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Is it bad to start your (manual) car in 2nd?

yssie

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So recently out of necessity I learnt to drive a stick... I am proud to say that I am now at the point where I can guarantee that I will get from Point A to Point B in one piece :bigsmile: The only question is how upset the passengers' stomachs are by the time we get there.

In an effort to reduce the amount of jerking I notice that I've developed some habits -
1. I start in second gear. All the time, unless I'm on a *really* steep hill. Avoids the big jerk from first to second, which for whatever reason I just can't seem to get around
2. I tend to stay in 3rd or 4th once I get there - I do this balancing thing btwn clutch and brake and gas to avoid shifting in either direction

Is this bad for the car? And if so - just how bad are we talking?
 

mol42

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I don't know anything about cars (maintenance to me is putting gas in the car) but DH is a car fanatic and I asked him your question. Here's his response:

In general, starting out in 2nd gear will cause unnecessary wear on the clutch since the clutch has to 'slip' more to account for the greater difference in driveline and engine rotation. You should try to start in 1st and then shift to 2nd very quickly at low speed. Shifting at low speed will often allow for a smoother shift. Clutch repair can be expensive!

Other suggestions:
Don't rest your foot on the clutch. Only place your foot on the clutch when you need to use it.
Try to avoid using the clutch to hold the car on a hill. If you have difficulty starting from a hill, use the handbrake (if your car has one)
Avoid downshifting when coming to a stop. Just engage the clutch as you come to a stop and then put it in 1st to restart.
Try your best to be smooth. Experiment with various shift points for each gear. Usually low RPM shifting will be smoother and will give you better gas mileage.

Hope this helps. I sold my last manual shift car with 200,000 miles and it still had the original clutch, which was still working great.
 

Dancing Fire

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Yssie|1308608692|2950551 said:
So recently out of necessity I learnt to drive a stick... I am proud to say that I am now at the point where I can guarantee that I will get from Point A to Point B in one piece :bigsmile: The only question is how upset the passengers' stomachs are by the time we get there.

In an effort to reduce the amount of jerking I notice that I've developed some habits -
1. I start in second gear. All the time, unless I'm on a *really* steep hill. Avoids the big jerk from first to second, which for whatever reason I just can't seem to get around
2. I tend to stay in 3rd or 4th once I get there - I do this balancing thing btwn clutch and brake and gas to avoid shifting in either direction

Is this bad for the car? And if so - just how bad are we talking?
but if you start from 2nd gear :wacko: the car will jerk a lot more than if you were to start from 1st gear.nowadays sticks are easy to learn,unlike some of the heavy american cars of 60's with no PS,no PB and no power clutch.
 

Stone-cold11

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mol42|1308609843|2950571 said:
Avoid downshifting when coming to a stop. Just engage the clutch as you come to a stop and then put it in 1st to restart.
Hmm, I always use the engine braking, so down shift a lot, especially in high speed turnings/ fast braking.

Slow braking, I will just put it to neutral and coast to a stop.
 

rainwood

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I agree with the previous poster's advice. Starting from 2nd is a bad idea for all the reasons she said.

You need to take your cue from the car engine on what gear you should be in. If the engine is "lugging," which is a kind of jerking motion or the engine seems sluggish and unresponsive, you're in too high a gear for the speed you're driving and need to shift down. If you hear the engine revving pretty loudly, you're in too low a gear and need to shift up to a higher gear. Just pay attention to the engine and you'll know what gear you should be in.

Take heart. It gets easier and the shifting gets smoother. I love driving manual transmission cars.
 

yssie

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Thanks folks!

So, it seems the consensus is that this starting in second habit is better broken sooner than later. I will force myself to go from 1st to second earlier - I think when I was first learning I was so excited to be moving and not stalled that I took too much time to enjoy it! And then of course I wind up pumping the gas to avoid slowing down too much against traffic, and the car lurches :sick:

When I hear that slow chugging/lugging and I have two options to avoid stalling - hit the clutch or hit the gas - I hit the gas every time. I guess that's partly why I don't actually have a problem with starting on hills, even with pretty steep hills - I hardly ever drift more than a tiny bit backward. But I hadn't heard of using one's handbrake to help get moving - or to do anything but park! I found this -

Start by preparing the car. Select first gear and press the gas pedal (accelerator) so the engine makes a bit more noise than it does for a flat road start. Next bring the clutch up to the biting point (the point where the engine start to connect with the wheels). Now keep both of your feet still!

