Learning how to drive a manual car
Learning to drive a manual car needn’t be scary, just follow our step-by-step guide to learning how to drive a manual car.
REMEMBER YOUR FIRST attempts to drive a manual? Clutch, accelerator and handbrake all coordinated, and that was just to move off.
And soon as you rolled you’d be worried about steering, braking, other cars… so much to learn, but you’re lucky you had such a patient and skilled teacher!
There is, however, a better way to learn difficult things like driving manual cars.
All you need to do is break a complex skill into smaller skills and learn each individually, then combine. In the case of the manual car, you have to manage coordination of clutch and accelerator at the same time, plus releasing the parkbrake.
So you break it down; teach how to use the clutch first, then bring in the accelerator later. Your manual car will easily move off on a flat surface simply by bringing the clutch up with no throttle, and if it doesn’t then you need to be gentler on the clutch, which is no bad skill to learn.
A step-by-step guide:
1. Find a flat piece of ground where you won’t need to steer the car around corners and will be undisturbed.
2. Insert your learner behind the wheel.
3. Select neutral, start the engine. Release parkbrake.
4. Set their hands at quarter-to-three on the steering wheel. Point out the three pedals and explain their use very briefly. With the car at rest, have them use each in turn to get the feel of it. Emphasise to stop the car just hit the brake and don’t worry about anything else. You can be ready with the parkbrake just in case.
5. Your learner now dips clutch, selects first gear and very, very slowly, brings the clutch up. All the time in the world. The car will either move off or stall. If it stalls, foot on brake, select neutral, start again. If it moves off then great, but stop immediately – no need to worry about that tricky steering just yet.
Once the learner is proficient at moving off and stopping in a straight line you can introduce the next skill, which is stopping with dipped clutch, then steering, and after that comes use of the throttle. Do that by having them hold 2000rpm or so, and bring the clutch up as before.
They’ll learn their clutch movement can be a bit quicker now, and that they need to increase the revs slightly as the clutch bites. You also need to introduce the concept of securing the car with the parkbrake at rest as soon as you can, before they get too far into the habit of not using it.
Then it’s time to learn to change gear and so on. But every time you can, break down skills into sub-skills and learn them individually before combining them. Once you start stringing skills together expect proficiency in individual skills to drop a bit, but don’t worry, it’ll come back and before you know it you’ll have a new driver on your hands.
It worked for me – last time I used this technique with my 12-yo daughter (in a safe and controlled environment) within 15 minutes she was able to pull away without stalling, change gear up to third and stop again smoothly. There’s no reason other learners couldn’t do the same – all you need is the right teaching techniques.
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