Need tips for teaching teen to drive a stick shift

Yes, it is just a matter of practice. But a basic knowledge of how the system works, what the clutch does, etc., would go a long way in mastering what Mr. Spock called, “Ah! Gears.”

Final exam:

  1. With the parked car pointed uphill, drive away without rolling backwards.

Extra Credit given for a car with a foot operated parking brake.

  1. Drive through all gears (except first) without using the clutch.
    The very best practice would be solo, Mom. Let her stall the car, do the “Bellhop,” and grind metal all by herself. You should be out of sight and for your own peace of mind earshot.

This is what did it for me when I learned. No-one in the car.

I drove around side streets and parking lots until I built up the courage to engage traffic. With no-one in the car you dont feel self-conscious about your lack of skills and you wont get the feeling that the person in the car with you is mentally calculating how much it will cost to replace the clutch, the throw-out bearings, the fly-wheel, the starter, and possibly first gear.

also what Acidkid said.

I recently passed my test, having learned in a diesel car. My parents own a petrol car, which I have been driving since, and it took me at least a month to properly forget the diesel clutch and get to grips with the petrol one.

Diesels are nice to learn in. You can audibly hear when you have the clutch at biting point. The tone of the engine completely changes, and they’re also very hard to stall. I think there’s still an audible clue with petrol cars, but it’s been hard for me to pick up on it, so I just rely on learning how far I have to release the clutch in order to get biting point.

If you are near Vegas, I make a hobby out of teaching people to drive stick shifts. So far have had 4 people learn to drive a stick with me, and soon to start number 5. Here is how I do it.

Stage 1
Vehicle - Ram 3500 Cummins diesel modified to 400HP/800ft-lb with 6 speed manual
Location - Empty parking lot

First get student used to where each gear is with the engine off. Keep working till they can get to any gear from neutral without having to think about it. Next start truck, and start in first gear. Have student just use the clutch start the truck rolling. The Cummins has an ‘anti-stall’ feature that will add a little fuel on its own to keep it from stalling. Once the student is used to starting from fist, we start from 2nd (this is the normal gear in this truck 1st being a ‘granny gear’). 2nd still will not stall, but the truck will hop alittle if you don’t add fuel. Once student has smooth starts from 2nd down then we go to stage 2.

Stage 2
Vehicle - Ram 3500 Cummins diesel modified to 400HP/800ft-lb with 6 speed manual.
Location - Old unused roads outside town

Once done with stage 1 student can easily get the truck rolling. Now out on the road we can get into the higher gears. This is where you expalin that it is not always required to have the clutch in when slowing down. Work with student on how to shift between 2nd and 3rd let them get the feel for how much fuel to add when shifting for a smooth shift. Work way up the gears till they can get to 5th without jerking between shifts. Once they get that down we go on to stage 3.

Stage 3
Vehicle - Porsche 924 stock with 5 speed manual
Location - Empty parking lot

Repeat Stage 1 with Porsche, but now the car will stall, and more gas is needed to keep it from stalling. Get them used to how to get it moving. This dosen’t usually take too long as they know the basics from the truck. With the Porsche I can usually get the student into 2nd gear in the parking lot so they can get used to gear changes also. Off to stage 4

Stage 4
Vehicle - Porsche 924 stock with 5 speed manual
Location - Old unused roads outside town

Same thing as stage 2, but the Porshe is a little harder to shift between gears than the truck is. Once they can get to 4th without jerking then they are done.

I also had to teach my brother how to cluthless shift, and also have tought people to drive from scratch using my truck. Once someone can drive my truck in trafic they never have had a problem driving anything else. Except my brother who now drives semi-trucks, but that dosen’t count.

Uhhh, I already know how to drive a stick just fine…But if I’m in Vegas can I take your Porsche 924 out for a spin on the “old unused roads outside town” ? :wink:

basically I suppose I’d just repeat everything everyone else has said, except for what i did to teach my brother after he got the basics downpat.

