How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car Without Using the Clutch

If you drive a car with a manual transmission, your car has a clutch. The clutch is a component used to connect and disconnect the transmission from the engine so you can change gears. It operates quite easily by pressing the clutch pedal on the driver’s side floor area, left of the brake pedal.

Rarely, it occurs that your clutch fails while you are driving. Whether the clutch pedal breaks or the clutch disc fails, you could find that pressing the clutch pedal does not engage the clutch. If that happens, you can’t shift your transmission in the traditional way.

You can, however, continue to drive your vehicle until you need to come to a stop. Driving a manual transmission vehicle without using the clutch is tricky to do and can cause damage to your transmission. It should only be used in an emergency and for a brief time.

Part 1 of 2: Upshift without using the clutch

When you’re driving a manual transmission car and your clutch fails, you can still accelerate and upshift. Upshifting without a clutch isn’t a smooth action and is going to be harsh as your clutch can’t be used to ease the transition between gears.

tachometer with black face and red needle

Step 1: Accelerate your vehicle to the point of the next gear change. The speed varies from vehicle to vehicle.

Upshifting at 3,000-3,500 RPMs is a good range to try.

shifting technique gif

Step 2: Simultaneously let off the gas and pull the shifter out of gear. While you let off the gas, the transmission doesn’t have pressure on it.

The gear shifter should pull out with slight effort. If you wait too long to pull the shifter out of gear, you may have to rev the engine back up and try again.

pushing shift knob into next gear

Step 3: Press the shifter against the next highest gear in sequence. If you’re in third gear, press the shifter against the fourth gear location.

Apply moderate constant pressure against the shifter as the engine RPMs drop. Once the RPMs match the transmission speed, the shifter will slip into gear. Pressing too firmly will cause the gears to grind and pressing too lightly can cause you to miss the gear.

Step 4: Accelerate up to the next shift point. Immediately once the shifter slides into place, press the accelerator to speed up.

You can continue through your whole range of gears this way.

Part 2 of 2: Downshift without using the clutch

You can shift down through your range of gears without using the clutch much like upshifting. Because your clutch is not being used or not working, you’ll need to use the throttle to control your deceleration.

Step 1: Slow your car by lifting your foot pressure on the accelerator. Your car’s speed will drop slowly.

Step 2: When your RPMs are 1,200-1,500, slide the shifter out of gear. Your transmission is now in neutral.

You may need to “burp” the throttle to make this happen. Just lightly press the gas for a second then let the pressure off. This relieves pressure on the transmission, allowing you to pull the shifter out of gear.

Step 3: Rev the engine up to around 3,000 RPMs. You want the RPMs to roughly match what they would be at the same speed in the lower gear.

For example, if you are in third gear and need to downshift to second, roughly 1,200 RPM in third gear would achieve a similar speed as 2,500 RPM in second gear.

Step 4: Press the gear shifter against the next lowest gear. Hold the shifter against the gear using moderate pressure.

Like upshifting, too much pressure will cause grinding gears and too little pressure may mean you miss the shift.

Step 5: Let the RPMs drop slowly. When the engine speed matches the transmission speed in the gear you want, the shifter will slip into place.

Use the throttle to either keep your speed or let off the accelerator to decelerate for another downshift.

Once you come to a stop, you can no longer use this technique. It only functions while you are in motion as there is no way to engage first gear from a stop without the clutch.

Driving a manual transmission vehicle without using the clutch is only possible when the vehicle is already in motion. If you are at a stop and your clutch doesn’t work, this method will not work for you. Be sure to have one your clutch inspected and repaired by one of YourMechanic’s certified professionals.


Next Step

Schedule Clutch is not working Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Clutch is not working Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Clutch is not working Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(63)

Rating Summary
59
1
3
0
0
59
1
3
0
0

Scott

34 years of experience
546 reviews
Scott
34 years of experience
GMC K1500 V8-5.0L - Clutch is not working - Broomfield, Colorado
I ask for Scott because of his knowledge. He doesn't just plug a car into a computer and say "I'm not sure." He can actually look at what has been known to happen from past experiences. I will always ask for his assistance.
Subaru Outback - Clutch is not working - Denver, Colorado
Scott was very thorough with his work on my Subaru, communicated effectively to coordinate my appointment, and provided excellent recommendations for further services to resolve my problem (which ended up being more of a problem than initially anticipated). Very helpful and friendly, and I would highly recommend!

Travis

13 years of experience
579 reviews
Travis
13 years of experience
Mazda Miata L4-1.8L - Clutch is not working - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Travis showed up on time. He was professional and very nice. He checked the car out, did what was necessary and finished the job. I would definitely have him fix any auto problems I have.

Augustine

12 years of experience
129 reviews
Augustine
12 years of experience
Mazda B2200 L4-2.2L - Clutch is not working - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Augustine was on time, friendly, and was mindful of COVID safe practices. He was very knowledgeable about my old truck and was able to fix it right away. Thanks so much Augustine!!!

Juan

9 years of experience
301 reviews
Juan
9 years of experience
Mazda MX-5 Miata L4-2.0L - Clutch is not working - Orlando, Florida
Juan was professional, nice, and good at explaining what he was doing and why. He helped me understand the issues with my car and my obtions to resolve them.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Replace a Clutch Cable Adjuster
The clutch cable adjuster wears out as the clutch cable does. A common sign of a damaged cable adjuster is a grinding sound when moving the shifter.
How to Replace a Clutch Switch
A clutch switch failure means that your vehicle will not be able to start. The contacts within the switch or the wiring may be corroded.
How to Replace Timing Gears
Timing gears control are connected to the crankshaft and the camshaft and how much fuel and air enter the cylinder to ensure your car runs smoothly.

Related questions

I'm trying to reinstall the clutch slave cylinder into the bell housing, but I cant get the shaft to depress so I can bolt it on
It is normal for the shaft to flop around. The slave cylinder may have pressure built up behind the piston. In order to push the piston back you should open the bleeder screw on the slave cylinder just enough to...
My 2003 Ford Mondeo won't move when I put it in gear
Generally with a manual transmission, if you are able to select all gears but the vehicle does not move when releasing the clutch pedal, in all likelihood the clutch is worn (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/clutch-is-not-working-inspection) to the point of requiring replacement. Sometimes you...
Manual car turns on fine but cant change gears.
Have the clutch system checked to see if it is releasing the clutch so You can change gears. Look in the clutch master cylinder to see if the fluid is full or if it leaked out. If no fluid in...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com