The Joy and Misery of Learning to Drive a Manual Transmission Car

May 22nd, 2013 by

Here are a pair of anecdotes that anyway who has been through the trials of learning “to drive stick” will understand. Got your own? Feel free to leave us a reply. Middletown Honda would love to share in your pain!

As anyone who has learned how to drive manual would know, driving on the highway is by far the easiest part. A constant speed and flat terrain make for no fuss, and most importantly, no shifting. Getting up to highway speed, though, can be one of the most stressful experiences of learning to drive manual.

Getting Up to Speed

It was for me at least. I bought a manual transmission vehicle without any inkling of how to operate it. My mother, who had mastered stick in the hilly climbs of San Francisco, had agreed to be my mentor. After a day of lessons in parking lots and less travelled suburban roads, she decided that we should hit the highway.

Her calm trust in my ability only heightened my anxiety. We pulled into the metered portion of the on ramp. As she does with any task she is teaching, my gentle, patient mother began to coach me on the quick shifting I needed to do to get up to highway speed. Regrettably, I must say, that this was the first and only time that I told my mom to “shut up.”

Out of the corner of my road-fixed, blood shot stare, I could see my mom roll her eyes, both as a sign of annoyance and complete empathy. After what seemed like a decade, the light indicated that it was my car’s turn to hit the highway; 1st gear, 2nd, 3rd, and all the way up until we were cruising smoothly with the rest of traffic. After that, I felt like I had earned my wings and the rest was just polishing.

Dealing With Hills

My girlfriend is another manual transmission enthusiast. Unlike me, she felt fairly confident of her manual driving skills after relatively little practice. Hitting the highway for the first time for her was no problem. The trouble started when she took a different exit than she meant to, putting her at the foot of a giant hill.

As any manual driver will tell you, hills are their own beast, especially if you’re starting straight from neutral on one. Unfortunately, this was the situation she had found herself in. While coming up the hill in the midst of busy traffic, she was forced to downshift. A misstep on her part caused the vehicle to stall. After multiple failed attempts of gas/clutch pedal juggling, there was soon a line of at least 10 cars behind her.

An hour and a half later, she was eventually able to coax the vehicle to the top of the hill, where she finally had room to pull the car over and weep.