Author Topic: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts  (Read 4674 times)

ObviouslyNotAGolfer

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I live in the U.S. (lived in Canada for four years), and have never had the desire or need to drive a stick. Now that we are visiting Europe every year or other year, I am constantly running into this issue with rental cars. In Ireland, we rented for a couple weeks, but were warned that 90%+ of the cars over there are manual transmission, and the agency will just give you whatever bullshit they happen to have available (just as in the U.S.), and if it torpedoes your plans, tough! We actually had no problem--maybe we were lucky, but we rented with Dooley, who were highly recommended. I badgered them a few times about this, and they assured me I would have an automatic.

Now, we are going to France next month and will be doing some driving around Brittany, and are running up against the same worry. Sure, in Paris, you will almost certainly get an automatic, but in St. Malo?? Good luck, I am told (even though our reservation with Enterprise indicates we did indeed reserve an automatic). We are making alternative plans in case the car does not pan out (train+bus+cab).

We are also possibly looking at moving to Europe (mostlikely Ireland, where nearly all my ancestors originate) at some point in the future, possibly for retirement.

Anyway, I have nearly 30 years of driving experience, and have not had an accident or ticket in over 23 years. I drive in SoCal--not only the undisputed worst place in the entire world, but the worst traffic in the nation!

So, with that in mind, I have always wondered:

How long does it take to get the hang of driving stick? Would a few one hour lessons do the trick? (but then I would have no vehicle to practice in)

Is it like riding a bike in that you never forget, or do you get rusty over time?

Half of me thinks this is a really stupid idea to be a neophyte stick driver trying to get around France for the first time ever. We will be in mostly rural areas and small towns, and I had no problem driving in arguably more difficult conditions in Ireland, but still...

Any thoughts?

« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 09:08:22 PM by ObviouslyNotAGolfer »

Paul der Krake

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2019, 09:24:53 PM »
Maybe ask a stranger very nicely if they would get it out of the rental company's lot for you? And then practice somewhere quiet until you get the hang of it.

It's not very hard. Within 30 minutes you should be able to get around on your own. You will stall at a red light a few times after that but it will get easier.

PoutineLover

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2019, 09:25:21 PM »
I learned to drive on stick, so I can't say for sure how hard it is to learn when you already know how to drive, but for me the hardest parts were getting the hang of how hard to press the gas and how to ease off the clutch as you are switching gears. Once you get that (and if you already know how to use the gas, you're halfway there) the rest is basically the same in either. I'm about to teach my partner stick because we're getting a manual car, so I'll keep you posted with how fast he learns. I drive very rarely, and it always comes right back to me.

SuperNintendo Chalmers

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2019, 09:50:12 PM »
Hi there,

I learned to drive stick later in life, after driving only automatics for many years.  While I agree with PdK that it's not very hard overall, it definitely took me longer than 30 mins to get the hang of (or maybe I'm just slow, which is an equally plausible theory).  Luckily for me a good friend let me drive his manual car around an empty parking lot a couple mornings, and that got me going enough to drive around.  The hard part is if you get caught at a light going up a hill.  You have to engage the clutch after releasing the brake, which can be hard for a beginner (especially if there is a car stopped right behind you!).  So I would suggest pleading with a friend to loan you their stick (or help you get a rental out of the lot) so you can practice in parking lots or another empty flat surface in the U.S. first.  That will give you confidence to tackle the hills you'll encounter in every day driving.

As for your second question, no you don't get rusty.  Again, it's not "hard," but it's very much a feel thing.  I sort of think of it like learning to type:  at first, you have to go looking around for the letters, clunk clunk clunk.  Very slow and not smooth.  But once you learn, it's second nature--you literally don't think of what you're doing at all while you're doing it.  You just need some practice time and you'll be golden.  But do that practice time here, before getting on the roads of rural France!  :)

BTW, whether you move or not it's a great skill to learn.  I've driven my manual car for almost 20 years, and will never go back to automatic.  Much better driving experience. 
 

Paul der Krake

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2019, 09:56:11 PM »
Another tip: if you struggle with starting on hills, don't be afraid to use the handbrake. This guy explains it well:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xsO1jBlEOI


middo

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2019, 10:27:39 PM »
In Australia a manual transmission is often described as a "millenial anti-theft device".

I think it would take an average driver an hour long lesson to get the basic idea of driving a manual.  Each car will have slightly different needs in terms of accelerator/clutch timing and amounts for take off and for gear changes when moving.  I normally take about 3 or 4 take-offs to get the hang of the new car, and then I'm fine.

What may surprise you is pulling up at the lights in your car when you get home, and looking for the clutch with your left foot.

Tester

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2019, 10:38:59 PM »
First time I drove automatic I was looking for the clutch with my left foot and finding the brake...
It was a very short first try as we were almost going through the windshield even at slow speeds 😃.
The most interesting thing is that it happened although I knew this would happen.
It took me 20 minutes the next day to get to automayic.

