So tell me about teaching your kid to drive a stick shift

Because I am in the midst of that experience right now. It gets better right? RIGHT?!?!?

Well that was an interesting last couple of days to say the least. My teen daughter has had her driving lessons and drives our truck fairly well, but it is an automatic. She has been driving all over the place with us in the truck and has the overall concept down fairly well. She has 4 months to go before she can get her actual drivers license but she can drive with the wife and I. Overall I think she is doing well, so I thought it would be a good time to introduce the clutch into the equation.

So…Since it is Spring Break here, I thought I would take her to an empty parking lot and try and teach her to drive a stick shift. I think that is something everyone should know how to do. I have a little 1994 Miata that is really a garage queen. 39,000 miles is all it has on it, but it is easy to drive and you can even start out in 2nd or 3rd gear if you forget to shift to first. Nothing like pressure to teach you right.

Today she did better then yesterday, I would say she is about 80% there. Downhill or on the flat she has it most of the time, only stalling a few times. Uphill or on an incline, stalling the majority of the time. She finally is getting the relationship of the clutch/gas/emergency brake, but man she has a ways to go, especially uphill.

Anyone here have a good lesson? Me and my neck would appreciate it.

Or feel free to share your first driving a clutch story. I learned the hard way, I purchased a car from a credit union for a great price. I got it and then sort of realized it was NOT an automatic. I had sort of driven a car with a clutch a couple times but wasn’t too good at it. But I had to get that car home, and so I drove it, poorly at first but I got the hang of it pretty fast in rush hour traffic!

So what is your learning to drive a clutch story or lesson?

In my opinion, the best way to learn to drive a stick shift is to have a couple of good lessons from someone who knows what they’re doing, and then have to drive one because that’s the only car available to you. My dad bought me a used car when I was 17. It was a stick shift. My choices were, drive it, or don’t drive. I learned to drive it. :smiley: I stalled it in traffic a few times, and had some jerky starts, but eventually it all came together. I don’t think I would have ever really developed proficiency if I hadn’t had to drive that car every day, though.

I do recommend having her do some extra practice on starting on an incline, though. My first few weeks of driving my car, I mapped out routes that involved as little hill driving as possible, because I was terrified of rolling back into the car behind me. There was a state park near my house that had relatively deserted uphill roads going into the picnic areas, so I practiced over there until I felt a little more comfortable with it.

My first car was a stick shift. My sister taught me the basics, but only time and practice, by myself, was the answer. At one point I jumped out of my car, used a number of colorful expressions, cried, then realized that if my idiot brother could learn to do it, then I could too.

Automatics were a minority in Australia when I learned to drive. I was taught by my brother. I don’t think there is really anything that works other than practice. It’s just one of those things where you can’t control three different fine motor things at once consciously so you have to keep doing it till your subconscious has learnt the pattern and can do it without you having to think.

I do recall that my brother got me into a carpark and just got me starting the car off, then stopping instantly and putting the clutch in then doing the same over and over. If you do it that way (with no attempt to drive around between starts/stops) you can fit in a lot of practice quickly. Then you need to find increasingly steep hills to try hillstarts on. It helps if you can do this somewhere in a carpark rather than a road because it allows you to concentrate on the driving and not fret about hitting something.

Another thing that helps is practicing doing hillstarts (ie using the emergency brake) on the flat, even though you don’t need to, just to get the hang of it.

Yep, I recognize that it will be just practice that will finally click one day. Luckily near our home is a huge parknride that is half deserted and that is where she is learning.

The going downhill clicked today for her, I had her just do the clutch slowly, no gas, over and over again like Princhester mentioned. That helped to be honest as that concept finally clicked today. I like the idea of using the hand brake on the downhill or level until she finally gets the relationship.

She is a bright girl and I fully anticipate she will get it…it is my nerves that won’t last I tells ya. That is what I am worried about. Actually I have to admit I have been quite calm as she is grinding through the clutch on the Miata. But better the Miata then the BMW is what I keep telling myself. I wish I had an old beater pickup she could learn on.

I haven’t driven a stick shift in a long time, but IIRC, I always found the friction point of clutch easier to “find” while when I was backing up. See if she can grasp the relationship while she is backing up. (In a empty parking lot of course.)

