Victoria Car & Vehicle Transmission Maintenance - Learning to Drive With a Standard Transmission

Almost anyone can lean to drive a standard transmission if they learn to use their left foot as much as they have already learned to use their right foot. The best way to learn to drive a vehicle equipped with standard transmission is to start on a large, level, and vacant parking lot.

Drive with a friend in the passenger seat to observe as you drive (you'll be so focused on the gears, you may need an extra set of eyes around you), and to coach you on the finer points of a standard transmission. You should ensure you are properly covered by insurance, especially if you are learning in a friend's vehicle.

  • In the parking lot with the vehicle's engine turned off, use your right foot to press the brake pedal, and practice using use your left foot to press and release the clutch pedal.

  • Review the shift pattern on the top of the shift knob. 1st gear is usually located by pushing the gearshift lever forward. Press the clutch pedal all the way down to the firewall, and 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, which allows you to jiggle the gearshift level left to right. You usually move in a zig-zag pattern between gears, and the horizontal (left-right) portion of the stroke is when you move through the neutral gear.

  • With the transmission in neutral, start the engine and then press the accelerator lightly to get the feel of the accelerator pedal.

  • Now, 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.

  • Keep your right foot off of the accelerator, and very slowly let out the clutch (try to feel the point when the clutch just begins to engage) until the vehicle just begins to creep forward. Typically, a small in and out change in the clutch pedal (about a centimeter or a half inch) will get the vehicle to begin slowly rolling forward.

  • Practice slowly releasing pressure on the clutch pedal, until you can consistently start the vehicle crawling forward in 1st gear without touching the accelerator. If the vehicle stalls, just push the clutch pedal in, and restart the engine.

  • Once you become comfortable not using the accelerator while letting the clutch out smoothly, practice pressing the accelerator lightly while easing on 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. Typically, you should shift out of 1st gear at about 20 kilometres per hour, and from 2nd gear at about 40 kilometres per hour. Drive in the large vacant parking lot in 1st and 2nd gear (you can do slow speed turns nicely in 2nd gear) until you feel comfortable.

When you feel comfortable enough to begin driving on public streets, have your friend drive you to low traffic secondary roads and side streets (watch for children!) and accompany you to provide supervision. You should plan your early driving to avoid routes which may include possible stops and starts on roads with hills.

With a few more miles of practiced use of your left foot, you will develop the skill and confidence to start from a stop on a hill. This is done by pressing the brake while clutching into first gear and then slowly releasing the clutch and the brake to inch forward. The slight acceleration is enough to keep the car from sliding backwards due to gravity that instant before you can apply pressure to the accelerator.

Once you've mastered this, you are ready to drive a standard anywhere.

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