Make your normal safety checks (look all around and use your mirrors) and then release the handbrake very gently - no more than a few millimetres. If the starts to move (back or forward) keep your feet still and pull the handbrake back on again.

using the handbrake on a hillRe-adjust your feet while the car is secure, double check that the road is still clear, and then try again. Repeat this until you have full control.

By using this method you will feel secure in the knowledge that you can't roll back more than a couple of centimetres at the very most; with practise you will find that you soon get the right 'feel' for the clutch every time and that you won't need to pull handbrake back at all - its simply a matter of confidence.


It sounds like you release the brake most of the way, and then the last bit a little at a time whilst pressing the accelerator a little at a time - does that sound right? I'll have to experiment on the bunny slopes in the Costco lot...


I don't keep my foot on the clutch while I'm driving - it's completely off unless I need it, so that's a good thing. I try to coast to stops without downshifting, and when I'm in city stop and go traffic I tend to get into third and stay there, and when third is too high I'll put the clutch down most of the way and give it just a bit of gas instead of downshifting - it sounds like this is a bad idea, and it's better to just go down to second?
 

JewelFreak

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I love driving a manual car too. You feel like you're driving, not being driven.

The advice to start in 1st and shift quickly into 2nd is good -- with a tiny bit of practice it makes starting out very smooth. A lot smoother than starting in 2nd. You'll get to know how your engine sounds, as someone else said, for when to shift. On a college trip in my brand-new much-used VW bug I stalled it at a light in the center of Bennington VT at 5 pm rush hour. Panicked of course & flooded it, holding up traffic forever. I can still hear the honking. Practice makes perfect.
 

Dancing Fire

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Yssie...your final test is "do a parallel park up a steep hill".. :naughty:
 

NewEnglandLady

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I'm a fan of manual cars, too. I'd love to never have to drive an automatic, though it's getting harder to find manuals these days.

I admit I very occasionally start our car in second, though it's usually if I'm at a stop sign and I don't COMPLETELY stop (bad, I know, but our neighborhood is very quiet at night!) Otherwise I literally have the car in first for a second at most.

I'm also with Stone-Cold on the downshifting. I downshift to slow down, which saves a lot of wear and tear on the brakes. Who knows, maybe it wears out the clutch more. We have had to replace the clutch on our car once, but it does have over 200K miles on it.

Yssie, you'll definitely get the hang of it! It does take a little time, but once you've got it down, it's a handy skill to have. If you ever go on The Amazing Race you won't be one of those people who freaks out when they get to Europe and have to drive a manual! :wink2:
 

rainwood

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On the downshifting vs. using the brakes, I use both techniques but the Car Talk guys say it's better to use the brakes because they're cheaper to replace than the clutch. The exception is if it's a steep and extended downhill and you'd fry your brakes if you rode them all the way down.
 

y2kitty

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I learned on a manual. I really feel like teens should learn on manual because it takes away one hand and the temptation to think you can text/phone/whatever with a spare hand.
 

yssie

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Okay, I just drove to get some friends from the airport and I didn't let myself start in second *once*. A couple of times it was really smooth, mostly kinda painful though. I haven't quite figured out what I *did* to make it so smooth!


I see what both sides are saying re. downshifting vs. braking. If the point is to avoid using the clutch as much as possible then that answers my question about city traffic...


NEL - yes! Driving overseas was actually a big draw of learning.

herekitty - yeah, it is very different from driving an automatic! I didn't realise how little attention I paid to actually driving before... I suppose once it's second nature it's far less consuming, though.

DF - will you provide the buffer mattress?
 

megumic

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I'm jealouusssss. I had a stick car once and I misssss itttttttt ;(
 

MonkeyPie

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Starting from a dead stop in 2nd gear is soooo bad for your engine. Over time, it will wear down a lot of important components. ALWAYS start in 1st, and try to make the movement the same for both feet - out of the clutch, in with the gas. Don't rev the piss out of it, though, red-lining constantly is also hard on the engine, especially if your car is cold (ie, not running for awhile already).

