Join Date: May 2012
Thanked 47 Times in 28 Posts
How many people have you taught to drive stick?
I'm up to 9 so far, and I got another lined up tomorrow.
I am trying to do my part to keep the knowledge of driving stick alive, and hopefully to keep the demand for manuals up. After all, one person can only create so much demand...
As for anyone considering doing this, let me reassure you. I hear plenty of people say they don't teach others because they are afraid the beginners will destroy their clutch. I disagree. From my nine students so far, no one has been rough on the clutch. The most abused part would be the starter. Be prepared for lots of stalling.
First things first, find a FLAT, ideally straight area with a good amount of space. Trying to teach people on a slope is trouble. Teaching around traffic is a big no-no. I found an oval shaped parking lot that is maybe 500 feet in each direction, and it is plenty.
Set some ground rules. "Don't crash my car" is a good one. Only teaching people with a license is another good rule. I always make a point to tell my recruits that in an emergency, the brake works just like it does in an automatic. The clutch pedal is not a footrest, make sure they know that. Recruits will often stall, so make sure they know how to use a starter properly (IE: Release the key right when the engine fires, not a second afterwards). "No lugging" along with an explanation of what lugging is should be provided, although this is not really an issue if you are teaching on flat ground.
I have taught many people, and they have also taught me many things about my instruction style. Unless you tell them otherwise, beginners WILL without fail, shift fast-n-furious style. Before I pointed this out to them, I found that my recruits release the clutch UBER slow, then DUMP it once it starts engaging. I tend to first show a student how/what I want them to do by doing it myself, and pointing out what controls they should be paying attention to.
My most effective instructional method on starting out(which is the hardest part) is to tell them to slowly release the clutch until they hit the engagement point. Once they reach engagement, tell them to hold the clutch there until 3-4 mph, then tell them to release it. Do not touch the gas. Prior to this, I tried to tell them to release the clutch consistently over a time period of about 5 seconds. This had limited success, but it was better than just telling them to release the clutch SLOWLY. Using no throttle allows the learners to get a better feel for where and what the clutch engagement point is.
After they get rolling, tell them to drive the car normally, just as if it was an automatic, just so they understand that aside from starting out and shifting, it really isn't that much different. When you are comfortable with their driving, get them to shift into second. Tell them to accelerate to a speed slightly higher than idling in second will get you, then to shift. The slightly higher speed gives the recruit time to make the shift (they are not very fast at this) and still be over idle speed. Mix up shifting and starting out to keep your clutch cool.
When you are comfortable with their starting skills, tell them to leave the clutch out in neutral, and simply rev up the engine to between 1200-1500 rpm and hold it there. Make them let it back down to idle, and bring it back up to the specified rpm. Make sure they can do this quickly, and they know how little throttle it takes to get it there.
Now it is time to apply that to starting out. Tell them to bring the revs up, and KEEP THEIR FOOT THERE! Do not move the gas. Now tell them to start out as they normally would, let clutch out until hitting engagement point, hold it there, build up speed, and let it out. Make sure they know that the throttle is a constant, and that the only thing being controlled is the clutch. Get them to build up more speed, and depending on the size of your chosen teaching grounds, go for 3rd gear.
Now for the second hard part, downshifting. From third gear, make sure they are going at a speed slightly higher than idle in second, then tell them to go back down to second. Tell them to slowly release the clutch when going back into gear, as it could be rough. You want them to be going slightly higher than idle speed in second for two reasons: 1. They will probably dump the clutch into second, its easy to rev-match into idle speeds, because it is automatically done for you. 2. The extra speed gives them time to make the downshift, they will need it, as this usually takes longer than an upshift.
Explain to the recruit the concept of rev-matching, show them this by slightly increasing the speeds at which they downshift, and how the shift is more jerky if the revs are not matched. I find it is easiest to rev-match by mashing the gas for a certain amount of time, instead of a gentle push for a longer amount of time. Do this at low speeds, and emphasize that they must time the release of the clutch properly when rev-matching in order to be smooth. Rpms upon the second gear downshift should not exceed 2000, if you want to keep your neck.
If your recruit has learned everything else, it is now time to work on necessary traffic driving skills for manual drivers. Timely starts without stalling, and hill-starts would be two essential skills.
Timely starts is the first skill to teach, especially since it builds upon hill starts. Have them start out in neutral, idling, clutch out, and foot on the brake. Then tell them to start moving within 5 seconds from your specified start time. Make sure they can do this, then bump it down to 3 seconds, and then 2 seconds. In preparation for learning hill starts, have them start in gear, idling with clutch in, and have them start within 2 seconds of you telling them, and then 1 second. Now they are ready for a hill start.
Get them on a slight hill if possible, show them that the car will roll back without the brake on, and explain to them the need to quickly start moving otherwise their attempt will end in stalling, frustration, a baked clutch, or combination of those. If you have a HAND brake, use it to just barely hold the car in place, and let them do the rest. Make sure they are still starting out with their foot on the brake, but otherwise start out like before. This is an essential time for them to understand the need to let the clutch out to the engagement point, HOLD IT THERE to build up speed, and then let it out.
I recommend only doing this a few times, if they are good at it, then let them try it out without your assistance with the handbrake. None of my recruits were good at this, only some were adequate. This skill takes experience to learn, reassure them, and make sure they know that.
Wish me a successful session tomorrow! And good luck to you all, should you choose to follow the same path as me!
I usually find that a session takes between 1-2.5 hours for a decent amount of instruction once you get good at it. Car guys will learn this much faster than others.
My sessions have resulted in two people so far expressing interest in getting a manual transmission car.
-Kaze o tatakaimasen-
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