I learned (and took the test) on a stick shift VW Vanagon. My parents figured if I could parallel park that baby, I’d be all set. They made me practice pp on a hill. It was a bit terrifying.

Like everyone says, it’s all practice.

I tried to teach my daughter this year. I mean, seriously. How hard could it be to teach her? I’ve been teaching people to operate complex things all my life, I’ve been a skiing instructor, a flight instructor for over 25 years, etc. etc. After 3 months, lots of skid marks and one knocked-down fence, I gave up.

We bought her an automatic.

Best of luck, hope your experience is better. :wink:

I found that it helped to explain what was happening in mechanical terms when one is using the clutch. Knowing what you’re trying to make a machine do helps you do it.

I’ve been taught four? I think times, by, in no particular order, my father, my best female friend, and two boyfriends. End result, I can do it just fine if my passenger tells me when to clutch in and does the actual shifting for me (I throw from 2nd to 5th habitually). In other words, I can’t do it at all. I get stressed out and have brain freeze, its more than I can pay attention to while driving, apparently.

Not only can I not do it, I really don’t see the point. Stick shifts are getting rare to the point of being special order items these days.

My dad was terrible at teaching me how to drive stick; I just had to practice myself until it clicked one day.

If I were teaching someone now, I would make sure the newbie understood the mechanical basics of the transmission and I would start by teaching him/her to get the car moving with ONLY the clutch, by s-l-o-w-l-y letting it out to the friction point and then introducing the gas pedal later. I think that’s easier to manage than what I did, which was wildly guess at the friction point and smash the gas pedal.

I learned at 16 from my mom (as did all my siblings) - dad would have been a disaster. Mom just called it ‘waving at the neighbors’ - lots of jerking, killing, etc - but picked it up.

We bought my oldest a manual when he went off to college, so 18. He took to it almost right away - some (OK, a lot) of over-revving, but he’s much better now. I’m now (based on a data set of one) thinking a bit older is better - more confidence in driving in general, probably better coordinated, etc. I’ll be testing this theory probably next year when I use his car to teach the next one to drive a clutch.

Note that he is a college runner - so possibly the coordination thing is better for him anyway.

My dad taught me and I caught fairly quickly. However, when he thought I had it down, he sent my mother with me so I could 'show off".

She was nervous, which made me nervous. I popped the clutch and killed it after pulling away from a stop sign at a busy street crossing with traffic bearing down on us. :eek:

I don’t think Mom ever rode with me again in that car.:wink:

This is an activity that I have done on a couple of friends to teach them how manual cars behave on inclines, and the relation between revs, clutch point and stalling.

Naturally, you have to be comfortable doing this yourself before you teach someone else. Your kid may already know this stuff.

  1. Find a very quiet road that goes up a slight hill. (It should be just steep enough for an hill start) Stop the car, apply handbrake.

  2. Make sure your new driver knows how to stop the car from rolling down the hill if they stall. (I.e footbrake, and apply the handbrake when they have stopped) Swap to your new driver.

  3. Make sure there is no traffic or obstructions behind you so that the driver doesn’t have to worry about rolling backwards into something.

  4. Have them carefully release the handbrake while letting the clutch carefully out. As the car starts to move forward, push down the clutch pedal until the car slows and stops. As the car starts to roll backwards, rev, and clutch goes back out until the car slows and starts moving forward again. If the car stalls, brake until stopped, apply handbrake and start again. Keep going until the new driver can keep the car more or less stationery on the hill without using the brake, or the most enormous family argument you have ever seen breaks out.:eek:

The aim is to have the car not moving forwards or back for a while, just balancing there by clutch control. Do it for about 30 seconds or as long as the driver wants to do it. Eventually they should get it quite smooth with no stalling . When they have had enough, stop and apply the handbrake or move off up the hill.

Naturally, I am in no way taking responsibility if your daughter rolls into a ravine or goes to hospital with a mental breakdown. :stuck_out_tongue:

Teaching someone to drive in a Miata is probably not for the faint of heart. I salute you!

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Basically a bit like ReticulatingSplines said, but if you are on a hill you will need some extra gas.

loshan, like you, I was taught by my dad and only ever had one driving lesson from my mother. Thankfully that will never happen again.

