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Learning To Drive Stick, Part I

June 12, 2012 by Matt

6 Six Speed Shifter Stickshift Manual Trans Transmission Tranny Shift Pattern

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to teach my wife how to drive a stickshift.

The endeavor was borne out of necessity as much as any other reason; there have been more than a few times I’ve had to take the BMW when it would have been much more convenient to drive the minivan, because my wife couldn’t drive a 5-speed. And supposing I was driving the minivan and had an accident, my wife would need to at least have some basic knowledge of how to operate a manual transmission in order to be able to come to me.

She recognized those reasons too, and she’s always loved the BMW, so she was eager to learn how to drive it. Through the years, I’d given a couple of folks quick lessons in the basics, so I had a rough idea of how to approach it:

  1. Find a semi-secluded, completely open parking lot.
  2. Explain the basics of what the clutch pedal and gearshift actually do using a simple diagram, but don’t overwhelm with technical details.
  3. Practice starting off without the aid of the gas pedal in order to develop a feel for where the clutch takes up.
  4. Progress to 1-2 and 2-3 gear changes once the fundamentals of starting out are established.

And over the course of 45 minutes or so, that’s exactly what we did. She killed the car at least a dozen times, but that’s wholly expected for someone just learning the ropes. I was proud of her for always remembering to push in the clutch pedal when restarting the car; new stickshift initiates can easily forget that requirement in the midst of the other half-dozen things they need to remember to do (but are second nature to those of us who’ve been driving stick for years).

I’m most nervous about hill starts. We won’t tackle those until the next lesson or two. When I first learned to drive stick at age 17, hill starts scared me, and I still feel a slight twinge of anxiety when called upon to perform one nowadays, just knowing that a stall or worse, backing into the car behind me, is just a slip of a pedal away. All in good time.

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