The other way around, I would look at some videos which explain what happens and how to drive stick before just jumping into one.
That should allow you to understand what happens.
Regarding starting uphill in a stick: that is part of the driver exam. My instructor told me he will show me several ways of doing it and I need to pick two to learn as long as one of them is the one where you use your parking break :-).

six-car-habit

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2019, 01:44:05 AM »
 Find an empty parking lot with a slight hill. Face the car upwards.  Practice modulating the clutch and gas pedals so that you can keep the car stationary without rolling backwards.  Find a steeper hill - repeat the proceedure.  Now do the same, but in reverse, going up the hill.  Reverse gears are typically "steeper" than 1st gear - so the modulation point will be different.

 Each brand or type of car will have different gear ratio's and points where the clutch will "grab" . One size does not fit all....

reeshau

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2019, 02:34:38 AM »
In Ireland, we rented for a couple weeks, but were warned that 90%+ of the cars over there are manual transmission, and the agency will just give you whatever bullshit they happen to have available (just as in the U.S.)
You can specify for an automatic car with an Irish agency: do it through their website, not indirectly through the US partner.  You will pay more, and they are rarer than stick, but there is no shortage.

Quote
Now, we are going to France next month and will be doing some driving around Brittany, and are running up against the same worry. Sure, in Paris, you will almost certainly get an automatic, but in St. Malo??

I actually found it quite difficult to get an automatic in Paris.  And the rental lot at CDG is at the bottom of the circular bowl of Terminal 2 traffic!  Jet lagged, uphill, into drop off / pick up traffic, with a gate at the top.  Yuck!

Quote
We are also possibly looking at moving to Europe (mostlikely Ireland, where nearly all my ancestors originate) at some point in the future, possibly for retirement.

If you are moving here, you will have to take driver's ed to get your Irish license. (after an allowance of up to 12 months on your US license)  So, take the driver's ed early, and learn on the school's car.

Quote
Is it like riding a bike in that you never forget, or do you get rusty over time?

Half of me thinks this is a really stupid idea to be a neophyte stick driver trying to get around France for the first time ever. We will be in mostly rural areas and small towns, and I had no problem driving in arguably more difficult conditions in Ireland, but still...

You will be rusty, but it will come back to you.  Just like a foreign language: there is nothing like immersion to jog your memory.  Again, if you're driving your first day, you're probably jet lagged and not at your best.  It's a rental, so if you stall out a few times or screw up and someone honks at you impatiently, laugh at the new experience and move on--it will get better.

Ladychips

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2019, 02:37:52 AM »
Find an empty parking lot with a slight hill. Face the car upwards.  Practice modulating the clutch and gas pedals so that you can keep the car stationary without rolling backwards.  Find a steeper hill - repeat the proceedure.  Now do the same, but in reverse, going up the hill.  Reverse gears are typically "steeper" than 1st gear - so the modulation point will be different.

 Each brand or type of car will have different gear ratio's and points where the clutch will "grab" . One size does not fit all....

Exactly this!  You need to learn how to feel the breaking point of the clutch.  Once you learn that, you can drive any stick on any road.

Trifele

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2019, 05:35:52 AM »
You need to learn how to feel the breaking point of the clutch.  Once you learn that, you can drive any stick on any road.

This. ^  90% of the learning curve is just learning that friction point while you are letting the clutch out.  I've always driven stick, and I just taught my 16 year old.  The easiest method is this:  Lesson 1 = in a flat parking lot, put the car into first gear and practice letting the clutch out.  (No gas).  Goal is to not stall the car, and get it moving forward.  Don't touch the gas pedal at all.   Do that over and over and over.  In a half hour you'll have it.  Lesson 2 = while you are letting the clutch out, gently press on the gas when you feel the friction point.  You'll stall the car and lurch around a few times.  Don't worry about it.  In another half hour, you'll have that heel-toe coordination down.  And from there it's a quick learning curve.  Uphill starts are the most challenging part.  Don't try those until you can zip around a flat parking lot smoothly. 

I think of it kind of like ice skating or riding a bike.  You can't tell someone how to do it; they just have to learn it.  But once you learn you won't forget. 


Dave1442397

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2019, 05:47:35 AM »
Uphill starts are easy. I don't know why they don't seem to teach people how to stop/start on a hill with a stick shift in the US, but it's a very simple procedure if you just use the handbrake, or what's called the emergency brake in the US.

With the handbrake on, ease the clutch out until you feel it start to bite, then release the handbrake as you apply gas and let the clutch all the way out. Practice it until you get it right.

Some cars have a built-in mechanism to prevent the car rolling back on a hill, but either way, you should never have a problem with hill stop/starts if you do it properly.

Candace

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2019, 06:42:59 AM »
I think it would matter a lot more if you're going somewhere where driving is on the opposite side of the road than what you're used to. More to the point, if you're adjusting to 1) being on the other side of the road 2) driving stick, with the opposite hand from what you've done a few times in the past and 3) being in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar signs, and navigating, it could be tough, especially when you're tired from flying. Ask me how I know. Luckily, we got an automatic since we had reserved one and were renting in London where there are plenty of them. Still, after a long trip and no sleep, adjusting to being on the other side was tough enough in an automatic.