My suggestion? Find a location with little traffic, and practice, practice, practice. I wouldn't practice in actual traffic until you can avoid the urge to start in 2nd, because it will eventually do bad things to your car.
 

Jennifer W

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Yssie, take heart - it's just about what you're used to, rather than your objective level of skill as a driver. ;)) I've only driven an automatic once, and it was, um, scary (for my passenger...). :bigsmile: Every time I slowed down, my 'gear' hand flapped around alarmingly, looking for something to do.

I'd second Monkeypie's advice to practice - go somewhere no one can see you and just keep trying until you can do it without thinking. Good luck. What kind of car do you have?
 

Stone-cold11

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Downshift on turning and stopping has the advantage of increase traction/power in case something happen. Difference between slip and static friction for traction and a lower gear ratio for higher torque.
 

Miss Sparkly

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Yssie|1308608692|2950551 said:
So recently out of necessity I learnt to drive a stick... I am proud to say that I am now at the point where I can guarantee that I will get from Point A to Point B in one piece :bigsmile: The only question is how upset the passengers' stomachs are by the time we get there.

In an effort to reduce the amount of jerking I notice that I've developed some habits -
1. I start in second gear. All the time, unless I'm on a *really* steep hill. Avoids the big jerk from first to second, which for whatever reason I just can't seem to get around
2. I tend to stay in 3rd or 4th once I get there - I do this balancing thing btwn clutch and brake and gas to avoid shifting in either direction

Is this bad for the car? And if so - just how bad are we talking?
Yikes. It will wear down your vehicle faster to always start from second. Think of first as getting the car rolling a few feet and then immediately switch to second. Around 10mph (depending on the car) switch to third. 25mph is a *itch - for my car because it's too much for third but not quite enough gas for fourth. Anything above 25mph needs to be in fourth. You're making the car work too hard for what it is doing. On my car, 40mph and above is fifth gear. When going up and down steep hills I use 4th. It sounds like you are likely riding the clutch in the way that you drive. The clutch needs to either be fully engaged or disengaged. Riding it wears it out very quickly. When your foot isn't on the clutch make sure it's on the dead pedal next to it. Don't rest your foot on the clutch as this can ever so slightly engage it too. Lastly, if you ever have trouble putting into reverse (seems to be a Japanese car thing), put the car into first, rock forward a tiny bit and then put it into reverse. Should go smoothy :)
 

mayerling

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I'm of the opinion that just because starting in second is doable, doesn't mean it's good to do it. There's also no point in staying in 3rd or 4th for your the entire duration of your drive; this isn't like an automatic where you shift into D and leave it there. It's best to shift according to your speed so the revs don't go crazy.
 

TheDoctor

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Sounds like you're self-taught. You need to take lessons from someone you're not married to, trust me on that. :angryfire:
The best initial lesson is with another driver demonstrating while explaining proper usage in a variety of conditions...hills, stop and go traffic, parking on inclines, every sort of scenario.
It sounds like you're part of the way there but you are probably a hazard on the road because you don't have a complete understanding of what the vehicle is doing while you're struggling with the concepts while in motion. Preserve your vehicle and your confidence and ask for help.
 

yssie

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MP, TheDoctor - I'm still practicing, don't worry! I'm not comfortable doing long and involved drives yet, so I've been avoiding anything potentially hazardous. I even stuck the big yellow L on the back of my car :)) gotta learn sometime, somehow, though, and time is running out.

I'm laughing about asking DH for help - that would not be a good idea, he's little better than I am at the moment! Though I'm sure he has a better understanding of what's going on inside. My first few drives were with a friend, who was actually very good about giving me the bullet Dos and Don'ts, which just kinda naturally involved into - well, all sorts of things, apparently. I think you are right and it is time for another more involved lesson!


Thanks for the info and tips, and reassurances ::)

Jennifer - it's a Pontiac Vibe. DH's brother's car, and the only one I'm now insured to drive, so I really *do* have to learn!

