Teaching my kid to drive a stick...

I like driving. I like driving a manual transmission car. I learned to drive on a manual. I had fully intended to teach the Kiddo to drive on my manual transmission Outback. From the time he was old enough to even think about driving, whenever we were in the car together, I would talk to him about how the transmission works, what the clutch does, how to hear/feel the engine so you know when to shift gears, etc.

The summer he was learning to drive, I tore my plantar fascia of my left foot. I was sentenced to 12 weeks in one of those boots. No using the clutch for me. Since Suburban Plankton also has a car with manual transmission, we went ahead and bought a little used automatic so I could get to work and stuff. So, I ended up teaching Kiddo to drive the automatic and that car became his once I could drive my car again. I had still planned to teach him to drive my car…but it was so convenient having him driving himself that we never got around to it.

Fast forward 2 years and we’re finally doing it. Took him out for the first time today. I guess he was paying attention all the times I was talking to him, because he did very well. Sure he killed the engine a few times, but in all, a successful first outing. He will definitely need more practice before he can take one of our cars out on his own, but he’s on his way.


Failing without permanent harm is nothing but a step in the learning process. If he had never killed the engine, by skill or luck, I would tell him to kill it a couple of times intentionally just so he’d know the territory.

Have him get the car going without touching the gas pedal–that’s an awesome way to learn where the clutch is. I have friends who’ve raised a pair of daughters and they got them each a car when they got their licenses–but only manuals. That’s what they learned on and that’s what they have available to them. The thinking was that A) it makes it very unlikely that any of their friends will be driving their cars and B) it will be harder for them to ass around while having to think about what gear they’re in and C) it just makes them better drivers. I applaud their reasoning and I’d have a manual now myself–but a dicky left knee coupled with a frozen right shoulder makes manual transmissions Right Out for me. Sigh.

Has he gone up a hill yet?

I still think everyone should know how to drive a manual. I prefer them myself, even though I am currently driving an automatic, because I couldn’t find a manual when I was looking for a car the last time. And I seriously looked. The only manuals were muscle-bound sports cars that were three times what I was prepared to pay, and I didn’t want a sports car. I wanted something little and fuel-efficient.

That’s the first thing we did.

Congratulations on your successful training. It’s a vanishing skill nowadays. In another decade, a manual transmission will be an effective theft deterrent. :wink:

Learning it depends on the attitude of the student, I think. When I taught my son to drive a manual, he was determined to master it. He knew this was the only way he could get access to our truck (and the boat frequently affixed to its rear). No manual, no boating with friends. He took to it like a duck to water.

Not so with my daughter. Despite hours of patient practice, she continued to view a manual as a deficiency, that somehow the manufacturer was too lazy to finish building the vehicle, with the driver forced to perform tasks that should have been automated. She resents the stick/clutch and as a result, cannot learn them.

It might be that a ginormous 1-ton crew cab pickup isn’t the ideal learning environment, but it’s where pullinSon learned. So I know it can be done.

On edit: FWIW, my daily driver is an ancient Corolla – with a manual transmission. I still enjoy shifting.

No hills yet, but he will be learning this soon. My mom lives out in the country on a dirt road that goes up and down hills…a good place to practice.

As for finding a manual transmission car, I knew I wanted another Subaru to replace my old Outback and I was dismayed to find they don’t do the Outback in manual transmission any more. I ended up getting a great deal on a 2015 Crosstrek with a manual transmission because it had been on the lot for a while and not sold

My experience is similar to pullin. My daughter tried it once and we got around the block with 2-3 stalls. Her last comment before getting out of the car was “what is the point of this?”

My son, who is 3 years younger, learned to drive the manual just after getting his license. He can capably drive it now, but while I was teaching him we had a funny situation - he kept stalling while going from a stop. I could not understand why - as he was threading the clutch very gently each time, and each time a stall. Finally, I noticed the car was starting to smell funny. So we stopped and I watched where he was placing the stick shift - he had been trying to get going from a stop in 3rd. I guess that was clutch oil I smelled burning. It was a quick fix to correct things and (I hope) no harm done.

The other thing I had to teach him is that there is rarely any need to fully engage Reverse - most of the time the car needs only a nudge.

He is still a but rough on the clutch, probably from watching video professional drivers in fortified rides.

You may have noticed my MGB has been on my mind of late. Can’t wait to get it out of the paint shop so I can drive it. (Before September comes and we have nine months of rain.) Being a '66, there is no synchromesh between 1st and 2nd… so if you want to shift fro 2nd into 1st when you’re coming to a stop, you need to double-clutch.

Standard transmissions a vanishing skill? Try to find a car you have to double-clutch! :stuck_out_tongue:

My daughter had driver’s ed in high school.

I bought her a Subaru Impreza with a standard transmission. It was cheaper and had safety stuff.

We spent months driving in a huge parking lot. I thought the clutch would smoke before she learned.

She cried a lot! “I will never learn this”. But, eventually she learned it.

She and friends went to a concert. She had to drive the whole way, because no one else could drive a standard.

Only way to go. Kids should learn a standard.
Mr.Wrekker started our kids on a tractor, 4wheelers, lawn mowers, a Mule (not a live animal). So all 3 are good on anything. Plus, they never could get out of yard work. Win Win.

Rhiannon, that sounds great. I actually didn’t learn how to drive a clutch until I absolutely had to, in a snowstorm. I did surprisingly well despite the fact that I couldn’t find third gear to save my soul. But I could use the snowstorm as my excuse. When he masters the stop sign at the top of the steep hill, he will be king.:smiley:

That’s how I taught my kid, too.

The newer manuals are way easier up a hill. In case you wondered.




There’s no practical reason to learn to drive a stick for the vast majority of people. The real reason to drive a stick is because it’s cool. Stick vs. manual is the difference between you driving the car and the car driving you.

I got in a pickle somehow when I was just out of college and had to ask an old girlfriend to bring my car, a 1972 Duster with 318 V-8 and three-speed manual transmission, to me. She knew nothing about driving a stick, so I described how to make the car go and all about shifting gears, over the phone. She was game, and an hour or so later, she arrived with my car. I asked her how it had gone. She said, “Well, I didn’t understand what you were saying about shifting gears, so I just left it in 2 all the time.” :eek::eek::smack:

Old truck driver here. Synchromesh is for amateurs who think they know how to shift. :cool:

I had the same experience when I was buying a used car a few years back. I would have loved to get a stick shift, but as you say, the only ones on the market were souped-up sports models.

Agreed, though I would’ve said “fun”.

It’s getting really hard to find a car on the lot with manual transmission now. After encountering two separate salesmen who attempted to discourage me from getting one, I acquired mine earlier this year and I look forward to driving it every day.