Something to keep in mind is that whoever has the credit card that's used for the rental has to be the one driving the car, unless you pay for additional drivers. This is also something I found out on the spot. We had planned for DH to drive, but since I'm the one with the fancy card, I was bestowed with that honor. He had slept on the trip. I hadn't. If we had been given a manual instead of an automatic, it would have been that much harder for me to adjust. I've driven stick and I know how, but have always done so in America so am used to using my right hand.

Cadman

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2019, 06:48:36 AM »
I'm not sure how common it is elsewhere in the world, but the manuals on the market today in the US all seem to have a hill-holder feature. Even our 2012 Sonic has it. No need to mess with the handbrake (which doesn't actuate the brake lights). To an inexperienced (manual trans) driver this can make all the difference in traffic.

AMandM

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2019, 07:26:44 AM »
I would take a couple of lessons, or rent a stick shift in the US for a day or two, before you go to Europe. Don't spend your vacation time learning to drive stick, and don't learn under the extra pressures of time and unfamiliar roads and differences in driving culture and possibly language barriers if you get into trouble. Have fun!

SheWhoWalksAtLunch

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2019, 07:37:15 AM »
What you do with your left foot while driving an automatic will make all the difference in how long it takes you to learn to drive a stick.  (I have a CDL and have taught several people how to drive a stick.)

If you use your left foot for the brake and your right foot for the gas on an automatic it will be hard to adjust.  Driving a stick, the most efficient method is to use your left foot for the clutch and switch your right foot between the gas and the brake.  The clutch disengages the engine (however briefly) so your other foot needs to either be slowing the car, or increasing the engine speed in preparation to engage in the next higher or lower gear. 

The biggest danger for someone adjusting to a stick if they learned to use their left foot for the brake on an automatic is emergency stopping.  Until you have a lot of practice, your tendency will be to stomp down with your left foot.  If you hit the clutch, you disengage the engine, but don't stop like you expected to. 

mlipps

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2019, 08:09:17 AM »
Just adding on here. I learned to drive stick when I spent a few months living in Australia. I'm not sure I was ever given a proper lesson--it was an old farm truck & someone just sort of yelled directions at me a few times until I got the gist of it.

Fast forward seven years, I'm back in the US and my boyfriend broke his leg and owns a stick. We spent 15 or so minutes putzing around a parking lot & I've been fine since. I guess I did have a motorcycle for a bit in the meantime, so that technically is similar manual driving. At any rate, I don't think it's that difficult.

Actually, if you want a free way to get the concepts, take an intro motorcycle class. Most of them supply bikes. Here in IL, the class is free and run by the motorcycle safety foundation, and my understanding is that it's similar around the country. From there, it's just translating the concepts to a car.

I do agree with the above comments that combining driving on the "wrong" side of the road and driving stick would be a different kind of challenge. We rented an automatic when we went to the UK a few years ago and man, that was stressful enough. But if you already drove in Ireland I'm sure you can imagine your personal comfort level with that.

Laura33

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2019, 08:16:51 AM »
You're overthinking this.  Rent a car with a stick for a day, or borrow from a friend, and practice.  Since you already know the basics of driving, you can focus only on that one new thing, which will make it quite a bit easier than learning to drive in the first place.  Yes, you will feel a bit rusty if you don't do it all the time, and you will have an adjustment period to each new car as they all "feel" different, but it is like riding a bike and will come back quickly.  It just won't feel that way when you're jet-lagged.  ;-)

IMO driving a stick is one of those basic DIY skills that gives you power over your own situation.  Look at all the mental energy you are using to fret about and plan around something so irrelevant and easily fixed!  Imagine the joy and ease of traveling when you don't need to give a second thought to what kind of car they give you and can just find the cheapest deal available!

Home Stretch

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2019, 09:59:57 AM »
I feel kind of bad for posting this... but you could have a friend who knows how to drive stick rent a car from Turo (https://turo.com/) with a manual for less than $30/day (and there are a TON of choices in SoCal - you could even rent a Lamborghini if you want! haha). I think a patient friend could teach you or anyone else to drive stick competently after a few hour-long sessions. Then, every few months you can rent another one for a day to keep yourself in practice until it becomes second-nature.

The reason I feel bad is if you struggle a bit and repeatedly stall while learning, it can put some wear on the car, and Turo is just AirBNB for cars - you're kind of obligated not to tool on this poor person's car. But then again that's part of the cost of doing business if you decide to rent out your personal vehicle.

ketchup

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2019, 12:01:56 PM »
I learned by buying a stick-shift car.  My dad drove with me to get the car, gave me the 5 minute how-to and left.

I stalled quite a lot on the way home (half hour suburban drive with lots of stops), but I made it.  I was comfortable after a couple days and it was second nature after about a week.

It's scary at first, but it's not that bad.

Newer stick-shift cars are more forgiving than my first car was, too.

