Learning to drive a car can be daunting, especially if you’re a little unfamiliar with how a manual car works. But a little knowledge goes a long way and can help you feel much more relaxed if you’re a learner driver.
Here’s everything you need to know about how the gears and pedals work, and how a manual car differs from an automatic 👇
There are a lot of similarities between driving manual and automatic cars. Pressing down on the accelerator makes the car go faster, pressing the brake makes the car slow down, the key starts the ignition and so on.
But if you’re driving a manual car, it means you have to use the gear lever and clutch pedal to change and select a gear, which impacts how you move off, accelerate, slow down and brake.
While an automatic gearbox only has four modes (park, reverse, neutral, and drive), with only one gear for when you’re moving forward, a manual car has five or six gears for moving forward, plus neutral and reverse.
When driving an automatic car, you don’t need to worry about choosing the numbered gears - the car does that by itself - but with a manual car, you’ve got complete control.
There are usually five or six different gears on a manual car, and the driver has to decide which gear they want the car to be in when driving.
The different gears determine the amount of power available from the engine. Lower gears offer less speed and more torque, whereas higher gears offer more speed and less torque.
When it comes to changing gears, the general rule of thumb is “brakes to slow, gears to go!” As the car increases speed, you increase the gear from one to two and so on, and when you want to slow down, you use the brake, moving back down through the gears if necessary (it’s not great form and you risk stalling if you try to slow down and brake completely in a high gear).
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to moving off in a manual car.
1) To start driving, you first need to disengage the handbrake. Driving with your handbrake engaged can be dangerous, as it can generate friction between the brake pads and rotors. The heat generated from the friction can cause long term car damage.
2) To change from gear to gear, you’ll first need to press the clutch pedal down. Make sure the accelerator is not engaged.
3) You then remove your left hand from the steering wheel to change the gear, first moving from neutral to first, and then up through the shift pattern as you gain speed. You want to familiarise yourself with the gear locations, because they can vary from car to car - usually you have the shift pattern located at the top of the shifter to refer to.
4) Once that’s done, you can return your hand to the steering wheel and release the clutch pedal.
1) If you want to slow down gradually, you should first take your food off the accelerator.
2) Using the steps outlined above, you then need to switch gears - but this time, moving back down through the gear pattern, from five to four and so on. This will slow you down.
3) When you’re ready to stop the car, you can take your foot off the accelerator and wait until the car comes to a complete stop, or press the brakes.
4) You then press down the clutch, move the gear stick into neutral, and put on the handbrake.
The short answer is yes. Because you need to know your way around the gearbox and clutch, you can’t drive a manual car with an automatic licence.
While you don’t need to retake your theory if you’ve already got an automatic licence, you will need to take another driving test if you want to drive a manual. This will cost £62 on weekdays, and £75 on weekends.
The good news is that you can continue using your automatic licence on automatic cars even if you fail your manual driving test.
(PS - we’ve written a lot more about the driving test here 🚗)
Driving a manual car comes with different benefits and some disadvantages to driving an automatic car.
And there it is, a complete breakdown of driving a manual car!
If you’re all prepped and ready to take your test, have a read of our driving test checklist. And once you’ve finally passed our test, don’t forget to insure your car before celebrating your freedom!
It only takes a few minutes to get a quote.