What Is ‘Slip Shifting’ and Can it Ruin Your Car?

If you know how to drive a car with a manual transmission then you know full well that you need to step on the clutch pedal every time you shift. But did you know that you can get away with not stepping on the clutch between shifts? It’s called “slip shifting,” also sometimes referred to as “float shifting” or “clutch-less shifting,” and here’s why anyone would do it and if it will actually ruin your car.

Why would you want to shift without using the clutch?

When you think of shifting a manual transmission without using a clutch your first thought might be something to the effect of, “Why would you want to do that?” The answer is simple: if your clutch happens to stop working or if you want to save some time when up- or down-shifting while racing, then shifting without pressing on the clutch could be useful.

Anyone that has owned a manual transmission car knows that it’s pretty rare for a clutch to fail when you’re driving, however, it can happen. And in those cases, shifting a car without using the clutch is possible, but it’s recommended to only do it for a short amount of time and for emergencies only. But if you’re using in a racing application, then clutch-less shifting can save some time from having to brake and blip the throttle and press the clutch at the same time when downshifting, like when heel-toe downshifting, for example.

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A driver manipulates the manual transmission.
Driving stick shift | Motortion/Getty Images

How do you shift without using the clutch?

In the event of clutch failure, you can shift the car without using the clutch by accelerating the car to gain some speed and prepare it for the next gear. When the RPMs are up to around 3,500 to 4,000 RPM, release the gas pedal and pull the shifter out of gear at the same time, then shift it into the next gear. It might take a little more effort than usual, but it will go into the gear.

Also, it’s important to remember to take your foot off the gas pedal before shifting as not doing so could put more stress on the transmission. If you need to downshift the car, then you can follow the same process, but you need to slow the car down to a lower rate and move the shifter when the engine speed is around 1,500 to 2,000 RPM. The tricky part is matching the engine speed to what it will be when shifting into the lower gear – much like how you have to do when heel-toe downshifting – so you may need to blip the throttle again before shifting into the lower gear to get the desired engine speed.

We would say “practice makes perfect,” but we’re not sure if this is a technique that you would want to practice on your car regularly as it could cause some damage if done improperly. So, practice at your own risk!

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close up of shift and handbrake of 2021 Ford Bronco
2021 Ford Bronco manual transmission | Ford

Is slip shifting bad for your car?

Shifting your car without using the clutch isn’t necessarily bad for it if it’s done properly. However, you shouldn’t expect smooth shifts like you get when actually using the clutch pedal. Therefore, if you try this in your car, then you might hear some grinding until you do it correctly. Again, practice this technique at your own risk and only do it when necessary.