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Learn how to how to shift a manual car in traffic faster & smarter.

How to Drive a Manual Car In Traffic (ADVANCED)



• This driving lesson is NOT for those just starting out--See Lesson #1--or those working toward their road test.

• Do not downshift in a manual car to slow the vehicle - use the brakes.

• Rev matching and heel-toe shifting are racing techniques and NOT required for everyday traffic situations in a manual car.

• When waiting at a traffic light, put the transmission in neutral and release the clutch. Be SURE however, that you're ready to go when the light changes and/or traffic starts moving.

• You're in 1st gear for a VERY short time - only enought to start the vehicle moving.

• Do NOT coast in neutral.

• After first gear, ensure that you've completely released the clutch before accelerating. This technique becomes MORE, and MORE important as you drive larger and heavier vehicles.

• Before corners, curves, and turns, slow the vehicle ans shift to the appropriate gear so that you can power through the turn.

• Shift through the gears as quickly as possible. In most 5-speed transmissions, you should be in 3rd gear a short distance after an intersection.

• You can skip gear up if you're going downhill, or you're slowing a lot. You can shift from 5th gear to second for example.

• On the highway when using cruise, tapping the clutch pedal will cancel cruise control on older vehicles. On newer vehicles, you'll need to use the cancel button.

• Shift faster to get in your cruising gear, and then work the throttle rather than shifting gears.


Closed Caption


Hi there, Smart Drivers.

Rick with Smart Drive Test talking to you today about shifting a manual transmission.

This is not for drivers getting a license.

This is for after you get your license and you want to learn how to shift a little bit faster.

Rick August, PhD demonstrates how to shift a manual car smoothly, efficiently, and faster.

Maybe prolong a life of your clutch.

So, that's what we're going to talk about today.

Stick around.

We'll be right back with that information.

Hi there, Smart Drivers.

Welcome back.

Rick with Smart Drive Test talking to you about normal shifting on a manual transmission.

What you do when you're driving every day and how you do that.

Smart Driver Comment

I had a comment from Delvi and he asked me to do a video on how to shift faster in a manual transmission.

So, this video is not for drivers going for a road test.

Learn how to shift a manual car faster and smoother with these tips & techniques.

This is for after you get your road test and you start driving a manual transmission.

Now, just before we get started here, if you're new here, Smart Drive Test helps new drivers pass a road test regardless of license and helps veteran drivers to remain crash-free.

So, be sure to hit that subscribe button just about there.

As well, hit that bell so that way you'll get instant notification when I get the videos up for you.

And I try really hard to get the videos published every Wednesday and Saturday for you.

So today, driving a manual transmission.

Every day driving, normal transmission.

Put Transmission Into Neutral at Light

And when you're sitting at a light, you can put it into neutral and let the clutch out.

Now, you got to kind of watch the traffic on that because if you're a newer driver and you're trying to learn how to do this, you don't want to get caught out.

But I was behind the big truck there and the big truck's not going to get a whole lot of speed up off the light.

After you get your license put the transmission in neutral when sitting at a traffic light.

So, I got plenty of time to put it into neutral.

One of the claims is that you're going to wear out your throw bearing if you leave it in gear and hold the clutch in at the intersection after you learn how to drive.

So, I'm going to do another interview on that and I'm going to interview some mechanics and talk to them and see what their opinion is on that.

Because I've had that advice two or three times and other people and other driving channels have talked about wearing out your clutch and the throw bearing if you leave it in gear with the clutch in.

So, we'll get another video and when I get that video up, put a card up in the corner for you so you can watch that video and decide for yourself whether you're going to increase the longevity of your clutch.

So, shifting normally, we just come up.

Down to 1000 RPM.

I got to see my camera here.

I got my glasses on because it's nice and sunny here today which is beautiful.

Okay and neutral clutch out.

I have to remind myself too to do that (laughs).

Just keep my foot on the brake and I'm watching a light up here.

It's red and all the traffic has stopped.

And again, I'm behind this big truck that's going to accelerate slowly off the light.

It actually is a very big truck.

When approaching a stop, brake until the tachometer reaches 1,000 and then push in the clutch.

So, the light's turned to green now.

And I got plenty of time here you can see.

Just back into first gear.

And we proceed.

And I got one vehicle behind me.

Scanning the intersection.

Proceeding, I'm into second gear already.

I'm not even through the intersection.

I'm up into third gear.

Quick, Smooth, Efficient Shifting

You can see how quickly I'm shifting here.