This really helped me. My roommate’s boyfriend gave me a very simplified explanation of what the clutch was actually doing, so I got the point of the exercise. Same roommate sold me her car, so for the next several years, I had to drive a manual. The combination made me really comfortable with it.

I’ve taught a few people to drive sticks over the years. My first step is always to let them sit in the passenger seat and shift while I drive around for a while. Sure, it’s the wrong hand, but it is good practice for getting the hang of when you shift and what patterns you make with the shifter. My son is 8 and has just started riding in the front seat. He gets to shift from time to time (in non-complicated driving conditions). Hopefully, it will be that much easier in a few years when he starts learning the rest of it.

I’ve got to confess, though, that I’ve been driving a stick for 22 years and I am completely unfamiliar with using the parking brake for anything other than parking. Do you regularly use the parking brake when driving around hilly places, or is that just a learning technique? Why would it be necessary? I’ve never had trouble rolling backwards. Then again, I’ve never lived anywhere especially hilly.

It helps with not rolling back on steep hills. I stopped needing to use the handbrake even on steep hills at a certain point in learning. I only use it now if I’m somewhere that the consequences of rolling back a little or stalling are unusually severe.

You should come to Seattle and you will likely use your parking brake. We have some pretty steep hills here and usually some jerk pulls right up to your rear bumper on the hill. That is pretty much the only time I have used my parking brake, but I don’t want to roll back into the jerk. Usually I can pull forward without actually rolling back a little but it just makes me feel better knowing that if I do I can use the brake to keep from hitting the guy. Otherwise it is really just a learning technique as I rarely use it other then that specific instance.

It is my opinion that trying to learn to coordinate movements with two feet at the same time is tougher than learning to use one foot, and then adding the other foot once you have the first one dialed in.
I have taught a couple of people to drive stick using the following method.
My son bought a stick shift car sight unseen, and while it was being shipped here, I had to teach him.* Took 2 lessons and he was OK, not perfect, but not a danger and only a few jerky shifts. Once a person is at that level, getting perfect is just a matter of practice.
What I did was I took him out to the alley behind the houses and showed him what happened as the clutch pedal came up slowly from the floor (first nothing, then the engine starts to load a bit, then the car moves)
I had him take the driver’s seat and bring the pedal up to the friction point (where the engine starts to load) and hold it there. then down and back up again. Repeat until they can let the pedal out until the engine is just starting to load and the car is not moving. The object here is to have the student learn where the friction point is on that particular clutch. You are going for muscle memory in their left leg. Then we moved onto starts in both 1st and reverse, no gas pedal, just using the clutch. From pedal all the way down to pedal all the way up, and a smooth take off. Again we are going for muscle memory as to how fast the pedal can be let out without hoping the car or stalling it. My alley is about 3 starts long so he would go from stopped to moving, then stop. Lather rinse and repeat twice more than into reverse and do the same backward.
We did this several times, until he got the hang of a smooth start (remember no throttle)
Then the very end of my alley is slopped a bit so we went there and I had him hold the car with the foot brake, let the clutch out until the friction point. At that point I had him ease off the foot brake and hold the car using the clutch. Then let the clutch out and make a start on a slight hill, all of this with no gas pedal.
Once he could do a good start on either flat or a slight uphill, I had him start to use the throttle. Now since he had already learned that you can get the car to go with no throttle, he was aware that it did not take much throttle to get it going.
Once he had that down, we moved onto 1-2 upshifts.
Once he could do a good start and a 1-2 upshift smoothly, then and only then we moved out into the streets.
Oh and when the student screws up (and they will) don’t freak, just smile and laugh. If you can recall some of the dumb things you did when learning a stick, tell them. Don’t let them get frustrated.

  • A Miata would have been great to teach on. All I had was a 300 HP 6-speed AWD car. Let me tell you when a student gives too much power in a 300 HP car your neck can really SNAP! Oh, and it possible to chirp all 4 tires on a shift.

I’ve taught people to drive sticks and learned on one myself.

YOU LEARN to drive one when you are in traffic and you keep stalling the car out with a bunch of cars behind you :slight_smile:

It’s amazing how fast you learn how to shift when you got a line of honking cars behind you