How to Drive a Manual Right-Hand Drive

Updated July 19, 2017

Most countries use left-hand-drive vehicles that are driven on the right side of the road. But some countries, such as England, use right-hand-drive cars that are driven on the left side of the road. And while this is normal for drivers who have learnt to drive in those conditions, it can be intimidating for a driver who is not accustomed to it. With a little practice, though, driving a right-hand-drive car can be easily learnt.

Get familiar with the controls. The foot controls of a right-hand-drive car are the same as a left-hand-drive car, so the clutch pedal is on the left (near the centre of the car), the brake pedal is in the middle and the accelerator is on the right. The biggest difference is that the shifter is controlled with your left hand instead of your right hand. Depress the clutch and move the shift lever through the gears so you are familiar with their location. First gear is over to the left and up or down, depending on the car as well as how many gears it has. Second is straight back (or up and over to the right a little), third is up and to the right, fourth is straight back and fifth is up over to the right of third gear. If you are in doubt about the shift pattern, see if there is a diagram on top of the shift lever, otherwise consult the owner's manual.

Depress the clutch with your left foot and turn the key in the ignition (usually to the right of the wheel, occasionally on the left) to start the motor. Keep your right hand at three o'clock on the wheel and move your left hand to the shift lever. Move the lever into first gear.

Slowly release the clutch until it begins to engage (usually about halfway through the pedal travel) and the car starts to move forward. When the car starts to move forward, press the accelerator gently with your right foot so the vehicle moves away from a stop. Release the clutch completely and continue to accelerate by using the accelerator. Move your left hand back to the wheel.

Shift into second gear when the engine is around 2,500 to 3,000rpm. To shift, depress the clutch pedal, use your left hand to move the shift lever into second gear and then smoothly and progressively release the clutch. Continue shifting up to the next higher gear at the same RPM-range as the car continues to accelerate.

Position the car on the road by lining up the centre line of the road with the spot where the right side windshield pillar meets the top of the door. The exact position will vary from car to car. This is the opposite of the position a left-hand-drive car occupies on the right side of the road. When you are driving a right-hand-drive car you are likely driving on roads where you drive on the left side of the road. If you are driving a right-hand-drive car in the U.S. or other place where you drive on the right side, use the left side of the car as a reference so that you do not go into the opposite lane. If this does not work, use some other type of visual reference so you know where the car is in relation to the road. For instance, use the painted stripes in a car park to determine where the edge of the car is in relation to the stripes. This will become easier with familiarity.

Bring the car to a stop by depressing the brake pedal with your right foot. As the car slows, downshift by depressing the clutch with your right foot and moving the gear lever to the next lower gear with your left hand. When you come to a stop, place the transmission in neutral, which will be where the car is not in gear between the first and second gears (and third and fourth).

Reverse by depressing the clutch and moving the gear lever into reverse gear with your left hand. Use the mirrors and turn your head to see where you are going. Reverse can be located in a variety of places in relation to the other gears. It can be to the left and up (while simultaneously pressing the shift lever down) or to the right and back from fifth gear.

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About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.