Once you get comfortable with it, you do a few miles in a manual transmission, you're going to shift the gears fairly quickly.

And again, I come back to, I think it was less than three on the manual transmissions about looking in your owner's manual for the speeds of the different gears.

I can just tell this vehicle, I drive it the same all the time and I've had this vehicle for three years.

To learn the road speeds appropriate for each gear in your manual car look in the owner's manual.

I'm pretty comfortable with the vehicle and I'm in fourth gear.

And how fast am I going?

I'm doing just over 40 kilometers an hour because the chip truck here, the wood chip truck, the Super "Bs" which weighs about 140,000 pounds or 63,500 kilograms, is not traveling very fast through town.

That driver is just keeping his or her space back from the other traffic and trying to keep the vehicle moving.

Because it's a lot of work to run up and down through the gears on that truck.

So, that's what they're doing.

So, I'm just hanging back and you saw that vehicle pull in front of me in the space there and I just backed off.

I still got my good space in front of me.

We talked about following distance and how important that is to safe driving.

And again, shoulder checking twice.

The vehicle in front of me is turning.

Downshifting for Turning

And this vehicle here, transmission is geared a little higher.

So, I can put it into third gear to go around the corner.

And you can see it just dropped down to about 1200 RPM.

You will downshift a manual car for the purposes of turning, but NOT for slowing the vehicle.

And just went around the corner.

Shift to fourth.

And again, I'm just going to leave my signal on because I'm going to go right over into the turning lane and I'm going to turn left here.

And again, I don't have to slow down.

There's no traffic coming.

I just shift into third.

And I go around the corner.

Now, for some of you, the gearing might be a little be a little bit different in a manual transmission so you're going to have to shift down to second to go around the corner.

But this vehicle here, these years of Honda's manual transmissions, the gearing was a bit higher so you could just leave it in third most of the time going around even on a right-hand turn.

But sometimes on a right-hand turn you might want to slow down even more.

And to slow down even more then you'll want to put it into second gear.

So again, into third gear, shoulder checking.

Shoulder check when turning left in the event that someone cut in on the inside.

Shoulder Checking on Left Turns...Why?

And you may wonder why I'm shoulder checking on a left-hand turn and I'll put a video up in the corner for you on why you shoulder check on left-hand turns.

It's important that you shoulder check on left-hand turns because vehicles may sneak up on the inside of you there.

And I'm in third gear still.

Shoulder checking.

And you want to maintain shoulder checking after you get your license.

And there's a crosswalk there.

There's nobody at the crosswalk.

And even though it's lugged down a little bit you can see it's right down to 1200 RPM in a four cylinder gasoline engine, a petrol engine.

Lazy Shifting

I still just kind of wiggle the throttle a little bit because I don't like shifting.

Shift as little as possible! In other words, shift smarter, not harder.

I'm an old truck driver.

We're lazy people.

Okay, now I can shift down to second there.

Foot right off the clutch as quickly as possible.

And I'm not getting up a whole lot of speed here because I got to come to a stop sign.


Somebody opened their door there right in front of me.

You probably caught that in the camera.

And I just caught it in the last second when they flipped the door open there.

Okay, back to first.

And I'm having to look past the snowbanks here.

And you'll see how fast here and not even halfway through the intersection I'm already into second gear.

Third gear.

Fourth gear.

1st gear in a manual car is just to get the vehicle going. You are in 1st gear for a very short period of time before shifting to second.

So, I go through the gears pretty quickly.

Highest Gear; Lowest Rev

And remember, on a manual transmission, for maximum fuel economy is the highest gear for the lowest rev of the engine.

No matter whether that's a gasoline engine or whether that's a diesel engine.

And as well, you want to try and get through the gears as quickly as possible.

So, I'm just inching up here in first gear.

Traffic's coming.

Vehicle turning on the other side.

This is a pretty complex intersection.

So, still got another vehicle here on my left coming and they're turning.

I got a pickup truck.

I'm just going to wait for the pickup truck.

It's pretty complicated because we've got service industries and there's a pedestrian there.

So, the pedestrian stopped the other vehicle coming.

Scan intersections well in advance to locate pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

So, I snuck in there.


And again, as you can see, took me a very short amount of time to get the vehicle up to third gear.

So again, I'm in third gear.

Shoulder checking.

Into the left lane.


And then I just move over to the right lane here.

And I probably should've put the waterproof cover on (laughs) the GoPro.

But it's all right.

I don't suspect there's a great deal of water coming up there.

Even though there's a bit of water.

