I wrote this maybe ten years ago, and it still stands. I’ll be deploying this in a few short weeks when my 15YO gets through with the state mandated minimum driving school. In the world of motorcycling, we call this process “learning to operate the controls”. It is very much different than riding, because riding assumes that you can operate the controls (relatively) instinctively. Driving is the same way – you need to learn to operate the controls first. Interestingly, as I read back over what I wrote, I realize that this is also exactly how I learned to operate the controls when learning to ride. I guess I knew something useful even back then!
From the VWVortex – the original thread has long since disappeared into the bit bin, but I did manage to find a quote of the text. I figured it might be helpful to someone, so here you go.
How to Teach Your Fianceé to Drive Stick Shift
Take her to a parking lot with not too many light poles and at least one speed bump. This is a 30 minute drill.
Have her start the car and then let off the clutch until the car rolls. Do this about 10 times – clutch in, clutch out to roll. This will teach her the friction point.
Next, have her add gas at the friction point. This will teach how to launch without driving into the neighbor’s yard. She should accelerate to 10mph each time. Clutch out, add gas, 10mph, stop.
That night: teach her the pattern. Have her practice it while she’s watching TV or whatever. 1-2-3-4-5-6-R. Over and over until she wants to kill you. For added misery, add the clutch drill – Clutch in. Clutch out, gas on. Brake on, then clutch in. Brake off. Cycle back to clutch out, gas in and repeat over and over.
Next day: Speed bumps. 30-45min.
Do the friction point and 10MPH drills for a bit. Then have her roll up to a speed bump. Stop. Do the gas drill with trying to stop at the top of the speed bump. This is the creep up a hill drill. This is the hardest drill.
After 20 minutes of that or if she starts crying, do a bunch of non-running pattern work. Engine off. Clutch in, shift, clutch out.
When she grasps that, do some 1-2-3 shifting around the parking lot.
That night: more phantom pattern/foot work.
Next day: Hills. 30 minutes max. She will be tired after this. Do all drills for 15 imnutes of driving total. Then go find a hill with a moderate grade and ZERO traffic.
Forward launches up hill: First let her roll back several times to get used to the sensation. Then start with the launch mechanics.
Backward launches up hill: Same thing.
That night: more phantom pattern reinforcement.
Next day: Parking lot drills, hill drills, 20 min max, now it’s time for traffic. Use your best soothing voice.
3 hours of seat time and she will be safe to drive it.
The idea behind the phantom drills is to build muscle memory. This means your feet and hands know where to go without you thinking about it. You can do this out of the car, and should do it all the time until you are comfortable with the techniques. Yeah, it looks stupid while you’re doing it, but when you don’t have to think in traffic, you will be thankful for it!