Not everyone thinks this way.  While my dad owned a stick-shift car, my mom literally had nightmares about him breaking his leg while they were out in his car and her needing to drive stick.  Once he realized she was very serious about that, he got an automatic.  After they divorced, his next car was a stick.  Į\_(ツ)_/Į

MilesTeg

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2019, 12:58:51 PM »
Find someone willing to teach you and let you tear up their gearbox/clutch and spend a few hours and you will get the hang of it. Modern manuals are not hard to learn compared to older designs with no synchos, rev limiters or other assists.

However, there are a lot of "corner cases" where inexperience with a manual can be more than just embarrassing, like trying to get started up a steep incline. You absolutely need to learn how to do that or you can easily cause an accident. Some modern manuals even have hill start assist mechanisms that maintain the brakes for you for a few seconds after you remove your foot from the pedal if you are on an incline -- I find them annoying but they could be useful to a newbie.

Without regular practice you'll never be a "good" manual driver, but you will be able to get around. It takes some time to get a hang of things needed to be a "good" manual driver, like rev matching (to smooth downshifts).
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 01:04:09 PM by MilesTeg »

MilesTeg

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #21 on: May 17, 2019, 01:23:24 PM »
Uphill starts are easy. I don't know why they don't seem to teach people how to stop/start on a hill with a stick shift in the US, but it's a very simple procedure if you just use the handbrake, or what's called the emergency brake in the US.

With the handbrake on, ease the clutch out until you feel it start to bite, then release the handbrake as you apply gas and let the clutch all the way out. Practice it until you get it right.

Some cars have a built-in mechanism to prevent the car rolling back on a hill, but either way, you should never have a problem with hill stop/starts if you do it properly.

I prefer learning the clutch balance point over using the handbrake (unless it's a really steep incline). Always seemed easier/more convenient than managing the clutch, throttle and handbrake in concert (though definitely harder on the clutch). Neither approach is very hard though.

Dave1442397

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2019, 02:35:50 PM »
Uphill starts are easy. I don't know why they don't seem to teach people how to stop/start on a hill with a stick shift in the US, but it's a very simple procedure if you just use the handbrake, or what's called the emergency brake in the US.

With the handbrake on, ease the clutch out until you feel it start to bite, then release the handbrake as you apply gas and let the clutch all the way out. Practice it until you get it right.

Some cars have a built-in mechanism to prevent the car rolling back on a hill, but either way, you should never have a problem with hill stop/starts if you do it properly.

I prefer learning the clutch balance point over using the handbrake (unless it's a really steep incline). Always seemed easier/more convenient than managing the clutch, throttle and handbrake in concert (though definitely harder on the clutch). Neither approach is very hard though.

From https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/driving-advice/7-things-you-should-never-do-in-a-manual-car/

"3. Use the clutch to hold your car on a hill

If you have to stop behind traffic while going up a hill, you need to make sure your car doesnít start rolling backwards.
Many drivers will do this by holding on to the clutch biting point to keep themselves steady on the incline.
But, by doing this, youíre burning up the friction material on your clutch disc as the clutch will be spinning at one speed while the engineís pressure plate is moving at another.
Whatís more, you could also end up rolling back into someone behind if you donít find the biting point in time.
If you have to stop, apply the handbrake to keep your car still until itís time to move off.
These days, many manual cars come with hill-hold assistance technology.
This will hold the car stationary for a couple of seconds after the brake is released, giving you time to move your foot to the accelerator without the car rolling back."

Le Poisson

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2019, 02:37:15 PM »
The info already provided is spot on about everything, but the one thing no one has talked about is the student.

How comfortable are you behind the wheel? Are you a person who holds it together when things go wrong, or do you lose your mind when someone cuts you off? You are going to stall out in traffic. Hell, I've been driving stick for 20 years, and from time to time, I slam on the brakes and stall the car, or after driving my wife's car forget this one has a clutch, and stall it out. You will do it.

When you do, will you lose your composure with embarrassment and stall out again and again, or will you brush it off and drive away?

For my wife, overcoming the "beginner driver" feelings, and the embarrassment of stalling the car meant she could never get the feel for driving a stickshift. She just gets too nerved up, angry, and embarrassed. You may or may not have this issue. I can't say, but sometimes the hardest part of being an adult learner is getting past your own blockades.

MilesTeg

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2019, 04:16:57 PM »
Uphill starts are easy. I don't know why they don't seem to teach people how to stop/start on a hill with a stick shift in the US, but it's a very simple procedure if you just use the handbrake, or what's called the emergency brake in the US.

With the handbrake on, ease the clutch out until you feel it start to bite, then release the handbrake as you apply gas and let the clutch all the way out. Practice it until you get it right.

Some cars have a built-in mechanism to prevent the car rolling back on a hill, but either way, you should never have a problem with hill stop/starts if you do it properly.

I prefer learning the clutch balance point over using the handbrake (unless it's a really steep incline). Always seemed easier/more convenient than managing the clutch, throttle and handbrake in concert (though definitely harder on the clutch). Neither approach is very hard though.