Now, I'm in fifth gear here and you can see that this tachometer is right down.

You can skip gears in a manual car both when up- and down shifting.

Skipping Gears

Now I can skip gears.

I just skipped a gear.

I went down to third.

And again, I know the vehicle.

But you can look in your owner's manual and figure out what the speeds are, the different speeds, and just skip gears, right?

I just went from fifth to third.

And I'm not going too fast here because it's a red light.

So, I put my signal on, I'm going to turn the corner here.

And I'm in fourth so I switch down to third.

And I didn't give it any break.

Just come up here.

There's no pedestrians.

Get into the appropriate gear for the turn before actually turning the car so that you can focus on steering and observation.

And I didn't want to go in beside that vehicle on my left.

So, I'm moving over to the left.

So, that's why I kind of paused there a little bit.

I was waiting for that car to get in front of me because you don't want to merge in beside another vehicle.

That's what I was doing there.

And I was a little late on my shoulder check there.


Getting Stopped at a Yellow Light

And you saw that light went yellow.

I just snuck over the line there.

I was going to go.

And then just as soon as I snuck over the line, the light turned to yellow.

So, instead of pushing through, I just stopped where I was.

I'm behind the crosswalk lines and as long as you're behind the crosswalk lines, even if you're on a road test, that's fine.

So, just stopped on the yellow there and soon as the light turned green I stuck it back into gear.

You saw that I was off the clutch and into neutral when I was sitting here at the light.

When stopping for a yellow light traffic light that

And I haven't moved forward yet.

I really should start moving forward.

There's a gap there.

There's not enough of a gap so I'm not going to move forward.

But I got a gap after the blue pickup truck.

And the blue pickup truck is turning so I'm going to start moving forward to meet the gap on the white pickup truck.

Shoulder checking.

Checking again.

There's nobody coming.

And we go.

And you can see, very short distance, like even half block, I'm already into third gear, right?

And this road here is a bit winding.

I'm up into fourth gear.

And I'm probably speeding a little bit because I can feel that I'm doing over 50 kilometers an hour.

When proceeding through an intersection in a manual car, be ready for the traffic on the other side that too is turning left...they could be pointed at you.

I should be doing the speed limit.

But we're not, like I said, we're not doing this for a road test.

We're doing this just to show people how to drive a manual transmission after they get their license and how to do that.

All right, so we're up here, we're going to turn left at the intersection.

And again, there's a car coming here.

So, I'm going to stop, check my mirrors, make sure that there's nobody behind me that's going to climb up into my trunk.

Because (laughs) sometimes if you stop too quickly, that's what's going to happen, right?

So, this person's going pretty slow.

So, shoulder checking, sneak in before that truck.

You can see that I'm fairly aggressive on the throttle.

I'm getting it right up to three grand.

I mean, if you're getting out on a highway or merging, you might even take it up to four or 5000 RPM to really get some goal.

And if I do that out on a freeway or highway, actually I might go back the other way and show you how to do that.

When entering a highway or freeway in a manual car, you may have to leave in in 3rd gear and wind the petrol engine out to 4 or 5,000 rpm.

Winding er' up to get er' goin'

I would take it into third gear and I might go right up to 5000 RPM.

And then, what I would do is just switch from third to fifth.

I would just skip gears.

The only reason I'm doing that is to accelerate to get my speed up really quickly.

Now, see this car here, it's turning right.

I don't know whether you can see that in the camera or not.

I wait until that car commits.

That is a fundamental defensive driving technique.

Is when you got a car turning right, do not pull out in front of that car until that car actually commits to the turn.

And what I mean by commits, is that they start going into the turn.

All right, now I have an emergency vehicle here.

Okay, the emergency vehicle went down there.

So, I'm good.

I'm in second.

I want to go back to first.

Because I came to a stop there.

And I felt that as soon as I let the clutch out, I could feel it kind of go, "oh that's the wrong gear."

At times in a manual car, when getting going from a stop, you'll find that you're in the wrong gear. And in the wrong gear, you may stall the engine.

So, as soon as I felt that, I just touched the gear selector and I knew I was in third gear.

So, what I did was I stuck it back into first.

Without stalling it.

Okay, and I'm in third gear again.

All right.

And what I'm going to do is I'm going to shift it down to second there.

It was obviously lugging on that one.

So, I shift it down to second just to get it going again.

And I'm in fourth already.

Speed Limit in the City

And I'm doing just over 50 kilometers an hour.

50 kilometers an hour.

