Learning to Drive
Transmission Made Easy -
'The Left Foot Way'
© 2002 by
Kyle Busch - Author of "Drive the Best for the Price
Almost anyone can learn to drive a manual
transmission when they put their mind to it, right? Not! -- However, almost anyone can learn to drive a manual transmission if they
go about it the right way (or rather the left foot way).
The easiest way to learn how to drive a manual
transmission is simply by first focusing entirely on the left foot
(letting its coordination to become equal to that of the right foot).
Sounds simple, but training the good old left foot is really the
biggest part of smoothly moving down the road.
Getting Started: To
get started, have someone who has a vehicle equipped with manual
transmission drive you to a large flat vacant parking lot. Be certain to have
your friend in the passenger's seat to provide supervisor when you
drive. Also, make certain that you are covered by vehicle
insurance from your policy or through the policy of the person
who is letting you drive his or her vehicle. In the
parking lot with the vehicle's engine turned off, apply your right foot
to the brake pedal, and practice getting a feel of the clutch pedal by
pushing it in and out with your left foot.
The Shift Pattern:
Next, view the shift pattern shown on the top of the shift knob. 1st
gear is usually located by pushing the gearshift lever forward.
Then, with the clutch
pedal pushed all the way in to the firewall, move the gearshift lever
through the gears (i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and reverse) a few
times and then put the gearshift lever into neutral. Neutral is located in the
middle of the shift pattern. In simplest terms, picture the shift
pattern as a H (reverse and 5th gear are
also added in). The
crossbar of the H represents neutral.
When the transmission is in neutral, you should be able to move the
gearshift lever to the left and to the right. If you need help, ask
your friend who drove you to the parking lot. So far, so good!
Getting the Feel of it: With
the transmission in neutral, start the engine and then press the
accelerator lightly to get the feel of the accelerator pedal. Next,
take your right foot off of the accelerator completely and let the
engine just idle. Push the clutch pedal in completely, hold it in, and
place the gearshift into 1st gear. Now the moment of truth (just
kidding, you will be a pro in no time!) Continue to keep your right
foot off of the accelerator, but very slowly let out the clutch (try to
become aware of how far you have let the clutch pedal out when the
clutch just begins to engage) until the vehicle just begins to creep
forward. This is accomplished by moving the clutch pedal in
and out just a little bit (about 1/2 inch) to get the vehicle to begin
slowly rolling forward.
Work on slowly letting the clutch pedal
out until you can get the vehicle to move forward at a couple miles per
hour in 1st gear without touching the accelerator. If the vehicle
stalls, it is no big deal. Just push the clutch pedal in, and restart
Keeping it Smooth: Your goal is to be able to smoothly let the clutch pedal out (with no
accelerator) and have the vehicle move ever so slowly forward. The
purpose of this step is to allow you to focus solely on training just
your left foot for a smooth controlled clutch movement.
Concentrated training of the left foot will help you to avoid the old
herky, jerky, stall, "Here! You take the keys" routine.
A routine can be so frustrating when you are first
learning to drive a manual transmission vehicle. Once you
are comfortable not using the accelerator and letting the clutch out
smoothly, you can practice pressing the accelerator lightly and letting
out the clutch.
After you are able to drive the vehicle in 1st
gear, practice releasing the accelerator, pushing the clutch in all the
way, moving the gearshift in to 2nd gear, and letting out the
clutch (shift out of 1st gear at about 15 miles per hour and 2nd gear
at about 25 miles per hour). Drive in the large vacant parking in 1st
and 2nd gear (most slow speed turns are achieved in 2nd gear) until you
Planning Your Route: When you feel comfortable and want to begin driving on public streets,
have your friend drive you to low traffic secondary roads and accompany
you to provide supervision. The next step would involve your planning
to drive routes that will allow you avoid starting and
stopping on roads with hills. With a few miles under your tires, and
continued use of your left foot, you will soon be able to hold the
vehicle on a hill when starting out. In no time at all, you will be driving like a pro
and shifting into 5th gear overdrive. Then one of your friends will
soon ask: "Can you show me how to drive a manual transmission?" You can
then respond, "Well, it all begins with the good old left foot."
For More Information: Kyle Busch is the author of Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a
Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save
to Article # 9
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