From https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/driving-advice/7-things-you-should-never-do-in-a-manual-car/

"3. Use the clutch to hold your car on a hill

If you have to stop behind traffic while going up a hill, you need to make sure your car doesnít start rolling backwards.
Many drivers will do this by holding on to the clutch biting point to keep themselves steady on the incline.
But, by doing this, youíre burning up the friction material on your clutch disc as the clutch will be spinning at one speed while the engineís pressure plate is moving at another.
Whatís more, you could also end up rolling back into someone behind if you donít find the biting point in time.
If you have to stop, apply the handbrake to keep your car still until itís time to move off.
These days, many manual cars come with hill-hold assistance technology.
This will hold the car stationary for a couple of seconds after the brake is released, giving you time to move your foot to the accelerator without the car rolling back."

That's talking about using the balance point in lieu of the brakes on a hill. That's indeed, reaaaallly bad but not what I am talking about. I'm talking about knowing exactly where that balance/bite point is (and getting it into muscle memory) so that the sequence of events of starting on a hill is:

(from a full stop with foot on the brake and clutch fully depressed)
1. release the clutch exactly to the balance/bite point
2. as soon as you hit the balance point, move your other foot from the brake to the throttle
3. ease the clutch out/apply throttle.

the only real difference between this and starting on a level surface is being intimately familiar with where the clutch bite/balance point is and starting to engage the clutch while you have the brake on still. Not entirely dissimilar to the hand brake maneuver in that you keep the brake on until the clutch starts engaging.

Which is worse probably depends on the skill of the driver in the particular maneuver.

libertarian4321

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #25 on: May 17, 2019, 05:23:58 PM »
Holy 1980's Batman, a stick shift?

I learned to drive one of those in 1979, but I thought only poor people (sub $16k cars) and middle-aged rich guys (fancy sports cars) still drove a stick.

I haven't driven in Ireland, but in the UK, the percentage of automatic transmissions is growing.  It's not hard to get them in a rental, since any car rental place that wants American dollars knows Americans don't use sticks (or buggy whips).  I would think Ireland would not be too different?

BicycleB

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #26 on: May 17, 2019, 05:48:54 PM »
Plenty of fine serious answers, so here's a fun story.

Young woman went with boyfriend to ski in the mountains. He drive them in his stick shift car, then became so horribly ill that he couldn't drive. Panicked, she rushed to drive him down the mountain to a town that had a medical facility.

It was her first time driving stick. They lurched repeatedly, but had to keep going. So she learned by doing.

"That was before you were born," says my mother, no longer a young lady.

Tracyl-5

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #27 on: May 17, 2019, 05:52:44 PM »
This. ^  90% of the learning curve is just learning that friction point while you are letting the clutch out.  I've always driven stick, and I just taught my 16 year old.  The easiest method is this:  Lesson 1 = in a flat parking lot, put the car into first gear and practice letting the clutch out.  (No gas).  Goal is to not stall the car, and get it moving forward.  Don't touch the gas pedal at all.   Do that over and over and over.  In a half hour you'll have it.  Lesson 2 = while you are letting the clutch out, gently press on the gas when you feel the friction point.  You'll stall the car and lurch around a few times.  Don't worry about it.  In another half hour, you'll have that heel-toe coordination down.  And from there it's a quick learning curve.  Uphill starts are the most challenging part.  Don't try those until you can zip around a flat parking lot smoothly. 

This is the best description of how to learn to drive stick that I've ever read.  Once I finally figured this out, I had it!  I have taught three other people to drive stick with this method, and I thought it went pretty well for them!

Buffalo Chip

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #28 on: May 17, 2019, 06:11:56 PM »
It took me maybe a few hours to learn. From then it was practice. I strongly prefer a manual these days. Do yourself a favor and learn and get yourself one; theyíre a lot more fun to drive. And you never really forget how to drive one.

ObviouslyNotAGolfer

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #29 on: May 17, 2019, 06:35:37 PM »
Thanks folks. I really learn a lot on this forum. I will try it out if I have time before the trip. As someone mentioned, trying to manage driving a stick with very little experience AND driving on the left side of the road would likely be too much. However, France should be much easier for an American visitor than Ireland.

Also, I would NEVER entertain the idea of getting off a trans-oceanic flight and stepping into a rental car in an unfamiliar city. We will not have a car in Paris--We will be in Paris for nearly two weeks before TGV to St. Malo, and even there, we will not pick up the car on the first day. So, we should be quite well rested. St Malo area is touristy, but nowhere nearly as large or daunting as Paris for driving. (It's a walled city, and you are not even allowed to drive or park inside the wall, where our AirBNB is) Most of the surrounding area in Brittany is quite rural.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 06:42:42 PM by ObviouslyNotAGolfer »

DoNorth

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #30 on: May 18, 2019, 11:13:03 AM »
we live in France and only drive standard as do most French people.  I taught my wife when she was in her 20s and she learned in about 4 hours of parking lot time.  highly recommend it, you'll feel like Jason Bourne and safe yourself a lot of money in the process.

definitely like riding a bike and yes, feel free to use the hand brake on hill starts; many new manual have hill assist though so you might not even need it.


cchrissyy

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #31 on: May 18, 2019, 11:43:05 AM »
I would take a couple of lessons, or rent a stick shift in the US for a day or two, before you go to Europe. Don't spend your vacation time learning to drive stick, and don't learn under the extra pressures of time and unfamiliar roads and differences in driving culture and possibly language barriers if you get into trouble. Have fun!

this is really good advice! 


