By show of hands, how many of you have never had an opportunity to drive a vehicle with a manual (standard) transmission? You are not alone. Today, more cars in North America are sold with some form of automatic transmission. Interesting fact; the province of Quebec sells more vehicles with manual transmission than anywhere else in Canada. Most manufactures do not even offer this transmission in the majority of their marques.
It’s never too late to learn, and you should do so with a friend who is proficient. Practice in an empty parking lot with very flat and level ground and plenty of room around the car. When you first sit in the driver's seat the engine should be off with the “shift” knob in neutral and the handbrake engaged. On the top of the knob, you will see letters and numbers at various points of what might appear to be an upper case “H”
With your left foot, depress the clutch pedal (of the three pedals, the one on the left) all the way. Turn the ignition key clockwise all the way to "start" and hold for about one second until the engine turns over. Release the key. If the shift knob is still in neutral you may now release the clutch.
Confidently, use your right foot to press and hold the brake pedal (the one in the middle). Grasp the handbrake and pull up slightly while pressing the button with your thumb. When the button goes in, push the handbrake all the way down. Release the brake pedal and check to see if the car rolls.
Use your left foot to press and hold the clutch pedal all the way in. Use your right hand to move the shift knob from neutral to first gear. Slowly release the clutch pedal. The car may start to creep forward. When you come to this point, don't release the clutch any more.
It's time to get the car moving. You're going to have to give it a little gas. Press down on the gas pedal (right) while releasing the clutch pedal at the same time.
Lightly press the gas pedal while releasing the clutch. This process is about “feel” – it will become second nature. This time the car will start moving forward. Hold the gas pedal where it is while you slowly release the clutch pedal out all the way.
Once the clutch pedal is out all the way and the car is moving you have just made a mockery of the hardest part of driving standard... starting from a dead stop. Now – practice!
Next, drive around and apply similar measures as you change gears. Soon you’ll have it mastered and will be racing up and down the gears like a pro – perhaps even double declutching – but that‘s for another article!