice / Cars & Driving

So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By forgetxmexnot
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 03:02 PM

I've been driving for about 3-4 years now but have always drove an automatic. I'm moving away to go to school and my parents have decided to give me one of their cars that's a manual instead of the automatic. I'm incredibly nervous about this, especially since the one time that I have tried to learn a manual, it was from my abusive ex-boyfriend who screamed at me for stalling several times (I never tried to learn after that time). This time I will actually be taught by someone who ISN'T going to scream at me, but I'm still concerned that I just won't pick it up. Where I'm moving to is also a busy urban area where 90% of my driving is going to be city driving and I know it's harder to drive a stick in the city since you have to constantly start and stop.

Any words of encouragement? I know that this is a valuable skill, so I'm excited to learn, but I'm also incredibly nervous (especially after my first experience).

18 Replies to So how hard is it to drive a stick?

re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By teenydanseur
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 03:24 PM
it's just coordination thing, so it only takes practice, after learning how to do it, you can basically just sit in a parking lot for a couple of hours and get it down pat, no need to feel intimidated at all :) I'm not sure what kind of dancing you do, but it's basically just coordinating choreo for arms and legs, so after you learn footwork, you go in and add the arms, and maybe you fumble a bit, but eventually you could do those things in your sleep no problem! just stick to somewhere where other cars aren't around until you feel comfortable with shifting
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick? (karma: 1)
By Summer
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 03:50 PM
It's a bit of a learning curve at first. The hardest part of driving stick is starting from a stop, especially if that stop has you on an incline so your car wants to slip backwards. Once you've got that down, everything else is cake. I've been driving manual for almost 4 years, and it's so natural to me now that I never even have to think about shifting.

My suggestion: drive without the radio on for the first week or so (or as long as you need.) This will enable you to hear the engine so you'll have a better idea of when to shift. This is especially helpful when you're trying to start from a stop, since you can hear the exact point where the clutch starts to "grab" as you're letting it out and give it gas to prevent a stall.

Good luck! I think you'll enjoy driving manual once you get comfortable with it. :)
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By Tansey
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:18 AM
Edited by Tansey (209516) on 2012-07-02 10:21:14
^Summer's advice is excellent. Driving stick is extremely easy once you get the feel for it. I bought manual transmission car when I was 23, had the salesman teach me how to drive stick in the parking lot, and drove it home. Each of my kids picked it up after a couple of quick lessons with me. As Summer said, the most important thing is to really pay attention and get a feel for the optimal time to shift. I read somewhere that women are better stick drivers because they pay attention to how the engine feels/sounds and shift instinctively, while men tend to focus on reading the RPMs etc when determining when to shift. No idea whether this is true!
I love driving stick. My current car is an automatic and I can't help feeling like I am not really driving, somehow. I'm definitely going back to stick with my next car. My kids both have manual transmissions. You can do this!
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By hummingbird
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 04:27 PM
Have you ever ridden a bike with gears?

If you have, you'll find it very similar, well having the gear stick is different, but the theory about when to change really is the same.

You'll be fine, even an experienced driver can stall their car every so often. Just find a quiet spot to try it out, it won't take you long to get used to it.
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By irishdancer113member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 04:30 PM
Summer has a great suggestion. Once you can hear what the engine is doing (and recognize what you need to do), it's not hard.

Boyfriend taught me how to drive stick last year. We started in a parking lot and then moved to low-traffic roads, but it didn't click for me until he took me to a hill late at night and just made me start and stop all the way up the hill, roll back down, and do it again and again.

I had the hardest time starting from a stop in traffic, since I worried I would stall out and get rear ended by someone not paying attention. So I would come off the clutch too fast and stall... self-fulfilling prophecy. Once I got comfortable on the hill, I wasn't worried about starting on flat ground, and ever since then I've had no problems.

At first, it's a lot to keep in mind all at once, but it doesn't take long before it becomes second nature. Boyfriend and I only had a few lessons before he was comfortable letting me drive his car by myself. Just relax and take as much time as you need practicing in deserted areas before you move to busy streets. It's a lot of fun once you get it! My car is an automatic, and I can't wait to get a manual for my next one.
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick? (karma: 1)
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:46 AM
Edited by Chaconne (182529) on 2012-07-02 11:59:51
In August 2008, the cartoon strip "Luann" got it perfectly.

You lift the clutch like gliding on nylons or nail polish.

Follow this link and go a few days forward and backwards to get the whole series on Luann learning how to drive a stick shift car. . . .

