How to Calculate When to Shift

When learning how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, it's easy to think that there's a proven way to know exactly when it's the right time to shift. Since keeping your eye on the tachometer the entire time that you're driving is out of the question, you may be tempted to think that there's a way to precisely time when to shift the car. This also, is incorrect. Shifting a manual transmission is accomplished by feel and sound much more than by any other means.


    • 1

      Seat yourself in the car and fasten your seatbelt. The vehicle should be in a large, spacious parking lot so that you can practice shifting through at least three gears without going over 35 miles per hour.

    • 2

      Depress the clutch, and then depress the brake with your other foot. Turn on the vehicle ignition, and then shift the gear shift into first gear. Take your foot off the brake with the clutch still engaged, and depress the gas slightly while releasing the clutch pedal slowly. When you feel the engine catch, continue slowly releasing the clutch while depressing the gas pedal.

    • 3

      Listen to the sound of the engine. If the revs are low, such as when the vehicle is at idle, they are too low to shift, and the vehicle will buck and stall when you attempt to shift into the next gear. The correct sound to listen for is the same sound the engine made when you pressed the gas and started off from a standstill. The speed you will be traveling at the first shift will be between 10 and 15 miles per hour.

Tips & Warnings

  • Practice in an open parking lot so that you can concentrate on getting a feel for the transmission without having to worry about what's coming around the next corner.
Related Searches


  • "Professional Driving Techniques: The Essential Guide to Operating a Motor Vehicle with Confidence and Skill"; Anthony Scotti; 2007
  • "The Driving Book: Everything New Drivers Need to Know but Don't Know to Ask"; Karen Gravelle; 2005
  • "Drive Without Fear: The Insecure Driver's Guide to Independence"; Norman Klein; 2000
  • Photo Credit Dynamic Graphics Group/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images

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