30 miles an hour is the speed limit in the city unless otherwise posted.

And so obviously here, that's what the speed limit is.

After turning left in a manual car, move back to the right to facilitate the flow of traffic.

And I've got that truck in front of me so I just let off a little bit and regain my space behind that truck.

That truck is still going slow.

So, you know, I'm going uphill here.

And because I'm going uphill and I'm fourth gear, it may lug a little bit.

And I may decide to shift down to third.

But I don't need to.

I've got enough momentum, forward momentum to keep the vehicle going that it's not going to lug too much.

Even though it's down to 1500 RPM.

I just keep checking.

Got a lot of glare on my camera on my speedometer.

So, I can't really see it.

That's why I keep lifting my glasses up to look.

So, what I'm going to do is I'm just going to go out to the highway here and then, show you how to do that acceleration.


Driver opens car door jeopardizing safety of traffic.

Controlling Speed to Power Through

And actually, I shifted down to second there to control my speed coming around the corner.

Because you don't want to do what that big truck did when he just went out into the other lane.

You always want to turn right lane to right lane, left lane to left lane.

Because if you don't, again defensive driving moves.

One of the things about defensive driving is that you want to be predictable.

When you are not predictable and you are going around from the right-hand lane right out into this left-hand lane, you are not being predictable.

And when you do that, you risk being involved in a crash with another driver because you could potentially be in a crash.

Because they're not expecting you to do that.

I'm in the left lane right now.

Other traffic is expecting me to drive into the left-hand lane over on the other side of the road.

Because when cars come around there, they're going from right to right.

And not all drivers employ defensive driving strategies where they, he or she, goes from right to left.

So, if they move out into the other lane, then that's their fault.

But, if you're going to the left lane, then you're going to protect yourself.

Never pull out in front of a vehicle turning right until the vehicle commits to the turn.

You're going to keep a buffer of space between you and other vehicles.

And that is one of the fundamental tenants of defensive driving is to maintain a buffer of space around your vehicle.

And by going right lane to right lane and left lane to left lane, you're going to keep that buffer of space around your vehicle and you're going to be safer.

And that's what you want to do.

So, right now we're just, like I said.

Quickly into gear there.

You saw I just hammered it into gear and into the left lane here.

And I get past.

And I start straightening out.

Shift to third gear.

Now, when I'm straight, now I put my signal on to move over.

And again, the big truck's got the brake lights on here but it's a green light.

So, we're going to get going here.

And I don't trust this car here.

And you saw that it went to yellow.

And the reason I didn't trust that car is because I saw it inching forward and it was faced into me (laughs).

So, if that car got rear-ended from the back end, then that vehicle would have got shoved directly into me.

When driving a manual car on the highway, scan well ahead to predict traffic patterns and the actions of other road users.

Okay there, and you saw again, I kind of got caught out because I was talking to you guys.

And (laughs) I was talking to you, the Smart Driver.

So, quickly I just shove it into gear.

But because I've got lots of experience, I can do that.

I can quickly get it into first gear.

But those of you that might have a little bit less experience, you might not be able to do that right away.

Okay, so I'm in fourth gear.

And I'm obviously speeding a little bit.

I'm doing 60 here.

Now, I don't like this vehicle in front of me because they're just like right off the corner of me.

And again, another yellow light here.

Now, we might be able to do this but I don't think so because there's a long acceleration lane here that precludes me from, you know, revving it out like I normally would.

To show you.

But I might go up the highway and see whether I can show you how to do that or not.

So again, I'm in neutral.

Got my foot off the clutch.

And the traffic's not coming through.

It's a little more tricky when you're at the beginning of the line of traffic.

When you're doing this.

When you're in neutral.

You really got to watch the lights.

When driving a manual car and are stopped at a busy intersection, watch the traffic coming from the service industries - especially pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Now I can kind of sense that it's getting close so I put it back in gear but you can see there's a lane of left-turning traffic and they probably have an advanced turn.

So, that's your other indicator but they don't have an advanced turn.

So, the light went green.

And again, I'm going to let this car beside me go because this merges into one lane up here.

And again, I'm watching this car beside which is just he or she wants to go first.

She wants to go first.

So, we're going to let her go first.

And now, I'm kind of stuck behind here.

So, I'm just going to hang back and do my thing.

And I'm in fourth gear.

And I'm up to 80.

The speed limit out here is 90.

And I got my signal on early.

Lots of gap on the highway here.

And again, I'm already into fifth gear on the highway.

So, there's nobody beside me.

I got lots of room.

