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Re-learning a manual transmission after 15+ years

So after much thought I decided to buy a manual car after 15+ years of driving solely automatic. With my first manual (1991 Pontiac sunbird), I was never that confident with it so I didn’t really want to go back to a manual. But in searching for a new car this year I decided on a VW Golf GTI. Since i couldn’t find any decent automatics in my price range i decided to get a 2015 manual. So now i am in the process of relearning a manual transmission and it is going good so far. I just have a few questions I’d like to throw out there to some more experienced drivers just to make sure I’m not getting into some bad habits.

  1. When waiting at a stop light, if I am further back in line I will wait in neutral with the brake pressed in, but if I’m first or 2nd in line and I have to be ready to go quicker when the light changes, and if I know it will be changing soon, I will wait in 1st with the clutch right at the biting point and the brake pressed so I can make a faster and smoother take off. Is this ok? Or does it damage the clutch to hold it at the biting point too long or too often?

  2. When driving in residential areas, with a lot of stop signs and where my speed rarely gets up to 50km/h, is it ok to stay in 2nd, slow down as much as I can without stalling at the stop signs, but not fully stop if there is no one around, then slowly accelerate again while still in 2nd?

  3. Kinda similar to question 2, but when turning corners without stopping (no stop sign or green light) if I am in 3rd is it better to downshift to 2nd or can I stay in 3rd, slow down a bit for the corner than slowly accelerate out? I understand that I should not accelerate quickly while in low rpms in higher gears but is it ok to do so slowly?

  4. My GTI, and I assume lots of other cars, has a display that tells me when I should shift. How closely should I follow this? It seems to want me to shift as soon as on each 2000 rpms and sometimes wanting me to shift up to gears, like from 3 to 5. This seems a little early and excessive to me.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Good for you, not enough people know how to drive a manual.

  1. If you can feel the clutch starting to bite there is wear on the plate.

  2. Stop signs mean stop.

  3. I tend to down shift to keep from stalling and have power to come out of the turn

  4. Put tape over the shift light. It is there to to improve the mileage (CAFE) not for drive ability.


Like riding a bike, you never forget. Just don’t lug the engine is all. Putting it in neutral is up to you. The only time I did it was to rest my leg.

Agree with @SteveCBT on all his answers.

  1. Followup comment, push the clutch ALL the way in, not hold at the bite point. If you can’t put the pedal to the floor, move the seat closer. The clutch pedal should be all-in or all-out as much as practical. Yeah, there’s a bit of slip when you pull away, but work to minimize that as much as possible.

I agree with the comments. Your effort to avoid shifting at corners and slow downs is generally not a good practice. When you down shift you put the car in a gear that will give you more control over forward progress. If you need to accelerate suddenly to avoid something, you can do it in the proper gear. If you need to slow down quickly a lower gear will provide more engine braking and will help you stop quickly while maintaining control. It will become second nature to you and you won’t be bothered by it at all as you get more comfortable with driving.


Agree. Do NOT hold the clutch at the ‘bite point’. That’s a sure way to quickly wear out your clutch.

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Agree with above.
To avoid (as much as possible) the revolt of the impatient automatic BMW driver behind you, watch the other side of the traffic light when possible and when the yellow is switching to red, then push the clutch down and start the process.
I have driven stick all my life and it is over the last 5-10 yrs that I have noticed with the abundance of auto’s, people do not understand that someone else might actually be shifting.
The bigger problem is on the hills when the car behind you leaves you all of 2 inches.
On the turns, you have to learn the sweet spot for your car. On my Veloster I can take a few of them in the 3rd and some in the 2nd.
I had a friend who is a race car driver ride with me a few weeks ago and he was commenting “with your shifting, the clutch would outlive the car”. You can do it but more difficult in places that there is a lot of traffic, like LA (where I am).


I’ve been driving stick for over 30 years now

There was only a 3 year period where I didn’t drive stick daily

My car for the last several years now has been an automatic

But I still drive stick several times a week at work . . . class 4 and above vehicles

At least I’m not out of practice

Unless I bought a sports car for personal use, I’m not sure I would ever buy another stick shift vehicle to drive

