Two pedals may be good, but many driving enthusiasts believe three pedals are even better. Despite automatics accounting for over 95 per cent of Australian new car sales in 2022, it’s still important to know how to drive a manual car and use that third pedal.
The concept of operating three pedals with only two feet can be daunting for many people. Adding the occasional use of one hand further complicates things, making it easy to understand why driving a car with manual transmission is becoming more and more scarce. Fortunately, there is still hope.
For those who are new to driving or less mechanically inclined, operating a manual car can be nerve-wracking and stressful. In fact, only between one and three percent of vehicles sold by four out of the five top-selling brands in Australia in 2023 have three pedals in their footwell. Toyota is an outlier here, with its manuals accounting for 12.9% of total sales.
However, this was not always the case.
Looking back 10 years to 2013, manuals made up between 17 to 27 per cent of sales each for Toyota, Mazda, Kia, Hyundai, and Ford, and as much as 62 per cent of sales back in 2003.
How do you drive a manual car, and what is the easiest way to learn?
Having a basic understanding of how a car with a manual transmission works can be helpful in learning to drive one.
To put it simply, the transmission transfers torque from the engine to the driven wheels. A car with an automatic transmission changes gear ratios automatically, based on engine speed and throttle inputs. On the other hand, a manual transmission requires the driver to shift gears manually.
The lower the gear, the less speed but more torque. The higher the gear, the more speed but less torque.
For instance, when driving up a steep hill, more torque is needed to keep the vehicle moving. Therefore, a lower gear should be selected by either shifting manually in a manual car or by automatic transmission. Conversely, when maintaining speed on level ground, less torque is required, so a higher gear is sufficient.
Learning how to drive a manual (also known as a stick shift) can be both exciting and intimidating. While automatic transmissions are more common in the United States, there are still many cars that require you to shift gears manually. If you’re ready to take on the challenge, here’s what you need to know.
First things first: familiarize yourself with the three pedals. The one on the far left is the clutch pedal, which is used to engage and disengage the engine from the transmission. The brake pedal is in the middle and should be used just like in an automatic car. Finally, on the right side, there’s the accelerator pedal which controls your speed.
When starting up a manual car, keep your foot on the brake pedal and turn on the ignition. Next, press down on the clutch pedal all the way to the floor with your left foot while shifting into first gear with your right hand (the gear shift will be located in between the two front seats). Slowly and smoothly release your foot from the clutch pedal while pressing lightly on the gas pedal until you feel or hear that “sweet spot” where everything clicks together smoothly.
To change gears while driving, push down once again on the clutch pedal with your left foot while shifting into second gear with your right hand. Release your foot from the clutch while giving it some gas at around 2000 RPMs (revolutions per minute). Repeat this process for higher gears.
Finally, when coming to a stop or slowing down, use your right foot for braking as usual but also remember to depress with your left foot fully onto that clutch pedal as well so as not to stall out or kill off that engine!
With practice and patience, driving a manual car can become second nature. So don’t be afraid – embrace those three pedals!