A Beginner's Guide to Driving Stick Shift: Proper Shifting

A Beginner’s Guide to Driving Stick Shift: Proper Shifting

In this series, we’ll discuss tips, tricks, and best practices for driving stick shift. Now that we’ve gone over basics and simple technique, let’s kick it up a notch.

Common Shifting Patterns

The shift pattern refers to the layout of the gears. In a typical manual transmission car, first gear is located to the left, and forwards. In many trucks and some sports cars, it is instead in a "dog leg" position, to the left and rearwards. There is usually a spring-loading to return the stick to the central position. Reverse gear is commonly positioned in the best choice of location to avoid accidental engagement. According to yourmechanic.com, you should always use your RPM gauge to determine when to upshift. Don’t white knuckle the shifter; instead, use the spring to your advantage. And, for the best fuel efficiency, keep your RPMs between 1,500 and 2,000 RPM when driving at a constant speed as your engine burns more fuel at higher RPMs


Eventually, you’ll need to upshift to a higher gear to continue accelerating. On light acceleration, upshift to the next highest gear when the RPMs are around 3,000 rpms; on hard acceleration, upshift when the RPM gauge shows around 4,000-5,000 rpms. Whenever possible, try to avoid hard or sudden acceleration to prevent damage caused by over-revving.


When you need to slow down, you should also monitor the RPMs to determine when to smoothly downshift to a lower gear. Press the clutch in and rev the engine to the engine speed at which you would normally shift to a lower gear. Shift to the next lowest gear, then slowly let the clutch out to engage the gear. You’ll be in the upper range of the gear and can decelerate safely by lowering your pressure on the accelerator. Make sure you downshift one gear at a time- if you try to downshift more than one gear at a time, you may accidentally put the RPMs into the red line area.

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Written by Nicole Palange