I’ve driven manuals for decades, and still do, my daily driver is a 27 year old manual. I’ve never had to replace a clutch or repair a manual transmission. When waiting for a red light I put the trans in neutral and don’t press on the clutch pedal at all. Only after the light turns green do I press on the clutch pedal. When I come to a stop sign in a residential area or anywhere else and nobody’s around to prevent my forward motion, I still come to a full stop, pressing the clutch pedal in briefly, stopping, and then proceeding. Part of the reason I do it this way is b/c traffic citations for even minor infractions are super-expensive in this area, 500 dollars and up. I can’t afford the financial risk of not coming to a full stop. When I round corners in a residential neighborhood that require I go slow (for example obscured sight-lines, poorly lit intersections, and/or the possibility of pedestrians making a quick stop necessary) I’ll generally approach in 2nd or third, then I brake to slow & press the clutch in and coast around the corner. If I didn’t have to slow down much I’ll just release the clutch pedal and continue. If I had to slow down more I’ll shift to a lower gear then continue.

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I agree

My brother only believes in “California stops” . . . he’s had many speeding tickets and other infractions over the years. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before he gets busted for not stopping when he should

I still kind of think you’re pulling my leg

Unlike you, I can’t afford to live in ritzy silicon valley :smiley:

There’s lots of middle class folk who live here. All the same stuff that needs to be done anywhere needs to be done in silicon valley. If the workers who keep the water flowing couldn’t afford to live here, there’d be no water coming out of the taps. But there’s always water that comes out when I turn the tap on. So they must be able to afford to live here, one way or another.

Typically, dwp workers are extremely well paid, usually much better than other city workers.

To make sure I’m comparing apples to apples . . . dwp auto mechanics get paid way more than other city mechanics, even though they’re working for the same city

Here’s an additional possible benefit of manual transmission when one is first in line at a red light and one DOESN’T step on the clutch until the light turns green: it gives one a little bit of extra delay in case there is a very late red light runner in the cross traffic.

(OTOH, if the cross traffic is noticeably slowing down, one could choose to step on the clutch a little bit earlier and erase that delay. )

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I got a right turn ticket at a red light here in Southern CA a few yrs ago. It was in an automatic car, midnight in the boonies, rushing to the hospital. It cost me close to $1K with all the fluff (traffic school/etc).
But this was after 10 yrs of driving in LA. In the next 18 months since I was on “probation”, I was very careful but it adds a lot of time to my commute/driving.Maybe if I do the math, I am better off with the once every 10 yrs ticket.

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Thank you all for your suggestions. I will try to do things the proper way and not let my lazy side take over. Hopefully it wont take too long for me to become “one with the car” so everything is quicker and smoother.

I agree with all of the good advice that has been provided so far, but I want to add a comment in regard to…

Even if you think that there is nobody around, you could be mistaken. In the town where I lived many years ago, my AM commute took me through a commercial section that was virtually abandoned in the early morning hours. As a result, I used to do a rolling stop at a particular intersection. However, one morning I got a big surprise when a cop who had been parked in a vacant lot pulled me over for failure to stop.

Just because you don’t see other cars, that does not ensure that there really aren’t other cars around–including police cars.


First of all, congrats on finding the sweet ride

Now that’s out of the way, I have to say that questions 1 to 3 have a common theme- what’s the easy way to do this quickly? The hard truth is there is no easy way about this. Here’s an example of how hard it can be

You’ll stall from time to time, hopefully not in front of a crowd, and miss gears. That’s the nature of driving a manual. But this is something I want to keep driving if I don’t have to buy a minivan for the twin babies And as with any skills in life, you won’t become good at it if you stay in your comfort zone.

Your goal right now is not getting up to speed as quickly as possible. You need to learn to calm your nerve.

When you can relax despite all other distractions, clutch control comes naturally. Also practice downshifting before you turn. Practice rev matching so that you’ll barely feel it after you’ve let or the clutch. I drove in places where you have to downshift from third to first before you make the turn or you’ll stall. And when you think you’ve become proficient, take it up a notch trying it in a pair of thick timberland boots.

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I flagged your post because obscene language isn’t appropriate here. Just tell them to google the video.

The good news is that the car will tell you if you’re screwing up. It will lug if you’re in too high a gear for your speed and try to accelerate. Just listen to what the car is telling you and you’ll be fine

That is true, but some people will either ignore the evidence, or not know what it means.
I used to work with a woman who had learned to drive stick shifts during the 1940s, and drove them up to the early '60s.

After driving automatic trans cars for several years, she decided to buy a stick shift car again in–IIRC–1982. The first time that I rode with her, I noticed that she was shifting far too early, and that she was lugging the engine very badly. I attempted to diplomatically suggest that she upshift at a higher speed, and she essentially told me to mind my own business.
Case closed!