Learning to Drive a Manual- Growing Pains

So I just bought my second car. It’s a '07 VW Rabbit. The car is a manual and it’s my first manual car. I thought I was doing a little better at driving it (I even had to start on a hill with some traffic behind me) but then as I was downshifting to stop I took it out of 3rd forgetting to use the clutch. I didn’t hear anything but after doing some research I hear that taking it out of gear without using the clutch can be extremely damaging to the gear (warping, ect.) It drove fine after but will I have problems in the future because of this?
Also, how damaging is it to the car to stall it? I’ve stalled it a lot here in the begging- will it come back to haunt me?

Neither one of those activities, stalling or pulling it out of gear without the clutch will do any harm. Resting your foot on the clutch pedal or your hand on the shifter, THAT will come back to haunt you. Get your clutching and shifting done and then rest your hands and feet elsewhere.

Stalling is just embarrassing. Don’t worry too much about it. Lugging the engine is a different matter. Lugging is trying to accelerate in too low a gear and getting that chug-chug-chug feeling trying to get moving. It is a bit hard on the engine. Just clutch, shift down a gear and go.

It is unlikely you will hurt anything pulling it out of gear without the clutch unless you have the gas pedal to the floor when you do it. I’ve been driving manuals most of my life and I can shift up or down withOUT the clutch AT ALL in one of my cars without so much as a gear grind or bump. I don’t recommend you do that without years and years of practice but its possible and hurts nothing if done correctly.

Don’t sweat the small mistakes. We all do them, even me, even now. Welcome the the rarefied world of people who can drive a stick, there aren’t many of us around anymore!

I taught my sisters to drive manuals by finding a large empty parking lot and having them start from a dead stop with just the idle speed. Of course they stalled the first few times but in a very short time they could start off and get to 5th gear without touching the accelerator.

I agree with the information above. I’ll also point out that over time you should focus on keeping the time that the clutch is partially engaged to a minimum. If you always let the clutch out too slowly, you’ll take quite a few miles off the lifetime of your clutch.

Thanks @Mustangman! That makes me feel a lot better.
@lion9car I need to be better about letting the clutch out faster. When I’m upshifting I’m a little slow and downshifting is even worse as I try to let it out slow to avoid a lurch. I’ve really only done the downshifting right a couple times as far as matching everything and with no lurch.

I assume you mean downshifting when needed, say, to pass or going up a hill. There’s no need to downshift through the gears when coming to a stop.

Rocher wrote:
I need to be better about letting the clutch out faster.

This isn’t critical, so you don’t have to rush and get nervous. Just keep it in mind as you get more comfortable shifting over the next few weeks.

Your right/left foot coordination when changing gears will improve over time. Just keep practicing and you will get the feel for it. Everyone has to get used to using the manual transmission in a car they are not familiar with.

My '07 Civic was a bee-eye-itch to shift smoothly. There seemed to be a fraction of a second delay before the throttle-by-wire decided to communicate.

You didn’t hurt your car by pulling it from 3rd to neutral without depressing the clutch. It isn’t a good idea, but I could shift the manual transmission cars that were built in the 1940s and 1950s without depressing the clutch, and do it without any grinding noise. If the shifting is done around the synchronization speed, it can be done. It isn’t advisable as,it puts undue wear on the synchronizers. I never did this for downshifting. On those old 3 speed manual transmissions, first gear wasn’t synchronized, so,to get into low gear when moving, one had to double clutch. I commend you for buying a car with a,manual that should be fun to drive. I think a manual transmission gives the driver better control. Unfortunately, minivans aren’t available with manual transmissions and I need a minivan.

Practicing in an empty parking lot does seem to help. I taught 3 boys and a girl to drive manual transmissions before allowing them to drive automatics and once they understand what needs to be done it’s just a matter of making it second nature to do it.

There is no real need to downshift though. When coasting to a stop shift to neutral and release the clutch pedal while braking and if the light changes to green while still moving shift into whatever gear is appropriate and continue on.

And when coasting down pulling the lever to neutral with no load on the drive train will do no harm.


“On those old 3 speed manual transmissions, first gear wasn’t synchronized, so, to get into low gear when moving, one had to double clutch.”

I remember well learning to drive on a 1952 Ford Ranch Wagon with one of those transmissions. It was a real feeling of accomplishment to get the hang of it, and is probably the reason most of my vehicles since then have had manuals.

You can rest your mind at ease. If the shifter came out of third without a struggle it means that there was very low to no load on the gears when you pulled it out. That won’t hurt a thing.

As to learning, we all learn differently. Perhaps it would ease the learning process if you took the time to figure out how you personally learn.

Myself, I cannot learn by rote. I absolutely have to understand how something works. I’ve always been that way. Once I understood how a manual transmission works, I was able to figure out how to drive it properly.

Perhaps in your case someone has to walk you through the steps. If that’s the way you learn, find a friend or family member who’s good and have them come along for a ride and walk you through it a few times.

Good for you for trying out a manual transmission. You might well decide you like it better, you have a little more control of the shifting strategy and can keep the engine in the rpm range you like. And you’ll likely benefit in the pocketbook twice, first when you buy the car, and second, less expensive maintenance and repairs.

Concur w/the advice above, shifting from 3 to neutral one time without using the clutch by accident usually doesn’t cause a transmission problem. Not one that would produce a symptom anyway. But it could cause some add’l wear and tear and if you kept doing it, you might end up with a symptom. The amount of wear and tear a single incident would cause depends on how much load was on the gears then. If you were travelling along at a modest and constant speed, neither accelerating nor slowing down, that would probably be about the best time to forget to use the clutch.

If downshifting is causing you grief, suggest to defer downshifting until you gain confidence. Use the brakes instead. When I learned to drive a manual, I learned at the same time how to double clutch. That wasn’t exactly my choice, but it came with the instruction. Now it is second nature, and I’d have a hard time not doing it. That helps smooth things out when downshifting. That technique is not for you at this point, but maybe something to consider after some more experience and gaining confidence.

There will always be a lurch after a downshift if you simply let the clutch out. It doesn’t matter how slow you let it out; it will be perceptible to those who know how to drive a stick. To eliminate that, you need to rev the engine until it is spinning at the speed of the new gear. Then you can let the clutch out quickly after a downshift without a jerk

It seems that in the 1930s through the 1940s, manufacturers came up with systems so that the motorist wouldn’t have to use the clutch. Hudson had an optional vacuum operated clutch, Packard had an electrically operated clutch. The Borg-Warner overdrive, when engaged, was free wheeling until the overdrive was kicked in by releasing the accelerator when the speed exeeded 28 mph, allowed shifting without the clutch. We needed one of these systems after Mrs.,Triedaq broke her left foot. She couldn’t get the clutch depressed just using one crutch, so she used both crutches. This is known,as,“double crutching”…

Oh boy. I still remember my dad explaining the whole H pattern and we’d go down to the fair grounds and I’d drive that 58 Chevy wagon a little. I couldn’t have been more than 12 then. Never seemed to think there’d be a problem with the police at the fair grounds with a 12 year old kid driving the car. Just kinda felt natural.