How to start and stop a manual car

Starting and stopping a manual transmission car can be a difficult task especially if you are new to it. There are a few extra steps needed in the process compared to that of an automatic transmission vehicle. The path to being good at driving a manual begins here as this guide will help you understand the safest and quickest way to start and stop a manual vehicle. 

Quick summary

If you’re pressed for time, here’s a quick list on what you need to do. 

To start: 

  • Make sure the handbrake is engaged 

  • Depress the clutch pedal 

  • Put the transmission in neutral 

  • Put the key into the ignition 

  • Start the car (Clutch in or out) 

To stop:

  • Depress the brake pedal

  • Depress the clutch 
  • Engage the handbrake 

  • Put the transmission in neutral 

  • Engage the handbrake 

  • Turn off the engine

  • Put into first or second gear (optional) 

If you want to know more in-depth information, read on. 

Before we move forward with the guide, it is important to understand the difference between a manual transmission and an automatic. In an automatic transmission vehicle, all you have to do is make sure the vehicle is in Park, step on the brake, and then you can start the car. With a manual transmission vehicle, you have to account for the clutch. This is what disengages the transmission from the engine allowing you to shift a gear without stalling the engine. With one more pedal to take into account of it can be a daunting task especially for first-time drivers.

Now onto the guide itself, as with any journey, it starts with a single step, and that begins with starting the car. Make sure that your vehicle’s hand brake is on to ensure that it doesn’t go anywhere while you are attempting to start your car.

manual transmission pedals

Locate where the clutch pedal is

First things first locate where the clutch pedal is, this is critical especially for newer models that require you to depress the clutch before you can start the engine. Find out where the clutch is with your feet, it is the pedal to the leftmost side of the footwell disregarding the footrest. Your left foot will be responsible for this pedal at all times so make sure you get used to pressing it down and looking for its biting point later on.

Gear selector in neutral

Shift the vehicle into the neutral position

Now that you have located the clutch pedal and have gotten used to pressing it down, it’s now time to make sure that your vehicle’s transmission is in the neutral position before starting. To test if the gear shifter is in the neutral position you should be able to easily shake it while it is in the center position. 

It is important to note that some drivers leave their vehicle in first gear when they park to ensure that their vehicle doesn’t move. This is why this step of figuring out if the vehicle is in neutral is important as starting the car while in gear will cause it to jump forward. This could lead to unwanted damage to the vehicle and to those around you as well as damage to the engine or transmission itself. Also be sure to have the handbrake or parking brake engaged as well. 

key in ignition

Turn the key to ignition and prepare to start the engine

Once you have established that the transmission is in neutral you can now begin the process of starting the engine. Make sure that you insert your key and bring it to the on position but do not start the engine just yet. It is important to note that in some models it is required that you press on the clutch at the same time. Regardless of if your vehicle requires you to do this or not, just simply turn the key and the vehicle should come to life.

Similar to how you would start a manual transmission vehicle, the process of turning it off is relatively the same. Make sure that your handbrake is up, you’ve come to a full stop, and that your vehicle is properly parked before you attempt to turn off the engine.

gear shifter in neutral

Put the car into neutral

When turning off your manual transmission vehicle, make sure that the gear shifter is in a neutral position. When doing this it is important to remember to have the clutch depressed while looking for neutral. The same technique applies when starting the vehicle as if the gear shifter can be freely moved around while centered, it is a good indication that the transmission is in its neutral gear. Again, make sure your handbrake is engaged.

turn off the engine

Turn off the engine

From the on position simply turn your key to the off position and take it out of the ignition. The process doesn’t end there, however, as there is another layer of safety you can do to ensure that your vehicle doesn’t move from its parking position even if the brakes fail.

transmission in first gear

Put the transmission into 1st or 2nd gear

While it is not a requirement to do this while the vehicle is parked on a flat surface, it is something that can come in handy especially when your car is parked on an inclined surface.

As an optional step, you can move the gear shifter into first or second gear. This will ensure that your vehicle will not go anywhere in the event of your brakes failing to hold the vehicle.  You can do this by simply pressing down on the clutch while the engine is off and putting the gear shifter into your desired gear. After that, you can lock and exit your vehicle without worrying about it going anywhere.

And that's a quick guide on how to safely start and stop a manual transmission vehicle. Make sure to remember these steps and build a habit around them as they could come in handy with your progression of getting used to a manual transmission vehicle. 

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