Stick Shift Do’s and Don’ts

Driving a stick shift or automatic transmission vehicle is fun once you get the hang of it, but when you are learning it can be a real challenge. There are some mistakes that even experienced stick shift drivers make. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you learn to coordinate the many movements required when driving a stick shift so that you can develop good driving habits as you learn to drive a stick.


  • Keep your eyes on the road. When learning to use a clutch it is common to want to look down at your feet. Don’t.
  • Move your left foot to the dead panel to the left of the clutch until you need to shift again. This will keep you from inadvertently pressing the clutch as well as keep your leg from becoming fatigued on long drives or while driving in heavy traffic.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel at the 10-2, 9-3, or 8-4 positions, whichever is recommended for your vehicle. Due to the invention of air bags, the old standard of driving hand placement at 10 and 2 are no longer the case with some vehicles. Make sure and read your owner’s manual’s recommendations for your car’s driving hand placement. This could help you avoid injury if the air bags deploy.


  • Leave your hand on the gear shift while not shifting – You should always drive with two hands on the wheel. The only times your hand should be off of the wheel are when stopped, shifting, signaling for a turn, or turning on wipers or defrost systems.
  • Look at your feet – As mentioned above this is a common newbie mistake. Take the time before beginning to drive to get familiar with the placement of the clutch, break, and gas pedals so that you can instinctively position your feet where they need to be, when they need to be there, without looking down and diverting your eyes from the road.
  • Keep your foot on the clutch – Riding the clutch is another newbie mistake that can be quite costly. When you ride the clutch you sometimes depress the pedal unintentionally, causing it to wear on the transmission. This shortens the life of the transmission. Neither the clutch nor the transmission are cheap fixes. So save yourself some money and aggravation by taking

    your foot off of the clutch when not shifting or stopped with the foot on the break.

  • Forget the car is in gear when you turn it on – You have to press both the clutch and the break when you originally start your car, in order to keep the vehicle from lurching forward, until you can change the gear shift to neutral or reverse. This newbie mistake has caused many a good car to stall.

Driving a stick shift is a skill that takes practice, and with these simple do’s and don’ts you’ll be driving an automatic transmission vehicle like an expert in no time.