Help me learn to drive stick in NYC
June 25, 2011 8:00 AM   Subscribe

How do I learn how to drive a manual transmission in New York asap? I have called a few schools and they're booked for a few weeks ahead.

I basically want to learn how to drive a manual transmission car asap. I already can drive an automatic.
posted by I-baLL to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total)
Do you know a friend who has a manual car? Ask them very nicely, find a big open parking lot, and go to town. If you know how to drive already, it's not that complicated.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:33 AM on June 25, 2011

If possible, go to the person from whom you got the car and see if they will spend five minutes in the car with you explaining the concept. From there, just drive. I've known several people who have bought manual cars, not knowing how to drive them, and literally learned how to drive them by driving them off the dealers lot onto the nearest parking lot, then home. It can be done that way, if needed.

That being said, you should still take the lessons when they become available. First time manual drivers are extremely hard on their clutches. You will be able to give some life back to this and future clutches by taking the lessons.
posted by lynnshaze at 8:38 AM on June 25, 2011

Also, put a sign in the back window of the car alerting drivers that you are learning to drive a manual transmission. Drivers, those who remember what a manual transmission is anyway, will likely give you greater distance on hills. This should give you greater ease until you can learn the timing on hills. It worked for me, but that was 15 years ago when more people were familiar with the concept of a manual transmission. Still, it can't hurt.

Perhaps also avoid roads with steeper hills until you get the feel for them, then graduate to the more challenging hills.
posted by lynnshaze at 8:44 AM on June 25, 2011

If in doubt, simply wait till your RPM meter reads about 3,000 before switching up a gear. This will ensure that you have plenty of spare revs to comfortably switch to the next gear and apply power (I believe you call it gas). When switching down a gear, below 40mph you should be in fourth, below 30 in third, below about 15 in second and below 8 in first. This is of course a rule of thumb, and you'll very quickly find what works. Don't stress.
posted by dougrayrankin at 8:51 AM on June 25, 2011

I learned to drive a stick shift when I drove my new 1977 Chevrolet Chevette off the dealer's lot.
Let that clutch out easy, is the biggest thing to remember. (Conversely, you can jam the clutch in hard as you like.)
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:56 AM on June 25, 2011

Two magic words for making appointments that are booked out farther than you can wait:

Waiting list.

Call all those schools back and let them know you'd like to receive a call if they get a same day cancellation.

Might not solve your problem, but it can give you peace of mind while you hunt down other options.
posted by bilabial at 9:06 AM on June 25, 2011

Yeah, get a friend to teach you ... you can learn in an afternoon. After that, it's just practice, and there's a moment when it just clicks. Your timing with the clutch is everything.
posted by jayder at 9:12 AM on June 25, 2011

Definitely ask anyone who's been driving one for a while. Friends, coworkers, etc.

We are a proud clan of road warriors. We will be glad to show you the rites and rituals of our dark art.
posted by carlh at 10:18 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as my Dad (it's his birthday today, btw!) told me 15 years ago..."eventually, driving manual becomes automatic."

posted by carlh at 10:18 AM on June 25, 2011

You can learn in to use a manual car in an empty parking lot in an afternoon. You just put the clutch down, rev the accelerator and keep it depressed so the car is ticking over in a low hum, and raise it slowly till you reach the biting point, when the engine engages, and the car moves forward.

You will stall like five times before you get it right, but after that its just seems normal.

good luck!
posted by munchbunch at 11:02 AM on June 25, 2011

If you get someone to teach you with their car make sure its someone who is calm. Learning to drive manual isn't difficult but it takes a little getting used to and can be hard if the person teaching you is tense/worried about their clutch/yells a lot.

I would phone all the driving places and ask to be put on the waiting list if you can't find someone who can relax while teaching you.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 12:03 PM on June 25, 2011

Response by poster: Unfortunately I don't have any friends....with a manual transmission car nor do I own one.
posted by I-baLL at 12:08 PM on June 25, 2011

Most cars built with manual transmissions these days have synchromesh on all gears except first gear (well, and reverse). This means that going up or down, for the additional effort of a little bit of extra pressure on the shift lever (which will seem entirely normal to you, who've never driven a straight cut, non-synchromesh transmission anyway), you don't have to worry about matching the gear speeds while shifting by double clutching, to avoid gear grinding.

Except when shifting into first gear. Because rarely will first gear have synchromesh. That's because most automobile manufacturers apparently think you should be stopped before shifting down into first gear. Of course, it also saves them the cost of another synchromesh mechanism for first gear, but who's counting? (Reverse, by the way, doesn't have synchromesh either, but who in their right mind would be shifting into reverse while the car is moving?)

If you try to shift down into first with the car moving, and don't double clutch, you'll likely feel (in the shift lever) and hear some gear grinding. Grinding gears is always bad for the transmission, as it knocks tiny bits of metal off the gear teeth, which then get circulated randomly in the transmission oil, to the detriment of the rest of the works. But you only need worry about this, if you shift down to first while moving. There's little advantage to double clutching gear changes where the gears have synchromesh, and in fact, unless you're very good at matching revs, you'll likely actually prematurely wear the synchromesh mechanisms by trying to do so.
posted by paulsc at 1:40 PM on June 25, 2011

Any car built in the past 40 years is fully-synchronized.
posted by leaper at 8:51 PM on June 25, 2011

Best answer: Craigslist gigs?
posted by trip and a half at 4:22 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding craigslist. Many stick drivers (myself included) are stoked to teach someone how to do it. Offer to buy lunch, or to pay for a transmission fluid change or something.
posted by gally99 at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

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