I learned stick in high school and it came back instantly just like riding a bike, when I went to europe over a decade later and rented an unfamiliar car. no problem at all.

Also, I doubt you can get an automatic in Paris even if you wanted to. I can only speak about Spain not France, but for Spain you should absolutely expect that renting a car means driving manual.

AMandM

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #32 on: May 18, 2019, 12:20:14 PM »
Plenty of fine serious answers, so here's a fun story.

Fun indeed!  Thanks! Here's another, though not quite as funny.

I take my car in to the dealer for service under a recall. I'm directed to the spiffy waiting room and offered free coffee and snacks while they do the work. After a while, a tall, brawny young man in coveralls comes in and says, "Mrs Amandm, they are done with your car. If you'd like to come to the front entrance, I'll bring it round for you."  He goes ahead while I pack up my knitting; when I get to the front, there's no sign of my car. A minute later, he reappears, looking sheepish.  "Uh, I can't drive stick, so your car is around the corner over there."

I have to admit that I really enjoy being the middle-aged housewife who can handle a piece of machinery the mechanic can't.

wenchsenior

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #33 on: May 18, 2019, 01:39:40 PM »
I attempted to learn to drive on a manual transmission car in High School, but it was a Honda sedan and required a very light touch, and I got so stressed out after a couple hours of grinding and stalling that I gave up.  I then learned on an automatic.  But in college, the only cars I had access to (friend's and boyfriend's) were stick shift, and I was intimidated to try again, so I didn't until the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, when another friend suggested I practice in his huge truck.

And it turned out that it was super easy to learn on a truck, b/c the 'touch' was so forgiving.  Once I learned that, it only took a few days of practice on smaller vehicles before I could drive any manual.

ChickenStash

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #34 on: May 18, 2019, 02:15:32 PM »
You need to learn how to feel the breaking point of the clutch.  Once you learn that, you can drive any stick on any road.

This. ^  90% of the learning curve is just learning that friction point while you are letting the clutch out.  I've always driven stick, and I just taught my 16 year old.  The easiest method is this:  Lesson 1 = in a flat parking lot, put the car into first gear and practice letting the clutch out.  (No gas).  Goal is to not stall the car, and get it moving forward.  Don't touch the gas pedal at all.   Do that over and over and over.  In a half hour you'll have it.  Lesson 2 = while you are letting the clutch out, gently press on the gas when you feel the friction point.  You'll stall the car and lurch around a few times.  Don't worry about it.  In another half hour, you'll have that heel-toe coordination down.  And from there it's a quick learning curve.  Uphill starts are the most challenging part.  Don't try those until you can zip around a flat parking lot smoothly. 

I think of it kind of like ice skating or riding a bike.  You can't tell someone how to do it; they just have to learn it.  But once you learn you won't forget.

This isn't the way I learned but it is the way I taught a friend to drive a manual and she took to it right away. I heard the method in a refresher session at a track school I attended a long time ago and loved the concept.  When working with my friend, it was less than 15 minutes of back/forth in the driveway learning the engagement point of the clutch (she mostly had it after about 5 mins) and we were out on the road driving. The rest just practicing stop/go in a local (empty) church parking lot.

For easy learning, I'd suggest finding a car with a decent sized engine. It's not necessary but they tend to have heavier flywheels that make them harder to stall for the beginner still trying to figure things out. The car I taught my friend to drive had a nice, smooth 7.0 liter V8 that would be a bit excessive :) but a 6-cyl or big 4 would also be fine. The car she eventually owned had a much smaller 4-cyl engine but once she got the basics down it was no problem to transition.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 02:30:27 PM by ChickenStash »

Home Stretch

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #35 on: May 21, 2019, 07:06:58 AM »
Also, I would NEVER entertain the idea of getting off a trans-oceanic flight and stepping into a rental car in an unfamiliar city. We will not have a car in Paris--We will be in Paris for nearly two weeks before TGV to St. Malo, and even there, we will not pick up the car on the first day. So, we should be quite well rested. St Malo area is touristy, but nowhere nearly as large or daunting as Paris for driving. (It's a walled city, and you are not even allowed to drive or park inside the wall, where our AirBNB is) Most of the surrounding area in Brittany is quite rural.

Hahahaha, sorry I'm dying because this has been the story of my life for 4/4 of the previous trans-oceanic flights I've been on. Literally - get off plane -> chug coffee -> pick up rental car -> be thrust out into foreign country rush hour traffic (once even in a left-hand-drive metropolis!)

I think it builds character!

BicycleB

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #36 on: May 21, 2019, 07:50:49 AM »
Also, I would NEVER entertain the idea of getting off a trans-oceanic flight and stepping into a rental car in an unfamiliar city. We will not have a car in Paris--We will be in Paris for nearly two weeks before TGV to St. Malo, and even there, we will not pick up the car on the first day. So, we should be quite well rested. St Malo area is touristy, but nowhere nearly as large or daunting as Paris for driving. (It's a walled city, and you are not even allowed to drive or park inside the wall, where our AirBNB is) Most of the surrounding area in Brittany is quite rural.