Start on a decently slanted hill pointed uphill about 10-15 feet from the bottom, car in 1st. Have driver hold car in place with clutch in and brake in. Release brake. Stop car before end of hill with only the clutch (and without stalling).

We used our driveway for this and it worked like a charm.

Then I had him hold the car there and make it go forward without slipping back at all and without using the gas (so he can feel the clutch grabbing before releasing the brake)

Acutally it’s my brothers, but sure. It isn’t as much fun as it sounds. The roads are mainly straight, and to have real fun in a Porsche you need a good twisty road. Not many of them around here.

Disclaimer - I am not responsable if the car isn’t running when you get here. It is old (1982), and currently will not run till my brother gets the wiring replaced to the fuel pump.

Necessity (or great desire) are great ways to learn to drive stick. I learned the hard way (by necessity) myself. My freshman year of college I crashed at a friend’s house off-campus and woke late and was facing missing a class I had to attend. I shook my friend awake to drive me to school but he didn’t want to. Freaking out I said he must so instead he asked if I could drive stick and I replied “yes”. He tossed me his keys to his pickup and off I went. I had never driven stick before in my life except one or two VERY short lessons in high school (just enough to know the principle without any practice). Still…I HAD to get to class so off I went in rush hour traffic. I think I hopped and skipped his truck more than rolled it to campus. I stalled I don’t know how many times and other drivers were getting pissed but I made it somehow. I did better on my drive back to his house and towards the end it looked like I knew what I was doing. Gave my friend his keys back and told him no problems.

How important is double-clutching? Usually I fly between gears so I never saw much point in the double-clutch and only really do it if the car has coasted awhile in neutral. Should I do it every time?

With modern synchro-mesh gear trains, double-clutching is not really a mechanical necessity, apart from in large trucks. Where it becomes useful is in maintaining your speed through a downshift, such as when approaching a curve that you are going to want to accellerate out of. I notice myself doing this a lot when downshifting to second gear, as by double clutching I can get the car into second at about 55 to 60 km/h, and then use a “heel and toe” manoeuver to slow sufficiently for the curve and then immediately power out of it.


In a car with a synchromesh transmission (which is just about any manual transmission car you’re likely to encounter), double-clutching has absolutely no effect whatsoever. In fact, you can’t actually do a proper double-clutch if the car has synchromesh. With real double-clutching, you’re trying to match the speed of the engine to the speed of the transmission (over-simplifying) - with synchromesh, the synchro belts are accomplishing that for you, so there’s really no action you can take to alter what happens when changing gears (other than not using the clutch pedal, of course!).

Another skill that it is important for a new driver to learn is driving a car backwards. This is comes in handy when parallel parking or when you go down a dead-end alley with no way to turn around. After she is feels comfortable working the clutch, take her to a large parking lot with no cars in it. Start by having her drive backwards in a circle and then graduate to doing figure-eights. When she can do three backwards figure-eights in a row without stopping consider the skill learned. Don’t even think of using a mirror for this. When backing up it helps if the driver can put her right hand behind the passenger’s seat and steer with the left.

If you want to have some fun perhaps the coolest thing you can do with a manual transmission car is start it when it has a dead battery! I am again amazed at how many people don’t know this and have saved more than a few people from calling a tow truck for a jump. I had one guy who did know offer to do this for a friend. Her car died on the 7th floor of a parking garage so it doesn’t get much easier (gravity provides the acceleration). He made it all the way to the bottom without getting the car started. I kicked him out of the car and made him push (his pennance for wasting all that potential energy) and got it going on the first try.

Definitely a useful skill to know.

I just finished reading my post and relized I forgot the final stage uphill. Guess thats what I get for trying to post at work while dodging the boss. Anyway here is the final step.

