How to start a manual geared vehicle correctly

Getting to grips with your first driving experience

While automatic cars are popular, manual driven cars make a driver feel more in control of their driving experience. Many drivers prefer to learn to drive a manual car for this reason. The changing of gears, the control of the car, and that feeling of hitting the road are all a dream until you can come to grips with the basic rules of starting the car. This doesn’t mean just turning the key. There are a whole sequence of events which should always be followed to ensure safety when driving a manual vehicle. This guide covers the basics of safe driving practice for those who are new to manual gearboxes.


Step 1

Check your sitting position.

Before turning on the motor, can you reach the pedals comfortably? Can you see all around the vehicle and are the mirrors adjusted adequately. These may seem like minor things, though visibility is the key to driving success. Make sure your seat is correctly adjusted for comfort, and that all mirrors give clear views, so as to eliminate blind spots.

Step 2

Check handbrake and gearstick.

Usually when a car is parked, the handbrake is in the engaged position, which is higher than when the brake is not engaged. Make sure that the brake is on. Then look at the gearstick. The gearstick needs to be in the neutral position. Putting your foot on the clutch, which is the right hand pedal, try using the gearstick without engaging the engine. The clutch allows you to change gears. Put it into first gear, then press the pedal again, and push it in two clicks from first to second. Engage the pedal again, and push the stick up to the third gear in an H movement. Try fourth and fifth. Look on the top of the gearstick and see where the reverse is positioned. Try to engage reverse gear. Familiarization of the gear movements is essential when you first step into an unfamiliar car.

Step 3

Move gearstick to neutral.

The neutral position of a manual gearstick is in the central position. When the gearstick is in this position, it will be easy to wobble from side to side. It is essential that the car is always in neutral when you engage the engine. Always check that this is the situation before turning your ignition key, since if a gear is accidentally engaged, the car may lurch fowards.

Step 4

Place the key in the ignition.

Familiarize yourself with all the functions in this area of the car. How do the lights operate? Where is the horn. These are things you may need for safety purposes and when you turn the ignition key into the on position and start the motor, check all of the controls and be familiar with them.

Step 5

Foot pedal movement.

Turn off the ignition. When you put your foot down on the clutch, this allows you to put the car into first gear. You must also have your foot positioned just above the accelerator. The reason for this is that when you put the car into the first gear, you gradually lower your foot on the right hand accelerator pedal while slowly letting your foot off the clutch or left hand pedal. Co-ordination is important and it’s important to practice. Clutch down, put in first gear, clutch up and accelerator gently pressed as a balancing movement with the movement of the clutch.

Step 6

Learn where the footbrake is.

The footbrake is located between the clutch and the accelerator. If you need to stop suddenly move your foot over to the brake.

Step 7

Now let’s try it for real.

Turn on the engine, making sure your gearstick is in neutral. Remember the catchphrase, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre. Look in your mirror to see if the road is clear from the front and rear. Signal your intention to move out. Clutch down, handbrake off, move the stick into first gear, accelerator down as clutch goes up in a nice gentle movement. This produces a forward movement or manoeuvre, so only a little acceleration is required.

Step 8

First lesson over.

Now you have learned to start a manual vehicle, practice the start over and over until a completely smooth start and first forward movement are achieved.

You will Need
• Observation skills.
• Coordination skills.
• Awareness of others.
• Awareness of blind spots.

Tips & Warnings
• Always be aware of others when driving.
• Be safe, be supervised.


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