Hahahaha, sorry I'm dying because this has been the story of my life for 4/4 of the previous trans-oceanic flights I've been on. Literally - get off plane -> chug coffee -> pick up rental car -> be thrust out into foreign country rush hour traffic (once even in a left-hand-drive metropolis!)

I think it builds character!

I'm sure it does. For those who survive...

:)

Proud Foot

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #37 on: May 22, 2019, 10:14:37 AM »
In Australia a manual transmission is often described as a "millenial anti-theft device".

I saw a VW Commercial about this the other day and had to laugh!

I grew up driving manual vehicles from day one and have never had a problem with them. As an adult I have always wanted one but have never found the right vehicle available with a manual.

Loren Ver

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #38 on: May 22, 2019, 02:33:53 PM »
I was coming across this exact thing, but I always wanted to learn to drive a stick, but never had access to one.

So I bought a cheap one and had a friend show me.  I still drive it two years later.  But you could pick up a cheapy one learn to drive it, then sell it.  Just take someone that can test drive it with you.

I would not recommend trying to learn on the fly and then driving in another country.  It isn't hard to learn, but it does take some time and practice. 

Loren

dogboyslim

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #39 on: May 24, 2019, 11:28:50 AM »
The hardest part about driving a stick is realizing the crazy stuff on them that don't exist in other cars.  First, Reverse is designed to be a puzzle.  You may have to lift a collar, push down on the stick or pull up on the stick in order to get the vehicle into reverse.  Sometimes this isn't clear.  When you are sitting in the car for 5 minutes before you find the collar under the knob that you have to pull up on, you will feel like an idiot, but this is simply normal.

I've had two cars that had a key lock.  On the left side of the steering column, there was an unlabeled button that had to be depressed to turn the key to off.  I had to come outside and turn off my car once when a friend borrowed it.  Good times

Some cars do not have synchros, and you will have to rev-match.  This is hard and the car will buck and jerk.  If the car is newer than the early 70s, it is probably fine, but if you are in an old car...hold on and enjoy the ride.  You will learn to adjust the gas pedal to get the engine revs to match the shift points.

Aside from those, everything else is covered.  I also wanted to say that I relate to the guy who talking about braking by accident in automatic cars.  I learned on a stick and had driven them pretty much exclusively for 2 years when my mother asked me to driver her suburban.  My brother, mother and the truck full of junk she was bringing to donate to Salvation Army.  As I was driving out of town noticed that the gas was low, and I decided to turn left into the gas station.  At about 60 mph, I quickly put in the "clutch" well in advance of the intersection.  The brake on the suburban was VERY wide, and rather than hitting the "clutch" I hit the brake with a full stomp.  Quickest 60-30 experience I've had.  Everything in the back went flying, my mom's drink splashed all over the inside of the windshield and the car behind me nearly slammed into me.  My mom was in shock looking at me, and so I said: "Oh yeah, this one doesn't have a clutch.  Glad you wore your seat-belt?"  She was pissed.  I'll not share the rest of this story, as its much less fun in my memory.

Buffalo Chip

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #40 on: May 24, 2019, 04:36:23 PM »
Also, I would NEVER entertain the idea of getting off a trans-oceanic flight and stepping into a rental car in an unfamiliar city. We will not have a car in Paris--We will be in Paris for nearly two weeks before TGV to St. Malo, and even there, we will not pick up the car on the first day. So, we should be quite well rested. St Malo area is touristy, but nowhere nearly as large or daunting as Paris for driving. (It's a walled city, and you are not even allowed to drive or park inside the wall, where our AirBNB is) Most of the surrounding area in Brittany is quite rural.

Hahahaha, sorry I'm dying because this has been the story of my life for 4/4 of the previous trans-oceanic flights I've been on. Literally - get off plane -> chug coffee -> pick up rental car -> be thrust out into foreign country rush hour traffic (once even in a left-hand-drive metropolis!)

I think it builds character!

Definitely builds character! My favorite trip in my life started with getting off a plane in Scotland hours late, jet lagged, no sleep for 36+ hours and then driving 90 miles in driving rain at night on the left side of the road. And of course, it was a stick. Iíve always driven a stick by choice so I guess that was the saving grace. 😁

oldladystache

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #41 on: May 24, 2019, 06:24:09 PM »
I was about 18 and my boyfriend wanted me to learn to drive a stick. He put me behind the wheel of his little Fiat and started telling me what to do, driving down a major highway.

We both got more and more frustrated until I told him if he wanted me to learn he'd have to get out of the car and let me practice without his helpful criticism. So I left him by the side of the road and drove off, bucking and lurching. Ten or fifteen minutes later I came back for him, driving quite well.

Since then I've never had a serious problem driving any stick shift car.

