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Years ago, learning how to drive a manual car was more of a necessity than an option. A sizable portion of American cars offered three, four, and five-speed manuals or soulless slush-matic automatic transmissions. Today, however, automatics and DCTs are lightning-quick and smarter than ever before. However, some enthusiasts choose to learn manual literacy. So, how hard is it to learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission?

Learning to drive a car with a manual transmission isn’t difficult

If you want to inject a little old-school flare into your drives, a manual car is the way to go. Modern ZF eight-speed automatics or precognitive dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs) might be much quicker. However, nothing beats the driving engagement of three pedals and a stick shift.

Still, fans and enthusiasts are put off by factors like rolling backward with a depressed clutch, clutching in traffic, or just how hard it is to drive a manual. Don’t fret; it’s not a difficult skill to learn. In fact, Thomas Louis and Raymond Francis Magliozzi, better known as Click and Clack on NPR’s “Car Talk” have you covered. 

Prudently so, Click and Clack recommend the following:

  • A patient parent, friend, or relative
  • A manual transmission vehicle whose owner doesn’t mind you using it to learn stick
  • A quiet, large, relatively flat place to learn
  • Plenty of time
A white cue ball shifter shows how simple it is learn how to navigate gears in a manual car.
Ford Mustang Bullitt shifter | Erik Sherman, MotorBiscuit

They also recommend barf bags, but that might not be necessary. Better yet, the “Car Talk” team has a “foolproof, trademarked Click and Clack technique” for learning how to drive a manual car. 

Click and Clack had this to say on the matter: “Without giving the vehicle any gas, continue to release the clutch very slowly, and see if you can get the car creeping along. Your goal is to do this without stalling the car. It might take hours to learn to engage the clutch this way, but there’s a hidden upside: you won’t destroy the clutch on the car.”

It’s great advice for getting started. Learning how to start and stop is the bulk of the three-pedal battle. As for shifting gears, clutching in traffic, and starting on hills, practice makes perfect. Find flat, open streets with as few cars as possible. Practice until it becomes innate. Congratulations, you’re out in the world with a new skill.