The car/driving thread starts about July 25 and continues through August 12. The Sunday strips are not on this subject.

re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By Anon1234567890member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 06:17 PM
I never had trouble with gears to be honest, steering (and being too close to the kerb/other cars) was the harder bit for me. All learner drivers in manuals struggle with the biting point, which is the point at which you're halfway up on the clutch and a bit down on the accelerator - the point at which you are just holding the car before it moves off. If you hit bite on an incline and take the handbrake off you won't roll back. Anyway I struggled with bite as the first car I had lessons in was Tim's BMW, and BMWs are notorious for having an invisible biting point. It's actually a selling point of theirs - I assume they don't sell cars to learners very often. You will literally see/feel the car lift when you're on bite, and then you can accelerate a bit more and that's when you start moving forward.

Practice finding bite and moving off both on the flat and uphill - you need to give it more gas uphill but not so much that you're making a racing start! We used to go to a quiet hill by my house, park up by the first lamppost, and just practice pulling off and up to the next lamppost, then applying the handbrake, then starting again. Yawnfest but invaluable when you're stuck in traffic or behind a cyclist/horse going up hill.

I had no idea what gears did when I started as I'd never had a bike with gears and nobody ever told me until I got frustrated and people finally clocked why. Basic guide -

0-10mph - first gear.
10-20mph - 2nd
20-30mph - 3rd
30-40mph - 4th
40+ - 5th

Tim's car has 6 gears but I've never had a car that went above 5. Remember this all applies when changing down gears as well - don't change down from 4th to 3rd when you're still doing 35mph! You can change down more than one gear, mind, so if you have to slam the anchors on you can go from 4th to 2nd or 1st straight away without changing down consecutively, providing you select the gear that matches your speed.

You can literally hear the car struggling when you need to change up, so definitely keep the radio off and actually open your window as well. You shut the noise off by changing up and you soon get used to it.

I had a little drive of a Range Rover the other week which was automatic. Every time I came to a junction and had to slow down, my left foot jumped up automatically to go for the clutch. So it definitely does become second nature. My left hand wasn't going out strangely, just the foot!

You can't ride your clutch (ie drive with it slightly depressed) but you can cover your clutch, by which I mean just hover your foot over rather than putting it flat on the floor and lifting it up when you need to depress the clutch. Once your gear changes are smooth then you can put your foot on the floor and rest it - covering your clutch does hurt a bit as there's tension in your lower leg but it does take away a bit of the panic of "oh crap gotta change gear can't move my foot fast enough wtfbbq".

It comes, it really does.

Once you get confident, you can also save fuel by coasting. ie, knock the car out of gear and roll down the hill while covering your brake. You have to be VERY vigilant while coasting though, you're not in gear so you can't utilise the clutch to make an emergency stop. So only do it on dead roads and as I say, not until you are REALLY confident with general manual driving.
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By nic_dancezonemember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 08:34 PM
Just remember that driving manual or stick is what nearly everyone drives in the UK. I know america (and australia whilst I was there) most people drive automatic. I drove automatic in new zealand and I do think I prefer manual as you get a quicker response and especially on hills you can put it up and down the gears better so it does not sound so sick.

re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By schuhplattlerPremium member
On Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:58 PM
This time I will actually be taught by someone who ISN'T going to scream at me

This should be enough, but make sure that s/he includes practicing a startup on a steep uphill grade, where you will need to set the parking brake and release it smoothly while releasing the clutch.
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By forgetxmexnot
On Tue Jul 03, 2012 07:32 PM
Edited by forgetxmexnot (157970) on 2012-07-03 19:33:37 wow, grammar just goes out the window after relearning how to drive
Thanks for all the replies! My boyfriend took me out this morning for a quick lesson and we basically just practiced stopping and starting which went pretty well. I still make the car jerk a lot but actually did not stall it at all so I think my first lesson went pretty well. Scariest thing was me almost hitting a tree because I wasn't sure how to stop, haha! But I'm very confident in my stopping/avoiding the trees ability after that incident. I definitely will ask for him to teach me how to drive on hills though, I don't want to have to figure that out on my own when I'm driving alone one day and not be prepared. Overall, this isn't as bad as I thought it might be!
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:38 PM
Haha, congrats. I may have to learn again. We are going on a trip to a country where most people drive stick. I learned on stick as a kid and drove stick exclusively for 30 years, but had to go back to automatic and buy a new car when I tore a rotator cuff in my shoulder and couldn't steer and shift at the same time, so my next two cars have been automatic as is my wife's SUV. I drove stick on a trip to Spain six years ago and occasionally borrow my next door neighbors pickup when I need to haul something and that is stick.
I ordered an automatic for the rental, but who knows what the rental agency will have.

