Hello there and welcome to the BMW Car Club of America.

If you are a BMW CCA member, please log in and introduce yourself in our Member Introductions section.

Learning to Drive Manual

Discussion in 'Los Angeles Chapter' started by bobfee, Jul 17, 2013.

    • Member


    Post Count: 7
    Likes Received:0
    Hello All,

    My dad bought at 2008 M3 6 speed a couple years ago. He recently passed away after a 5 year battle with cancer. I am 22 and due to his illness he was never able to teach me how to drive the car! He left it to me but I cant drive it. Does anyone know anyone who would be willing to either teach me how to drive a 6 speed or know of maybe a driving course that would be dedicated to learning how to drive a manual? The biggest issue was one of his wishes was that I do not learn on his M3, which causes a problem because renting a car with a manual transmission these days is quite difficult. Any help is appreciated. Thanks
    • Member


    Post Count: 3,949
    Likes Received:254
    Hi - first, I'm very sorry to hear of your loss, my condolences to you, and wish you the best with what must undoubtedly be a very difficult time. Am I correct in thinking the prior posts on the forum are your dad's? If so, your dad was obviously Bob, is that also your name?

    Best I can say, there may be someone in your chapter willing to help you out - you need to find your local chapter website and try some contacts there, or go to a local meeting and ask, somebody might be willing or know someone else. No idea if any place out there will teach you to drive a manual - google it?

    Your dad probably was concerned about wear and tear on the clutch and transmission as far as learning goes, plus being such a high-performance car, it easily has the potential to be a handful in addition to getting down the basics of shifting, etc.

    Once you're moving, driving a manual car is (relatively) straightforward - push in clutch pedal (disengaging the clutch), shift, and release clutch pedal. It's not exactly that simple, as there are additional things to do, such as the timing of your clutch release, not letting the engine rpm's fall too low and then forcing the clutch to take up the shock of spinning the engine up to match the speed of the drivetrain, and so on.

    It's the getting-going part that's much more of a challenge - developing a feel for when the clutch is catching (beginning to engage), timing the let-out of the clutch combined with feeding in on the gas pedal, and so on. Bad habits to avoid - always push the clutch pedal in (down) as far as you can. This is an extremely capable and fast car, I would recommend not pushing it, regardless of how tempting it may be, until you are MUCH more experienced with the car, and that'll come quite a ways after just being able to drive it. If this car has hill-holding, that can be helpful as the car will keep the brakes engaged when on a hill, and your management of the clutch-release and throttle-input amount and timing is easier. But, that's an aid, not a cure-all, one of the challenges in learning a manual is dealing with hills, where if you aren't smooth, quick, and efficient with your pedal work, you either stall or find yourself rolling backwards into whatever's behind you (which is particularly great if you have some tailgater about a half-an-inch off your rear bumper).

    A few threads with some perhaps useful things covered, even if not so specific to starting to drive a manual. Someplace, somewhere, surely there must be a good Manual manual...




    My suggestion for beginning to develop a feel for the clutch - if you're lucky enough for the car to be someplace flat and not heavily trafficked for a little practice... have the car stopped on a flat area, so your not rolling, and you don't need any brakes. Without feeding in any throttle input at all, practice slowly letting the clutch out. You should be able to feel as it begins to engage, and the car will start to roll. If you let it out too fast, you'll likely stall, and the motor will shut off. As you let out the clutch slowly and it starts rolling, continue, let the clutch out all the way. Oh, if it needs mentioning - gas is the right pedal, brake the middle, clutch, the left. When your left foot is not on the clutch, make a habit of keeping it on the dead pedal to the left of the clutch 100% of the time - don't ride the clutch pedal by keeping your foot on it, even between shifts.

