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  • Writer's pictureEllis Wood ADI

How to move off smoothly in a manual car


Moving off smoothly in a manual car involves several steps. No two cars are the same so when changing cars expect some stalls here and there. Trust me, I've been driving since 1985 and I still stall occasionally , if anyone says they don't they're telling lies. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you master this essential skill:


  1. Preparation: Ensure your seat, mirrors, and steering wheel are properly adjusted. Fasten your seatbelt and ensure your passengers are also safely belted.

  2. Clutch and Brake Pedals: Press the clutch pedal all the way to the floor with your left foot. Simultaneously, press the brake pedal with your right foot.

  3. Gear Shift: Place the gear shift into the neutral position (the center position) by moving it gently left and then up or down, depending on the specific layout of your car's gear pattern.

  4. Ignition: Start the engine by turning the ignition key or pressing the ignition button. The car should be in neutral when starting the engine.

  5. Observation: Check your surroundings by looking in your mirrors and over your shoulder to ensure it's safe to move off. Pay attention to any pedestrians, vehicles, or obstacles in your path.

  6. Release Handbrake: If your handbrake is engaged, release it slowly. This is typically done by pressing a button (if equipped) and lowering the handbrake lever. Sometimes it's easier to keep the handbrake on and use that instead of the foot brake but lots of learners avoid the handbrake like it's covered in Covid-19 germs. Practice both methods with your instructor.

  7. Engage First Gear: Press the clutch pedal fully and move the gear shift into first gear (often to the left and then up or down, depending on the layout).

  8. Controlled Release: This is the crucial step for smooth starts. Gradually release the clutch pedal while gently applying pressure to the accelerator pedal. The goal is to find the "biting point" of the clutch – the point at which the engine starts to engage with the transmission.

  9. Balancing Act: As you feel the car starting to engage and move forward, continue releasing the clutch pedal slowly while simultaneously applying a bit more pressure to the accelerator pedal. The clutch and accelerator should be adjusted in a coordinated manner.

  10. Smooth Acceleration: As the clutch fully engages and the car starts moving forward, smoothly increase pressure on the accelerator to maintain a controlled and steady acceleration.

  11. Steering and Mirrors: As you begin to move, ensure your steering is smooth and controlled. Continuously check your mirrors and surroundings for any potential hazards.

  12. Fully Release Clutch: Once the car is moving smoothly and you've gained some speed, fully release the clutch pedal by lifting your foot off it completely. You are now in the process of driving normally.


Remember that practice makes perfect. Moving off smoothly in a manual car requires coordination between the clutch and accelerator pedals, and this coordination will become more intuitive with practice. You should practice in a safe and open area before venturing into traffic. Additionally, it's always a good idea to refer to the owner's manual of the specific car you're driving for any unique instructions or tips.

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