re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By xBallet_babex
On Wed Jul 04, 2012 02:10 PM
How hard it is depends on you and how good you want to be. I know a lot of people that can "drive stick" and even own manual cars that are really bad at it and their passengers are sick by the time they reach their destination. Some people just need more practice (and instruction) than others and the car matters too. Some are harder to learn on than others, but once you are proficient the car doesn't matter that much because you learn to adjust much faster. And even the guy that taught me to drive my car stalled a couple times during our "lessons" because of how different my car was from his, so we ALL stall sometimes. I actually did the other day after years because I was doing something at a stop light, realized the light turned green and tried to start too fast. So even with years of practice, no one is perfect, just remember that. :)

Now I don't even think about it most of the time, but it does make me pay attention to the road more and do less while driving.
I actually started out barefoot in parking lots and then wore thin shoes so I could really feel what the car was doing through the pedals and hear it. Then the engagement point become muscle memory and you don't have to think about it anymore. It took about a month of lessons 1-2 nights a week before I took my car on roads but I was so busy and had another car I was driving as a commuter until I was ready to take my new one on roads. You'll be fine!
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By oz_helenmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:30 PM
Edited by oz_helen (35388) on 2012-09-25 03:52:28 weird typo
I'd think it'd be easier to drive a car than a stick, since a stick doesn't have wheels or an engine. :P

Jokes aside, I learnt to drive a manual car and the only time I've ever driven automatics is when I've hired a car. I had no trouble learning and I don't understand why so many people declare it too difficult.

re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By Cadbury_Eatermember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Jul 11, 2012 04:12 PM
Manuals become second nature with practice. I've had my provisional license for 11 months now and I don't even think about changing gears.

I've driven predominantly manual cars since I started learning, and it's not too bad. Seeing as I started learning with the manual, and everything driving was foreign, as an experienced driver at least you will have the confidence with parking, road rules etc. and just have to learn to balance the clutch and gear shift.
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By SarahdncrPremium member
On Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:51 AM
I only learned to drive a stick after I had been driving automatic's for 6 yrs. I learned from a good friend one late weekend night in a mall parking lot....with a few beers in us both....hey it was the '80's. Best instruction ever, though not recommended in todays PC environment. Even though I no longer own a stick, I can still usually drive one w/o problems. It's like riding a bike, once you learn, you never forget.
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By kellyl0907
On Wed Aug 15, 2012 09:50 PM
It's like riding a bike, once you get it, you'll always know how. I learned on my friends I thought she was gonna kill me lol, give it a bit more gas, then, slowly ease up on the clutch, it's all in how it feels. good luck!!
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By BeachDancer
On Tue Sep 25, 2012 02:56 AM
Just don't practice on any hills--keep on flat ground until you really get the hang of it. The good news is that once you finally learn to drive stick you will never forget! I wish the driver's ed classes here included some work on stick shift cars and not just all automatics. Hubby has a fancy little sports car and while he did give our son one lesson he is frankly to fussy with it to really let the kids learn on it.
re: So how hard is it to drive a stick?
By toroandbruinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Sep 25, 2012 04:33 AM
I've always driven a stick shift so have no problem with it. Sometimes I've driven my husband's car, an automatic, in recent years, and it is nice on long cross-country journeys. So is cruise control! Plus when I've sprained one ankle I've switched cars with him, needing to be able to drive with only one foot. But I hate having the car decide for me when to shift. Supposedly its computer is smarter. Much as I love computers, in this case I don't think so. My Chevy Blazer is about 15 years old, now; so I'll have to get a new car soon. Here in the US it is actually difficult to find a non-automatic transmission now! I may, for the first time, buy an automatic.

Everybody should be taught to drive with a stick because later switching to automatic and driving with one foot is no big deal. Vice versa -- not so much.

The first car I ever "drove" was a WWII surplus Jeep when I was 6. I shifted while my father steered and worked the clutch. Or sometimes I sat on his lap and steered while he shifted. Of course this was out in the country off-road at slow speeds. When my son got a Jeep a few years ago he asked if I would like him to teach me how to drive it. I said, "No! Are you kidding? Just give me the keys." And off I went. It felt so familiar! And that was unexpected because I'm several feet taller now and was using the clutch as well as shifting.


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