4 tips for learning to drive a manual transmission car

Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate


There's no doubt about it, manual transmissions are going out of fashion. Research from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, as published by the Financial Review in 2015, shows the slow decline of shifting gears by hand1.

In the year 2000, a third of all Australian cars were manuals, while only 13 per cent had a stick shift by 20141.

And yet, there are still plenty of us who strive to continue with this dying art. Whether your car is an older model or you want more control when driving, manual transmissions are certainly not going anywhere yet.

So, how do you drive a manual car safely? Here are four tips getting to grips with manual handling.

1. Get into the habit

Deploying your clutch pedal when changing gears is a little like manual driving 101, but you must also remember to do so when you start your engine.

If you park your car on a hill, you might choose to leave the car in first gear when the ignition is off to lock the wheels and stop it from rolling should the handbrake fail. However, always remember to dip the clutch before you start the ignition, otherwise you'll instantly stall the car - not the smoothest move, and one likely to leave you red faced in front of your friends.

Do you have a good handle on your gears?Do you have a good handle on your gears?

2. Master clutch control

Knowing the 'bite' of your engine can prevent embarrassing bunny hops.

Every car has a biting (friction) point - the level at which you raise your clutch pedal before the gears engage. Every car has a different point where it will 'bite', so you should spend some time learning where yours is in the car.

Practising a smooth bite (even if you're just doing so in your driveway) could prevent those jerky bunny hops as you change gears. Most importantly, you would have more control when going up a hill.

By knowing your car's biting point like the back of your hand, those slow ascents up a busy street, when traffic is moving too slow to shift into second gear, will be a piece of cake.

3. Thrifty shifting

Going for too long in a lower gear will waste petrol, overwork the engine, and frankly, not get you very far.

Again, every car is different, but shifting gears between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm (revolutions per minute) is generally good practice. With time, you'll be able to hear when your car needs to change up or down a gear, making it like second nature.

Another thing you'll be able to do is judge what gear you should be in, which is essential when slowing down quickly. Remember, you can drop more than one gear at a time should you need to, but you'll rarely need to change up two gears at once.

4. Take care on hills

Some manual cars come equipped with hill-start technology, though not all. For those without, it's up to the driver to get well-versed in how to start on a slope. The reason is because dipping your clutch will disengage the gears, meaning you'll start rolling if the brakes aren't applied.

The first tip for starting on a hill is to be aware of your surroundings. If there is a car directly behind you, you'll want to take a little more care and avoid rolling back.

Also, don't be afraid to use the handbrake until you've found the biting point. Once the bonnet of the car rises slightly and the car is trying to move forward, you should be ready to release the brakes and slip seamlessly onto the street.

Soon, with enough practice, you'll find driving a manual to be your second-nature. It opens up a wider scope of cars available when you're searching for a reliable second-hand car - just make sure you get a CarHistory report first to help you make an informed decision.

1Financial Review, Manual cars face extinction as congestion triggers a clutch backlash. Accessed October, 2016.

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