1. Always start in first. Shift sooner rather than later.
2. Downshift to slow instead of clutch + brake.
3. Keep clutch either fully up or fully down - not partway. This is another habit I'm going to have to get out of.
4. Use Ebrake to get started up hills.
 

Miss Sparkly

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I have never heard of using the ebrake to get started on hills and I can't imagine that's a good idea. You have one mechanism keeping the car in place while using another to push it forward? Why not just find a deserted hill, go halfway up and stop. Then practice. If you roll backwards oh well!

ETA: you can actually use the brake to slow quite a bit before having to downshift. This also tells the person behind you that you are slowing so they don't run into your rear.
 

Stone-cold11

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It is to find the balance point on the clutch and accel from a complete stop. If not, you have to be very fast on your feet, lifting the foot off the brake pedal immediately find the balance on the accel pedal, most beginners will engine stall here and start rolling back down the hill. Ebrake also prevents rolling back down the slope and preventing fender benders.
 

Kilops

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Its alright if you are on a slope going down already but otherwise its not advisable.
 

yssie

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Stone-cold11|1308706320|2951540 said:
It is to find the balance point on the clutch and accel from a complete stop. If not, you have to be very fast on your feet, lifting the foot off the brake pedal immediately find the balance on the accel pedal, most beginners will engine stall here and start rolling back down the hill. Ebrake also prevents rolling back down the slope and preventing fender benders.

Or, y'know, overcompensate send the RPM to 4k :sick:
Learning curve!
 

Stone-cold11

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Kilops|1308706407|2951543 said:
Its alright if you are on a slope going down already but otherwise its not advisable.
Why would you even need ebrake on the down slope? You know you can start a completely un-ignited/stalled engine by just rolling down hill on neutral and then once reaching 5mph shift to 1st gear and engage the clutch, right? At no point will the engine stall starting downhill.
 

Stone-cold11

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Yssie|1308706610|2951547 said:
Stone-cold11|1308706320|2951540 said:
It is to find the balance point on the clutch and accel from a complete stop. If not, you have to be very fast on your feet, lifting the foot off the brake pedal immediately find the balance on the accel pedal, most beginners will engine stall here and start rolling back down the hill. Ebrake also prevents rolling back down the slope and preventing fender benders.
Or, y'know, overcompensate send the RPM to 4k :sick:
Learning curve!
Ya, both will be cause for immediate failure on driving test back home. :razz:
 

Imdanny

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I guess I'm late to this thread and others have told you but yes you have to learn to use 1st gear and you can do it!

The other thing is you shouldn't do a balancing act by using the brake as you described it- after you get going, just like in an automatic, you don't want to use the break- if you do that you're giving up "acceleration" that you've "paid" for with gas, and also it's putting wear on your brakes that's unnecessary.

I drove a manual car, a '64 Beetle, for 10 years! I loved that car but to be honest I wouldn't want to drive a manual today, but it just takes some getting used to- you'll get used to it! It is a good thing to know how to do. I've borrowed a manual truck several times and a car once from my neighbors in the last few years. You never know when it might be useful. Good luck!!
 

yssie

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Thanks danny! That makes sense re. brake.

My friend and I have a date for next Wednesday. He's sent me a bunch of stuff to read first - hopefully aimed at the beginner, he's a total car nut so we shall see!

Why wouldn't you want to drive a non-automatic today?
 

Fly Girl

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I drove a manual transmission for over 20 years. Just switched to automatick because of arthritis in the knee. :((

Anyhow, as others have said, when the car is stopped you should start out in 1st gear. As soon as you have some forward momentum, you can shift into second. That's how I taught my son to drive my stick shift car, and he is doing fine now.

Have fun. I loved driving a stick.
 

Fly Girl

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To answer your question about not driving a stick today, I find that a manual transmission car is a real pain to drive in heavy stop-and-go traffic, and where there are lots of stoplights. It really works best if you can stay in a particular gear, and not be constantly changing gears. You will drive a manual differently than an automatic. You drive more steadily, accelerate and slow down more slowly, and it doesn't always sit well with the car sitting on your rear bumper who wants to go at high speed up to the next stoplight and then stomp on the brakes. Years ago, everyone drove the way you will, but not anymore.
 
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