How To Teach A Friend To Drive Stick Without Destruction

Illustration for article titled How To Teach A Friend To Drive Stick Without Destruction

I want to get these columns out weekly, but I had that pesky trans-continental trip since the last one, but I think we should be good to go now. And I got a ton of great questions from people, with some real problems that need solving. And I solve problems and eat croutons, and I'm all out of croutons.


Okay, let's get right to it with the questions:

What do you do when your friend wants to learn manual, but you have already tried teaching him and he just isn't getting it?

I have a friend, who has never really driven a manual before, but it's all he talks about.

I tried teaching him manual once, but he stalled at least 8 times in a 10 minutes session.

I want him to be able to learn manual, but I don't want him to burn up the clutch on my car.

How would you proceed, assuming that he has no other friends with manual cars?


K from Fresno, CA

I picked this one because I'm pretty sure this same situation has probably happened to many of us at one time or another: You're the car-lover of your group, so when a friend wants to level up and learn to drive stick, you're the one they come to.

But learning how to drive stick isn't actually easy on the car. I have a friend who, while learning to drive stick, burned out the clutch of another friend's then-new Audi TT. It's a valid concern.

So what's best to do? I feel we, as enthusiasts, do have a bit of responsibility to pass on these skills, but not necessarily at the expense of your own car. I think there's a good solution here.

If it's really "all he talks about," then your friend, K, needs to put his money where his talk-hole is and buy a manual car.

Not necessarily a good one — some Craigslist piece of crap whose entire purpose in life is to be the stick-driving transition car is just fine. If your friend wants to drive stick so badly — a worthy goal — then he should end up with a manual car.


Again, that car can be the cheapest thing possible, to be sold or destroyed in a matter of months, or it can be a car your friend eventually wants to own. The point is, learning stick means driving stick, and if your friend is serious, let him get a car.

Then, you can teach him on his own car. Wear and tear from learning are his responsibility, and he'll get a better result since he'll be learning his own car's clutch point and other quirks.


I don't think that's too much to ask at all. Your skills and time and friendship are valuable, and you shouldn't have to worry about your car and your clutch. Everyone will be happier in the end, and you two can go driving together when your padawan masters the Art of the Stick, and that will be really satisfying.

That seemed to work, right? Let's try another one. One not even car-related. This one's from Jim:

Alright, here goes: "I work with a guy who has hair growing off his ears. It is obvious and if you shaved it off you could make an eyebrow out of it. Thats how much it is. When u talk to him you can't help but stare at it. How do you bring it up without embarrassing him?


Oh boy. First, congratulations on your hair volume-assesment skills — that "you could make an eyebrow out of it" conveys the volume perfectly, and provides the possibility of an engaging hobby. But for your question, there's one really big factor here:

Does the guy give a shit?

See, that's the tricky part. Unless this guy is close to you and has confided in you some things that suggest he's not happy about things, and those things seem to be the sorts of issues that would be solved with denuded ears, then, sure, you can probably talk to him about it.


But if the guy doesn't care — if he's got a decent social/love/family life and interests and does good work and seems to be an okay guy in general, the ear hair thing is your issue, not his. He probably knows he has fuzzy ears, and doesn't donate any shits. I'm sure the guy has mirrors. Maybe he thinks it makes him look like a cool wolfman, or something.

The point is, this is only a problem if he thinks it's a problem, or if you can somehow conclusively know it's keeping him from being happy. If you've heard other people disparaging him about it, and you know that he's upset because of some lack of social contact that the ear hair is degrading, then, okay, you can privately bring it up to him. And if this is the case, I'd be direct, but kind, being careful to make it clear this guy has other great qualities and we're all mammals with fur, and societal rules on where hair should be are silly anyway, but they're there, and maybe this would help.


Still, I'd say that's only if you absolutely know that ear hair is the impediment to whatever the goal is. Beyond that, if he's happy with furry ears, who really gives a shit?

Alright. We'll try this again next week — if you have questions, send 'em to with DIPSTICK in the subject!


Kevin Barrett

I've never had anyone stall my car when teaching them to drive a stick. My lesson begins with ten minutes of theory, explaining the relationship of the pedals to engine and the wheels. Then I have them practice range of motion with the clutch, pushing it in and letting it out again as slowly as possible. Next, with the clutch pushed in, they practice revving the engine and holding it at various RPMs; idle-2k-idle-3k-1.5k-idle-2k, etc... I drill them this way until they're almost bored with it, then I put the car in gear and ask them to let the clutch out slowly again while they hold it at 2k rpm. Bingo, they start the car perfectly on their first try.