Tips for a beginner Standard driver

From rumours I’ve been able to pick up here, it seems that it is better not to downshift through the transmission, but rather use the brakes as per an auto car.

When slowing down a little bit, (ie not enough to have to change gears for) it would be okay to just let the car glide, but if you wanted to slow down a little bit in a hurry (ie 120 to 100)** would you use the brakes with the cluch in or out**?

Suppose you wanted to slow down a lot (ie from 100 to 20) to make a turn off, would you decluch, brake, make your turn, look at the speedo, then put it in the proper gear?

How about the lingo, my car has 4 speeds and reverse, in the floor, that would make it a “four in the floor”?

An aside, not related to the driving of a standard, but, my speedo is wrong, what I think is 60 is really 80, 30 ~ 50, etc, is it expensive or hard (for a person with little mechanical aptitude) to fix? This is for a 1981 Datsun/Nissan Pulsar 310.


You certainly can coast in gear to slow down. In some cases, you can also downshift a gear and use that to contol speed, such as descending long mountian grades.

You have a 4 on the floor.

You also have the right idea on making a sharp turn. On broader curves where you don’ have to bleed off a lot of speed, you can put in the clutch and coast to the point where you would start to accelerate, let the clutch out, and accelerate.

Each gear has an optimum speed range, and you’ll soon develop a feel for what is proper for each gear. If the gear is too high, you’ll hear the engine bog down or stall; too low, and it will overrev. Give yourself a little time, and it will come naturally.

I just gave up my 5-speed pickup, and I want another.

IMHO, the answers to your questions would be:

  1. brakes only, no clutch
  2. if you’re taking a curve, I would brake until right before the curve and then downshift
  3. it would be a four ON the floor. way back there used to be steering column shifters sometimes referred to as “three on the tree”.

Again, this is just what I would do.

YSMV (your shifting may vary)

As a young driver, I have very recently gone through the entire process from Phase I L’s to P’s. (This graduated system is what we use here in Australia, and I hear it is one of the harder places to obtain a driving licence.)

This is what I was taught:

  1. Brake to ~20 km/hr
  2. Clutch in
  3. 2nd Gear
  4. Clutch out
  5. Turn

It is generally not a good idea to de-clutch when taking a turn, it can affect the car’s handling.

Also, you don’t need to de-clutch when braking. If you want to go from 100 to 20, and you are in 4th, brake until your speed drops to about 50 and then shift down to 2nd gear. That’s how I do it anyway

Do you mean that pseudo speed boost you get when you step on the cluch? Or something else?

Note that brakes are intended for wear and are easy and cheap to replace. Clutches do wear out, but are really intended to last a long time and are much costlier to replace. (214K on mine.) Do you want to wear out the inexpensive part or the expensive part? I thought so.

Engine braking is really only for situations where using the brakes can be a bad idea. The classic example is a long downgrade where the brakes can overheat.

As for slowing down going into curves and such, I have to downshift anyway, that means I have to put the clutch in at least once (and for standard intersection 90 degree turns that means from 5th down to 2nd), so why bother taking my foot off the clutch? I know of no handling problem that this could conceivably cause given that the clutch has to be in most of the time anyway just to do the shifting. Secondly, I can keep both hands on the wheel for a larger % of the time which is obviously a major safety plus.

Stepping on the clutch will induce some amount of weight transfer. If weight transfer happens when cornering, it can de-stabilize the car.

How big a thing is a clutch/whatever it moves. I had this mental image (read image based on no facts) that a clutch was just a little thing compaired to the rest of the engine (you know, because most clutchs are just little mini pedals).

I am going to have to call BS on this. What weight transfer are you talking about?

Anyway, you want the clutch engaged on the turn because you ACCELERATE THROUGH THE TURN. Better control and you can get out a situation if something bad should happen. Accelerating through the turn goes for automatics as well. You slow down up to it (probably out of gear in a manual) then engage the clutch and add a little gas as you go through.

A clutch disc can be about 8-12 inches in diameter.

Here’s a pic

You are right. The clutch is very small and moves only a tiny amount. I am not talking about actual weight transfer. When you accelerate your car, the front gets raised and the back gets lowered. The opposite happens when you brake. That’s the weigh transfer I am talking about.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I always associated the erratic handling when the clutch is depresed with weight transfer. My car (a front wheel drive) always tends to understeer when I depress the clutch in a turn.

If you depress the clutch, you disengage the engine. If the engine was braking for the car, wouldn’t that mean the car speeds up slightly, like putting your foot on the accelerator slightly and causing that weight transfer on the rear end of the car.

When you mentioned depressing the clutch in a turn you made me think of my sister who’s learning to drive. She coasts for a little with the clutch in before stopping totally :smack:

And to the OP, gears for go, brakes for slow. As I was always taught when learning myself. Unless you’re bringing the engine speed up slightly when you change down a gear to compensate, decelerate using the brakes, what they’re there for.

And four on the floor? I would call that normal (minus a gear ratio) but only because I’m European and used to a five speed manual as pretty much standard for any car.

I’ve seen the dash mounted gear lever on the new Honda Civic, one car mag’ said it was akin to Touring Car racers. Looking down on one driver from a bus window changing gear at a junction, it seems like an ok place for the gear lever to actually be, anyone else experience it? Is there an automatic version with the selector in the same place?

Maybe it’s just the cars I’ve driven, but I’ve never had a stability problem when putting the clutch in. Now, popping the clutch out at the wrong time on the wrong surface at the wrong speed with the wrong rpms can be a problem. Losing traction while doing a turn is God’s way of telling you that you were going way too fast.

Take it easy out there.

From 120 to 100, I would glide in the same gear, for slowing down faster, I would brake w/o engaging the clutch.

As for the last one, I would brake, clutch, make the turn and put it in the proper gear. (after some time driving the same car, you’ll develop an intuition for what gear is proper, w/o looking at the speedo)