Stage 5
Vehicle - Porsche 924 stock with 5 speed manual
Location - Long STEEP residential road

Try to do this during the day on a weekday or late (8 - 10) to minimize trafic. I drive halfway up the hill stop, and let them drive. First have them get used to rolling backwards by just holding the clutch in, and slowly rolling down the hill a few feet at the time stoping by using the brake. Once they don’t panic when rolling backwards we work on timing the clutch and brake. Let the clutch out till it starts to catch, and release brake. Apply gas as the clutch is let out. Remind that they need to give the car more gas when starting on a hill. This step is the hardest on the clutch as the student tries to find the right movment of the clutch break and gas. That is the reason this step is done only in the Porsche and not the truck. Replacing the clutch for the truck is about $1200 (racing clutch to hold the power), Porsche is a lot less(Think $200 - $300).

Whack-a-Mole I would have to agree very useful skill. One I have never learned either :frowning: I understand how it works, but not the actual method of how to achive it.

I’ve always thought push-starting a manual wasn’t particularly hard. Just get it rolling, select 2nd, and ease the clutch out, with gentle pressure on the accelerator. I told a woman who needed a push start exactly that. She had never done it before. I pushed her car, and she got it first go.

Nothing to it really. This is one case where you want to pop the clutch. Get the car moving (usually someone pushing as fast as they can but a hill is great). The clutch needs to be in, car in first gear and ignition all the way on. Have the people pushing stop just before doing this or they will face plant into the trunk when the car suddenly slows down. Pop the clutch and the car’s motion will cause the engine to turn (the car will buck from this). As moment after you feel the engine grab push the clutch back in and give it a little gas. The car should sputter to life.

Just be careful you don’t stall on the way home or you have to do it again (unless the battery has had enough time to recharge).

I should note the whole starting a manual tranmission car by pushing it thing is mostly a matter of timing. You pop the clutch but need to leave it out for a few moments so the engine has a chance to turn a bit before pushing the clutch back in. Do it too fast and the engine won’t have chance to start and wait too long and the car will stall. The whole thing takes maybe a second to occur but it isn’t hard at all.

I don’t get that - If I double clutch I can downshift into second gear at high speed pretty much seamlessly. If I dont double clutch and try to downshift at speed, I get an objectionable whine as the tranny winds up, accompanied by massive deceleration. Does this mean that it is not synchromesh, because it’s an older vehicle, and new cars don’t act the same way?


Whack-a-Mole, are you certain about using first gear for a push start? I’ve always taken second as gospel, and now I’m curious to try it out in first. I can’t help thinking that’s half the face-plant problem. Not doubting you, just curious.

::barges into push-start conversation, uninvited::
I’ve had to push start a vehicle twice, once on top of a hill, once on the flat ground. From the hill, I used second, because the hill gave me a fair bit of speed, so I may as well capitalize on it. The other time, the vehicle was on its last legs and was being pushed by two of my friends. I used first, since the speed wasn’t all it could have been. The lower gear gives better leverage, for lack of the proper term, so the lower the speed you’re going to try and start the engine at, the lower gear you should use. And yes, using first as opposed to second does contribute markedly to the “face-plant problem”
::gets back to the OP::
I learned manual in pretty much the manner everyone is suggesting: a brief overview of the purpose of the clutch; a little while in a carpark; some time on flat, lightly traveled roads; wherever I needed to go. However, two of my friends (different ones from the aforementioned pushers, if anyone cares) learned much along the lines of Whack-a-Mole’s “jump-in-and-drive” method. That way also worked, but a little slower, and both of their cars are having tranny problems now, but that could be a coincidince.

Quick question: what is meant by “double-clutching”? It seems to be referring to matching engine speeds on a down shift, but the one definition that I have heard in real life (from someone who is, admittedly, not the most knowledgeable about vehicles) is that it involves fully releasing the clutch before engaging it again to select the next gear, and that if it needs to be done at all, it should be done on up- and down-shifts.

To continue the push-start discussion (since everyone’s already posted all the good advice I’d have about general stick-shift teaching), I’ve even push-started a car in reverse, when all I had to work with was myself, the dead battery, and a moderately steep driveway. You have to be pretty good (and quick) with the steering in reverse, of course, but it is the lowest gear available.