Mastering the Manual: How to Drive Your Subaru Stick Shift with Confidence

If you recently purchased a Subaru with a stick shift, or you’re shifting from an automatic to manual car, learning how to drive a stick shift Subaru can be intimidating. But with proper guidance and practice, anyone can master the art of driving stick shift. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of driving a Subaru stick shift, from understanding the gear system to hill-starting the car.

Introduction to Stick Shift Subaru

Stick shift, also known as a manual transmission, is a type of car that requires the driver to manually shift the gears to control the speed of the vehicle. Unlike an automatic transmission, a manual transmission gives the driver full control of the car’s power and acceleration. Subaru is one of the few car manufacturers that still produce stick shift cars, making them popular among driving enthusiasts.

Understanding the Car’s Gear System

Before driving a stick shift car, the first thing to understand is the car’s gear system. A typical Subaru stick shift has five-speed gears, although some models have six-speed gears. The gears are identified as first, second, third, fourth, and fifth, with first gear being the slowest and fifth gear being the fastest.

To shift gears, use the clutch pedal, located on the left side of the brake pedal, to disengage the engine from the gear. Move the gearstick to the desired gear, release the clutch pedal slowly, and step on the gas pedal. It’s essential to shift gears smoothly and at the right time to prevent stalling or jerking the vehicle.

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Preparing to Drive

Before getting behind the wheel, it’s crucial to check the car’s surroundings and confirm that the parking brake is engaged. Adjust the seat to ensure that your feet can comfortably reach the pedals. Make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened, and all passengers are safely buckled up.

Starting and Stopping the Car in Manual Mode

Starting the car in manual mode requires skill and patience. Start by pressing the clutch pedal and shifting the gear lever to neutral. Turn on the engine by turning the ignition key. Next, depress the clutch pedal and move the gear lever to the first gear. Slowly release the clutch pedal while simultaneously stepping on the gas pedal to move the vehicle forward.

When it’s time to stop the car, downshift to a lower gear by depressing the clutch pedal and shifting the gear lever. Brake the car slowly and gently while simultaneously releasing the clutch pedal.

Changing Gears Smoothly

Shifting gears smoothly is critical to driving a stick shift car without stalling or jerking. To shift gears, depress the clutch pedal and move the gear lever to the desired gear. Release the clutch pedal slowly while simultaneously stepping on the gas pedal. The ideal shift points vary with the car’s speed and engine, but as a rule of thumb, shift gears at around 2000-3000 RPM for optimal performance.

Hill-Starting the Car

Hill-starting a manual car can be challenging, but with practice, it can be mastered. Begin by pressing down on the brake pedal while depressing the clutch pedal and shifting the car to the first gear. Slowly release the clutch pedal while simultaneously giving the car some gas to raise the RPM.

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As the engine’s RPM increases, release the brake pedal softly to prevent the car from rolling backward. Finally, slowly release the clutch pedal while simultaneously stepping on the gas pedal until the car is moving forward.


Learning how to drive a stick shift Subaru may seem daunting, but with practice and patience, anyone can master it. Stick shifts give drivers a greater level of control and a more engaging driving experience than automatic cars. Remember to always pay attention to the car’s surroundings, shift gears smoothly, and practice hill-starting until it becomes second nature. With these tips and tricks, driving a stick shift Subaru can become a joyful and rewarding experience. Happy driving!


Q. Is it bad to ride the clutch?

It’s not ideal to ride the clutch as it puts unnecessary stress on the clutch and causes premature wear. Always release the clutch fully when not using it.

Q. Can you shift a Subaru without using the clutch?

It is possible to shift a Subaru without using the clutch, but it’s not recommended as it can cause damage to the transmission over time. Stick to the traditional method of using the clutch to shift gears.

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Joseph Weaver

With a background in engineering and a passion for cars, Joseph brings a unique perspective to our blog. He's particularly interested in the technology and innovation behind Subaru's advanced safety features, and his articles on this topic are always insightful and informative. When he's not writing, he enjoys playing video games and spending time with his family.

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