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Driving a Stick Shift Car

Driving a stick shift car is a skill that fewer and fewer drivers have as time goes by. According to JD Power, the percentage of vehicles with manual transmissions has dropped from over 22 percent in the mid 1980s to well under 7 percent by 2007 [1]. The fact that fewer of these cars are being sold also means that fewer drivers are learning this skill. A new driver today is very unlikely to see a manual transmission in the garage or driveway that he or she can learn on.

Importance of Stick Shift Driving

Yet it is important for all motorists to at least have the ability to get in and drive a car with a manual transmission. There are many different reasons for this. The most obvious, of course, is in the event of an emergency, such as if you are with a friend or family member and are forced to drive a manual in order to respond to some sort of medical emergency.

But emergencies aside, it is just good to have this skill in general, like repairing windshields on your own can come in handy, especially as car ownership costs continue to go up. Check out vehicles that come with manual or automatic transmissions and you’ll see that stick shifts are cheaper to buy. And they are also more economical to drive because they get better gas mileage than their automatic transmission counterparts.

On top of that, it is just fun to drive a stick shift and to feel the control that it gives you over the vehicle. You can allow the car to rev higher between gears when you are trying to go faster, or shift more passively when you’re just out for a leisurely Sunday drive. Manual transmissions give you that freedom as a driver.

Facing Fears Driving Manual Transmissions

Most people who have been driving for some time actually have more trouble learning how to drive a stick than those who are just learning how to drive and practicing to get their license. This is primarily because they are used to driving one way, like only using one foot and only having to have their hands on the wheel while the car is in gear. But once you get going, you’ll see that this is a skill that you can learn even if you’ve only driven automatics for many years.

Learning requires practice. First you need to actually find out the physical skills involved, such as how to shift from first into second without stalling the car, the toughest shift to pull off, and how to avoid rolling into the car behind you or stalling out at a stoplight on a hill. But once you learn these skills, another step is necessary. Things have to click in order for you to really be proficient.

Thinking like a Manual Driver

Keep practicing if you keep feeling nervous and you’re always wondering whether you should be in third or fourth gear at a certain speed. The more practice you get, the more natural this will feel. Someone who has really mastered the art of driving a manual can just listen to the car to handle the transmission and know when to upshift or downshift, know how to handle a panic stop and put the car back into gear to proceed once again, know whether a turn onto a street should be done in first or second without really thinking about it. Just keep practicing and you will get to that point. Get a trusted friend or family member to help, and learn about driving stick shift cars.

[1] Retrieved 2011-03-13.


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