Wow, can you believe you're here already? Your baby is learning how to drive a stick shift!

It seems like just a short while ago they were learning how to put their shoes on the right feet, wrestling around with you on the floor, and getting excited every time you went to the park. Now they're driving!

I know, it's bittersweet. On the one hand, you miss having a little mini-me worshipping the ground you walked on. But on the other hand, you're so proud of the adult they're becoming, and now it's time to master an essential adult skill in our modern world: driving a manual transmission!

(Yeah, we know, it's not as common as driving an automatic, but we'll explain why it's such a valuable skill!)

So how do you teach your teenager to drive a stick? Right off the bat, you need to know how to drive a stick. We'll assume that you've got that part covered already.


Do you remember when you first learned how to drive a stick shift? It was nerve-wracking, and every stall was embarrassing. But you persevered, and now you have a skill that a dwindling number of adults possess.

But what's the point? After all, most cars today are automatic. Well, there are plenty of reasons for learning how to drive a stick. Let's get into it.

Why Should Your Teen Know How to Drive a Stick Shift?

inside of a car that uses manual transmission or stick shift

Image Source:

I know what you're thinking.

Couldn't you avoid all this headache and just let your kid drive an automatic like almost everyone else? Sure, but also, they could just use velcro shoes instead of learning to tie laces.

See what I mean?

There are many reasons why your teen should know how to drive a stick shift in today's world. Not least is the fact that this is a lifelong skill they can use well into adulthood. And let's admit it, there's something free and empowering about having complete control over the car's engine.

Also, what if they want a career in transportation? Assuming that robots won't replace drivers in the future, they'll need to know how to drive a stick before they even step into a truck-driving classroom. The same goes for cement mixers, dump trucks, fire trucks, and even smaller vehicles like forklifts.

So learning now is a good foundation for future opportunities.

But there's more.

You'll be surprised at its effect on your pocketbook

Did you know that standard transmission vehicles are up to $3,000 less expensive than automatic transmission vehicles? It's true!

An automatic transmission costs a lot more to build and install. Then, there are all the tricky computer components that go along with it, including sensors. That means if your kid is buying a car, they'll save a ton of money by going with a stick shift.

But that's not all.

You see, any transmission-related repairs on an automatic are super-expensive. Not so with a standard transmission. Heck, you can even start a car by rolling it into second gear with a standard transmission!

Can't do that with an automatic.

It gets better mileage 

a man loading the manual car or stick shift with fuel

Image Source:

Here's a big one in today's climate of soaring gas prices and carbon pricing. A standard transmission can be up to 15 percent more fuel efficient than an automatic transmission.

That's thanks to the fact that manual transmissions are less complex, weigh less than automatics, and have more gears to range between than automatics. Also, most automatics have a shifting delay and don't understand when to gear down during sudden high-speed moments like passing.

That causes the vehicle to burn more gas.

With a standard transmission, the driver assumes control over the engine, and this translates into better gas usage. So you not only save money, but you help the environment, too.

It builds confidence 

Have you ever noticed how cool everyone in the Fast and Furious looks cool while they're driving?

Okay, maybe that's a bad example to give to your teen, but the fact of the matter is that there's something confidence-building about driving a stick shift. A smooth stick driver can multitask with ease, barely noticing that they're shifting.

If your teen could use a little confidence bump, knowing how to drive a stick is a great place to start.

It provides invaluable driving skills 

a teen learning how to drive stick shift car through curve road

Image Source:

It is possibly the most invaluable part of driving stick: The insight into your vehicle that you gain from feeling and controlling the engine -- instead of simply pushing the gas and brake without that connection -- sets drivers apart.

We already talked about how that can open future career opportunities. But just being able to drive stick means your teen will be less likely to get stuck in a broken down car, and it's useful in a pinch when nobody else can drive stick.

There are a lot of good reasons for your teen to learn how to drive a stick.

How We Came up with These Instructions 

We really want you to help your teen with this major learning event in their life. After all, they will remember who taught them, where they were, and how it felt for the rest of their lives. No pressure on you!

So we scoured the internet for reputable sources on teaching teens to drive a standard for you, that's a lot of reading you don't have to do now! We also went back to our own knowledge of using a manual transmission, and our own memories of learning. Full disclosure: an ex-girlfriend taught me to drive stick when I was 20, not my parents.

That said, I taught my wife to drive stick, and one day I'll teach my kids when they're old enough.

Once we had compiled all this information from experts, knowledge, and memories, we organized it into the most common-sense step-by-step instructions we could. That way, we created the best ten tips for teaching your teen how to drive a stick shift.

Teaching Your Teen How to Drive a Stick 

a father giving the key of the manual car

Image Source:

How are you feeling? Perhaps you're as nervous as your teen, taking such responsibility on your shoulders. Well, don't be.

You see, there are some basic principles to teaching that you can use here. It's called the Three P's (or PPP method). It stands for Presentation, Practice, Production. Here's how it works.

First, you present the information to the student.

In the case of driving stick, you're going to discuss how each piece works before you do anything. Take the clutch, for example. Explain what it does, how it works, and the basic principle behind using it.

Next, you're going to practice it with them.

You can demonstrate first, and then let your teen practice. Using the same clutch example, you can have your kid practice pressing and depressing and balancing the pedals, while the car is off (make sure the parking brake is on).

Finally, you're going to let your kid "produce" results by actually using what they just learned. With the clutch, they're going to start the car and practice using it, getting into first gear, switching to second, etc.

Use the PPP method for each of the steps below and your teen will know how to drive a stick in no time!