When I used to transfer from my husband's stick to my own manual automatic my left foot would do one circle in the air each time, until it figured out there was no clutch.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2019, 07:26:08 PM by oldladystache »

Kyle Schuant

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #42 on: May 25, 2019, 12:09:07 AM »
It's not very hard. Within 30 minutes you should be able to get around on your own. You will stall at a red light a few times after that but it will get easier.
And hill starts :)

I've never driven automatic. My observation is that driving manual requires more concentration. I prefer that people concentrate when in control of something which is in practice more dangerous than a firearm.

Uksaver

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #43 on: May 26, 2019, 02:40:50 PM »
A little off topic but an interesting fun fact.  Here in the UK, if you pass your driving test in an automatic, you are not allowed to drive a manual.  If you pass in a manual, youíre legal in both manuals and automatics.  Thatís why Americans living in the UK cannot exchange their licences for a British one and need to re-test - because a US licence doesnít provide evidence of what type of vehicle you passed your test in.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #44 on: May 26, 2019, 02:51:14 PM »
UKsaver - it's the same here in Italy.  Must be an EU-wide thing.  I had to re-take the driving test about a year ago as my US license cannot be exchanged for an Italian one.  In order to do this, I also had to learn to drive a manual as most cars are manuals here.  Not fun driving here in a manual as everyone drives like maniacs, parks in completely insane spots. there are scooters weaving in and out of traffic and zooming down the street in the wrong direction and people generally behave badly behind the wheel.  If we end up buying a car, I'll probably get an automatic.

Uksaver

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #45 on: May 26, 2019, 03:01:22 PM »
Not fun driving here in a manual as everyone drives like maniacs, parks in completely insane spots. there are scooters weaving in and out of traffic and zooming down the street in the wrong direction and people generally behave badly behind the wheel.  If we end up buying a car, I'll probably get an automatic.

Iíve never forget driving from the airport in Rome round the ring road to head out of town in rush hour on a Friday evening - quite an experience, even for someone like me whoís spent years driving in London.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #46 on: May 26, 2019, 04:05:21 PM »
Not fun driving here in a manual as everyone drives like maniacs, parks in completely insane spots. there are scooters weaving in and out of traffic and zooming down the street in the wrong direction and people generally behave badly behind the wheel.  If we end up buying a car, I'll probably get an automatic.

Iíve never forget driving from the airport in Rome round the ring road to head out of town in rush hour on a Friday evening - quite an experience, even for someone like me whoís spent years driving in London.
Americans are super cautious drivers and if you ever get within 3 feet of their cars they flip the fuck out. Lanes are super wide, they'll leave an entire car length between each other at a red light, etc.

So every time I drive in southern Europe I get shocked into old habits of much more aggressive driving. Incoming car and 20 inches of wiggle room? No need to slow down.

MilesTeg

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #47 on: May 28, 2019, 10:38:16 AM »
The hardest part about driving a stick is realizing the crazy stuff on them that don't exist in other cars.  First, Reverse is designed to be a puzzle.  You may have to lift a collar, push down on the stick or pull up on the stick in order to get the vehicle into reverse.  Sometimes this isn't clear.  When you are sitting in the car for 5 minutes before you find the collar under the knob that you have to pull up on, you will feel like an idiot, but this is simply normal.

Reminds me of an almost major oopsie I had. I learned to drive with and was used to driving ~4sp manuals where the reverse was always in the lower right with no "puzzle" to get to it. Then I test drove a vehicle where reverse was "under" 1st, but I just instinctively put the lever in the lower right and was about to start going before the salesman stopped me.

Luckily it was 6th, so it probably would have just stalled instead of having me go off in an unintended direction, but only probably, hah.

ice1717

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #48 on: May 28, 2019, 11:56:36 AM »
Someone mentioned this upstream, but I thought I would highlight it...

Make sure you know how to put it in reverse before you leave the rental place. 

I can drive a stick, sedan, sports car, big work truck, the works.  I've had to push 2 or 3 cars backward out of a parking spot because I couldn't figure out how to engage reverse in the gears.  (for the record, one time was in high school - had a tab to push, one time I had switched cars with a friend who needed to borrow my automatic - pull up on a ring, and one was a finicky gear shift that just didn't like going in reverse - push down on the shifter.)  There are a lot of different ways to put it in reverse, and many makes/models do it differently than others.   

JLee

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Re: Driving a manual transmission/stick: Questions, thoughts
« Reply #49 on: May 28, 2019, 12:29:33 PM »
Not fun driving here in a manual as everyone drives like maniacs, parks in completely insane spots. there are scooters weaving in and out of traffic and zooming down the street in the wrong direction and people generally behave badly behind the wheel.  If we end up buying a car, I'll probably get an automatic.

Iíve never forget driving from the airport in Rome round the ring road to head out of town in rush hour on a Friday evening - quite an experience, even for someone like me whoís spent years driving in London.
Americans are super cautious drivers and if you ever get within 3 feet of their cars they flip the fuck out. Lanes are super wide, they'll leave an entire car length between each other at a red light, etc.

So every time I drive in southern Europe I get shocked into old habits of much more aggressive driving. Incoming car and 20 inches of wiggle room? No need to slow down.

America is a big place...based on that, is it safe to assume you have never been to New York City? ;)