How to Drive a Stick Shift
Get your head out of the gutter Mom. Learning how to drive a stick shift (or manual transmission for the techies) is a perfect skill to add to your bucket list. Not only does the manual shifting of gears give you more power and control, but it could be necessary in an emergency (think James Bond in Die Another Day), renting a hot European driving machine in the South of France, being a DD to a friend in a race car, or driving on icy roads (last but not least). I have owned a couple of manual cars and was fortunate to learn on my Dad’s before I ruined my own clutche(s) (thanks Dad). But I must admit, the control over the car and the jaw-dropping stares by people as I stepped into my car in stilettos and didn’t stall was worth every ounce of effort.
It used to be the case that most people drove manual. Not now. Honda has a deep heritage in racing, and I was lucky to attend a manual driving school with professional racers Daniel Morad and Jeff Boyce. Very cool. Honda believes that manual transmission is at the core of the driving experience. and without it, driving has lost some of its ‘fun-ness’. It doesn’t have to be just for getting to a destination with juice boxes being biffed at your head. It’s a better experience with manual because you control more. About the car. Unfortunately Honda has no backseat nanny option . As yet. They do have a vacuum in the new 2014 Odyssey though.
So I ‘raced’ the 2013 Honda Civic around a track – it’s the best selling car in Canada for 15 years. It was responsive, compact and exciting. And then I got to drive with the pro. For the record – I didn’t stall. But I certainly picked up a ton of pointers on how to drive a stick shift.
1. Depress clutch all way to floor so car will start.
2. Adjust seat. (In my case way up and forward).
3. Hands at 9 and 3 to protect from airbag. No longer 10 and 2.
4. Put car in 1st gear. Put right foot under seat. Cars have enough torque to move a bit nowadays without balancing the clutch and gas. (Exception – on a hill use the emergency brake to avoid rolling backward and balance the feet).
5. Once car rolls, lift clutch and give a bit of gas.
6. Clutch needs to be fully up or down. Don’t hover foot over clutch pedal.
7. Put foot on floor or to left of clutch.
8. Advanced: When you downshift blip throttle to eliminate jolt to lower gear.
9. Clutch down then break when stopping.
Here’s a clip of the lovely Laura Heasman from Honda Canada ending in Daniel Morad doing his power lap – WHILE talking as I shot footage. I think I would have stalled.