Tips on Learning How to Change Gears

If you are taking your driving lessons in a manual car, one of the first challenges you will need to overcome is learning how to change gears effectively. Your transitions need to be smooth and well-timed, else your driving experience will be very clunky.

Changing gears presents an interesting challenge to drivers, as it reinforces the need to concentrate on the road while conducting other tasks. Over time, you will develop the skill to the point where changing gears comes as second nature to you, but here are some tips to help you along before you get to that point.

Listen to the Engine

Your engine will often be the best indicator for when you need to change a gear. As you increase in speed, you will hear the engine start to struggle to maintain the correct speed if you are in a low gear, signalling the need to change to a higher one. Something similar will happen when you start slowing down without changing gear. Simply put, listen to the engine sounds and use them to indicate when a gear change is needed. Over time, you will learn to understand your engine and thus be able to change gears without putting it under too much strain.

Don’t Snatch

One of the common mistakes new learner drivers make is snatching at the gearstick to try and execute gear changes as quickly as possible. This can lead to missed gears and may cause you to become distracted if you make a mistake. Remember to keep everything smooth and safe. You don’t need to change gears as quickly as possible to keep the car running, so take it through step-by-step, understanding when you need to change, lowering the clutch, changing to the correct gear, and then raising the clutch, all in one smooth motion at a pace that suits you.

Don’t Look at the Gear Stick

A simple tip, but many new learners still make the mistake of looking at the gear stick while driving, especially if they are struggling with a gear change. Doing so takes your eyes off the road, which places you and your fellow road users in danger. However, looking at something you’re struggling with is also an automatic instinct. The key is to be able to train yourself to not look at the stick during a gear change, and instead gain enough familiarity with the gearbox so you can cover any mistakes should they happen.

Block Changing

As you become more accustomed to changing gears you can start using more advanced techniques. Block changing involves skipping gears as you move up and down the gearbox and there are a number of instances where you can use it. For example, if you turn onto a 40mph road while in second gear, you may execute a block change from second to fourth gear to bring yourself up to the correct speed quickly. Alternatively, you may execute a block change downwards from third to first if you need to slow the car down quickly.