    Getting back to it - the point is, the engine has enough torque for you to get rolling with a careful clutch release, that no gas is needed at all. Practice that enough, and you'll start to have a feel for clutch engagement. Applying throttle just allows you to pull away more quickly. Ideally, you want to get to the point where you can pull away quickly, without stalling, jerking the car, smashing the gas pedal, etc. Don't look at the pedals, you'll make it harder to get a feel for the footwork you need to develop. When I started, I found backing up was easier than going forward, because I was doing it all by the feel of the pedals, instead of looking at my feet when facing forward. When you come to a stop, push in the clutch pedal and move the shift lever out of gear, into the 'neutral' position. It is best not to coast with the clutch depressed - push in the clutch as you come to a stop, or, put it into neutral, clutch out and left foot on dead pedal, as you brake to a stop. Shifting too quickly can be a problem, there is a risk of mechanically over-revving the engine on downshifts. Make sure you have the correct next lowest gear selected for a downshift, and always be ready to push the clutch back in, in a hurry, if you find that your downshift has you in too low a gear (the engine will start to redline if you downshift into too low of a gear for the speed you're going). Always shift up and down sequentially - skipping gears is asking for over-revving the engine, or lugging it. Overrevs can be disastrous, and lugging the engine (in too high a gear for a given lower speed) is best avoided, although less than disastrous; you risk stalling out though. Once you have the basics down to where it's pretty automatic (and that will take some time), you can start working on other stuff like heel-toe. Heel-toe technique can be useful in any variety of ways, including on hills - allows you keep the car braked but also feeding in some gas for the hill take-off (lest you roll backwards). Another hill technique is using the parking brake - if your car doesn't have hill hold, using the parking brake to hold the car in place, allows you to time your clutch-release and gas input as you release the parking brake, and not having to make it happen so fast to keep from rolling backwards. When you park, always use the parking brake, and leave it in first gear; if you're parked on a hill, place it in the gear opposite the downhill direction of the hill, ie: if the car's pointed downhill, leave it in reverse with the parking brake on. It's just a failsafe in case the parking brake gives out for some reason, although that's unlikely.
    wellardmac likes this.
    • Member


    Post Count: 7
    Likes Received:0
    This is my dad's account...I think I have my own (I bought a 2004 M3 SMG) but I saw his username and password sitting here and decided to use his. My name is Matt and thank you very much for all this information. My main concern is the clutch-gas combination. For some reason I have a mental block when it comes to when the right time to push the gas and let off the clutch. When I was a kid my dad used to sit me on his lap and show my how to shift gears, so the shifting gears part is the no brainer for me. If only there was some simulator that would allow me to practice the clutch-gas combination until i understood it.

    But thank you again man, I really do appreciate all the information, which I will study until its second nature.
    • Member


    Post Count: 2,416
    Likes Received:133
    • Member


    Post Count: 342
    Likes Received:23
    This might seem out there.........but sign up for a local motorcycle drivers license training course. The bikes are small and they have manual transmissions. That will give you the training you need to "feel" the pressure point on the clutch and shift gears. After that you should be pretty good for any passenger vehicle.

    mrsbee guest

    Post Count: 511
    Likes Received:48
    Having recently taken a Motorcycle course, I can testify to learning a feel for a clutch. I knew how to drive one before taking the Motorcycle course, but at the same time you really learn about "friction zones" and how to mix and coordinate your movements. The best part is that they GIVE you a motorcycle to tear up and practice on. I'm still crap at riding a motorcycle, but I do feel that my driving skills have improved.

    Don't make the mistake that I did, though, and try to learn on something that would barely stay running in the first place.

    A little side note from MY Dad, who did NOT teach me to drive a stick, or a car for that matter - was he said that learning without wearing shoes gives you a great experience of connection with the pedals and whats going on under your feet. I do this occasionally (usually when I'm going someplace that requires heels, but I'm sure you will NEVER experience this problem). Feel what the pedals do, get a feel for what the clutch feels like, it will make a different.

    Maybe someday we'll teach you to heel toe.
    • Member

    Satch SoSoCalifortified

    Post Count: 2,188
    Likes Received:70
    Hang in there, kid. There are plenty of folks in the LA Chapter who will happily guide you through this process. Tell Delight Lucas and Roger Scilley that I sent you.

    Meanwhile... you CAN learn in an M3. I coached one neophyte in my Z4 M roadster.

    I notice that you wonder when to let out the clutch and when to press on the gas. The answer is: simultaneously. But the BALANCE between left-foot-up and right-foot-down is the secret formula. And that ony comes from practice, practice, practice.

    Yo, Delight: Take this kid to an empty parking lot!
    • Member


    Post Count: 342
    Likes Received:23
    I've often been baffled by folks that say you can't learn to drive a stick in various cars. If the "student" isn't a twit, I feel any car will do...and will not present an issue for the driver or the car. From one perspective, a more powerful engine will be more tolerant of the load transfer at the friction / pressure point of the clutch. And, of course, we only deal with synchronized transmissions these days so changing gears is simple.

    However, when I chose to teach my nephew to drive a stick, I stuck him in my old 1991 4-cyl. Toyota Pick-up instead of the '89 525i or 03' 330i. But, but, but, ........ that was only to do with the fact that I needed to give the driving lesson and pick-up a load of flooring at the exact same time. My time is really important. It had nothing to do with potential wear and damage to the transmissions on the BMW's. He's my sister's kid, for heaven's sake......he might come see me in the home when I'm old. We drove 150-miles that day, through the prettiest parts of desolate north central Pennsyltucky, often catching snippets of banjo music as we passed the brush encrusted mobile homes and hunting camps.

    He has never visited or attempted to drive a stick since that day..........

Share This Page