1: The vehicle you choose to use matters 

Before you teach your teen anything, you'll want to make sure you're using an older car with a well-used transmission.
The reason?
Brand new cars have much stickier clutches and gears. Even experienced drivers need to wear in a new standard transmission before they can drive smoothly. You don't want your kid hitting a metaphorical brick wall before they've even just begun.

2: Location, location, location 

Remember safety first in all things, and learning how to drive a stick is high up there. Use a flat, empty parking lot, preferably in the daytime. It'll reduce your chance of accidents, and also take a lot of pressure off your teen's shoulders.

3: The importance of teaching RPMs 

Do you what RPMs stand for? Of course, you do. That's why you're the teacher and not the pupil.

Revolutions per minute gauge how fast the engine is turning. That is, how fast the pistons are turning the crankshaft. Each time the crankshaft completes a 360-degree revolution, that's one RPM. The numbers on the tachometer (that's the RPM gauge) each stand for 1,000 revolutions. Ya, that's fast.

Here's why that's important to know: every time your engine reaches 3,000 RPMs, you want to shift up to the next gear. On the other end of the scale, if your RPM's fall to 1,000, you want to shift down. Easy!

4: The simple art that takes tons of practice 

There's an art to pushing in the clutch at the same time you release the gas. And when you're going from a dead stop into first gear, well, we all know what that feels like the first time around.

And the following hundred or so times. That shudder, shimmy, and sudden stall is part of learning. However, it's also rough on the transmission.

So have your teen practice the pedals. Let them know that every time they press the clutch, they are releasing the gears and putting their car into neutral. They also want to know about avoiding riding the clutch.

Just get them to practice the art of timing.

5: Protip on stick practice 

Believe or not, but the first time driving stick, most people aren't aware of where the gears are on the column. Especially reverse.

Have you kid cycle through the gears (keeping the clutch pressed so as not actually to engage the gears). Do it over and over until they can easily switch to random gears at the first command.

6: Why the first, is the hardest 

a parent demonstrating how to drive stick

Image Source:

Get this. Every other gear is easy to use. Only first gear is a pain in the derriere (excuse my French).

You know why: missing the timing of the clutch and gas switch at the right moment stalls the car. Not to mention the noise and rolling that usually come along with it.

And if you've ever been stopped on a hill with some person right on your rear bumper, you really know why this is important to master.

Have your teen practice, and then get them to try to actually drive the car from a dead stop to first gear, over and over. (And over again. Did we mention to do it a lot?) Until they can do it without stalling, let them drift around slowly in first gear each time.

7: Hold onto your hat, it's time to move 

Once they've got engaging first gear under control, it's time for some real driving. Teaching the RPMs in the parking lot will help them learn a smooth transition to second gear: then it's time to take it on the road.

Realistically you don't want to be doing any driving in a parking lot that requires third gear or above, so take a deep breath, find your zen, and go. Have them drive comfortably on a quiet neighborhood street or country road.

There, they can practice going from a dead stop to first, second, and third. They can leave fourth and fifth for another time.

8: Naturally, what goes up must come down 

gear lever of a stick shift car

Image Source: Pe​​

Because you're already out on the road, practicing up-shifting, it makes sense that they'll also need to practice downshifting.

Bringing the engine down through the gears is much better than riding the clutch to a stop. It prolongs the life of the gears and the clutch. Not to mention your brakes, as the transmission and motor are helpful in slowing the car down. So, it's great for controlling the speed of the car as you decelerate.

So have you kid practice shifting down from third to second to a dead stop. That is also great for learning spacial recognition and timing.

9: Now, let's put it together 

Because you're on the real roads by now, your kid will get lots of practice stopping and starting, accelerating and decelerating. That's good. You know the old saying "Practice makes perfect."

So have you kid practice coming to a stop at intersections, and going again when the way is clear. If you're on a country road, just do that on the shoulder. Over and over again.

10: Practice the inevitable 

a teenage girl learning how to drive stick on a hilll

Image Source:

Okay, here's where it gets a little scary. That's if your teen wants to know how to drive a stick, they'll absolutely need to know how to recover from a stall. And also how to start on a hill. So, you need to teach and have them practice both hills and stalls.

Fun, right?

The fact of the matter is that they are going to stall out, and they are going to end up stopped on an incline -- probably with a car behind them. It's crucial that they can handle these situations with skill and confidence.

Start by practicing stalls. Turn off the car, and have your kid start the vehicle with the clutch in, then put it into first gear as quickly and smoothly as possible. Do it again and again until this is second nature.

More importantly, find a hill and practice, practice, practice. You'll need to make sure there are no vehicles or obstacles behind you. Your kid is going to panic the first couple of times, guaranteed. That means rolling.

You do not want that panic and roll happening with cars behind them.

Remember to demonstrate a few times first. A good skill to teach is how to use the gas and clutch to hold the vehicle from rolling backward, without it lurching forward. Getting it to that equilibrium point and know how to do it quickly is helpful in starting a standard on a hill.

Then have them practice going from a dead stop into first gear with minimal roll-back. Once they feel the confidence of knowing they can and will be able to go forwards without rolling backward, you'll be a lot more comfortable with their skills too.

Remember: Be Patient! 

a teenage girl sitting on the driver's seat of a stick shift car or manual car

Image Source:

The key to teaching your teen how to drive a stick shift is to remain calm and patient. There is nothing worse than having a teacher freaking out. Take a deep breath, and speak slowly and clearly.

Your kid isn't going to figure everything out the first time around. It will take many practice sessions.

Be patient with them.

Let them learn at their own pace, and be there as a coach and a guide.

Finally, don't forget to praise every success, no matter how small. And when they fail at something, reassure them that it's okay and to keep practicing.

You've got this!

Do you have any tips we can add here? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Source:

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Pin It on Pinterest