I just drift over into my lane.

When driving on highways and interstates with a manual car, be aggressive with the throttle and the gearing to get the vehicle up to speed as quickly as possible.


And that's all you do.

And the other thing you're going to have to be comfortable with is you're going to have to be comfortable with working the temperature controls on the air conditioning and the defrost and the heat and all sorts of things while you're driving.

So, if you're taking a road test and it's cold, you're going to have to defrost the windows or you're going to have to put the air conditioning on in the summer time and those types of things.

Get comfortable with that as well.

And again, we're just following traffic.

We're just keeping good space between our vehicle and the other vehicle.

And again, we're into fifth gear.

I'm just going to pull it up to 100 kilometers an hour.

10 kilometers an hour over the speed limit.

Using Cruise Control

Over the posted speed limit.

When driving a manual car on the highway, use cruise control to reduce distracted driving.

And that's fine after you get your license.

We're just keeping up with the traffic flow.

And I'll just stick the cruise control on.

The kids have been in the car.

They turned the cruise control off (laughs).

So, we'll get it going here again.

Up to the set posted speed limit, the set limit I want.

There we go.

Preventing Being Rear-Ended

All right, so we're going to get off here and I'll show you how to do this.

Skipping gears from third to fifth.

Again, I'll try not to slow down too much.

But I did put my signal on early and the truck behind me knew I was slowing down so they moved over to the other lane.

Okay, stop.

First gear.

Getting It Going on a Highway or Freeway

And again, this is the roadway that I did the judging gap video on.

Like I said, it's high-speed.

Always observe to the rear of the vehicle to avoid being rear-ended in traffic.

It's a bit interesting out here.

I'm into the center.

Third gear.

And I'm staying here.

And there you went.

I went right up to 4000 RPM, I think.

And then, I just skipped gears and shifted it into fifth gear.

And now I'm up to the speed limit and I put it on set.

And that's one of the other things you can do in terms of skipping gears in order to get more acceleration because you're going to get more acceleration in third gear than you will in fourth gear so it's better to just leave it in third, run it right up to four or 5,000 RPM on a petrol engine obviously not on a diesel engine (laughs).

For those of you in here who have small diesels, you don't want to run it up that high.

1500, 2500 RPM maybe, on a diesel.

I don't know on a smaller diesel what your RPM range is.

But definitely have a look in your owner's manual and that will help you in terms of how far you can go on the maximum on your gears.

For getting maximum acceleration out onto a highway or a freeway or a motorway or what not.

(car zooms)

Conclusion of driving a manual car smoothly, smartly, and more efficiently.

Quick review of shifting a manual transmission after you get your license.

As you saw here in the video today, go through the gears fairly quickly.

And you can skip gears.

Shifting down.

You can shift from fourth to second going around a corner and those types of things.

Most of the time, you're going to go around a left-hand corner in third gear.

You're going to go around right-hand corners in second gear.

And my Honda here it's got a different gearing ratio.

So, sometimes on right-hand turns I can go around in third gear.

But you'll just have to sort of figure that out a little bit in your own vehicle.

And have a look at the owner's manual.

It'll also give you the speeds for shifting in each gear.

And as well, you saw there when I went out on the highway, that I just accelerated in third gear up to four, 5,000 RPM in a small petrol engine and then I shift directly to fifth gear.

That way I can just get my speed up much more quickly to get up to the flow of traffic on the highway and the speed that they are traveling which is safer for you as a driver after you get your license.

Not for the purposes of a road test.

Question for smart drivers: when stopped at an intersection in your manual car, do you put the transmission into neutral and let the clutch out?

Question for my Smart Drivers:

If you're driving a manual transmission, do you put it into neutral and let the clutch out when you're sitting at a light?

Leave a comment down in the comment section.

All of that helps out the new drivers and the veteran drivers all working to be better drivers.

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That course will guarantee you that you pass your road test first time whether it's a learner's or a practical test.

If you finish all the course and don't pass first time, I'll give you your money back within 60 days.

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So, head over there, get that course, and be sure that you don't fail your road test.

Want to pass your driver's test first time. Consider Pass Your Driver's Test First Time Course. The course is completely guaranteed.

But rather, you're successful and pass first time.

I'm Rick with Smart Drive Test.

Thanks very much for watching.

Good luck on your road test.

And remember, pick the best answer.

Not necessarily the right answer.

Have a great day.

Bye now.


The traffic police have themselves a big suburban SUV.

(murmurs) (laughs) They're in full disguise.

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