Clutchless Shifting: What It Is & How to Do It Safely

Most car drivers have an idea that they need to use the clutch every time they shift gears — if they have a manual transmission, of course. However, there’s another way to do it: enter, clutchless shifting.

What is the process of shifting without your clutch? How easy is it? Are there any long-term effects about which you should be worried? This guide will answer all of these questions and tell you everything you need to know about the art of shifting without your clutch.

What Is Clutchless Shifting? 

Clutchless shifting is the practice of changing or shifting your gear without touching the left bar lever. Upshifting is very commonly done this way, but you can also do it while downshifting. Skilled drivers can perform a clutchless shift without hurting their transmission, but it does take a little bit of a learning curve to get there. 

To keep things very simple: If you drive a car with a manual transmission, then your car will have a clutch to switch between gears. The clutch can temporarily sever the connection between the transmission and the engine so that you can change gears quickly without causing harm to any of the components involved.

How to Shift Without Using Your Clutch

There are two basic procedures to discuss: How to upshift without your clutch, and how to downshift without your clutch.

You should be prepared: both procedures are going to be a bit jerky, especially for a first-timer going through the process. Let’s talk about upshifting first. 

How to Upshift Without Using Your Clutch

  1. When you’re ready to start, get your vehicle to a point of acceleration wherein you are ready to jump to your next gear change. A good range to try this in would be to get to about three thousand to three thousand five hundred RPM’s. 
  2. In the same instant, let your foot a little off the gas and pull the shifter out of the gear that you currently have it set in. If you aren’t putting pressure on the gas, then the transmission won’t have any pressure on it as well — making it a good time to change things around. The gear shifter may take a little bit of effort to pull out! This is why you practice, though: it takes time time to get a sense for how much energy to expend on this procedure while driving.
  3. Using the shifter, put a bit of pressure on the stick until you can feel the next gear in sequence. For example, if you’re currently in third gear, you can move the shifter until you are in fourth gear. Keep your pressure on the stick shift constant and moderate while you watch the RPMs of your engine drop. 
  4. When the RPMs match the speed of your transmission, feel the shifter and pay attention to it — it’ll slip into the correct gear. Don’t press too firmly, though! That might make the gears grind, which will cause damage to your car. If you don’t press firmly enough, however, you might miss the gear you’re looking for. 
  5. If you need to upshift to another gear, rinse and repeat as needed.

Shifting without your clutch is a delicate balance, and you’ll need to find just the right pressure needed to get to the next gear without grinding your gears too badly.

How to Downshift Without Using Your Clutch

Shifting down is a bit of a more involved process. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Begin by getting your car into a more safe speed bracket by slowly easing your foot off of the accelerator. This will gently begin to decelerate your car. 
  2. Keep an eye on your RPM’s: when your RPM’s are at about twelve to fifteen hundred, slide your stick shift out of the gear it’s currently in. This will result in your transmission being in neutral. 
  3. Then, rev your engine. Keep monitoring your RPM’s: You’ll need to get up to about three thousand. 
  4. Put some gentle but firm pressure on the stick shift. Press it slowly against the next lower gear until you find it. Just as is the case with upshifting, you’ll need to practice to know how much pressure this will require.
  5. Then, drop the RPM in a constant manner. When it is low enough, the stick shift will drop into gear. 

Pros of Clutchless Shifting

There may come a time where you need to shift without your clutch! If you are driving along one day and something horrible happens and you experience a mechanical failure, perhaps losing the mastery cylinder of the clutch, your vehicle may get into a situation where it cannot shift gears with the clutch.

Therefore, learning how to shift without the clutch is a skill that may come in handy when you find yourself in an emergency situation. No one likes to think about emergencies and we all hope that we won’t ever need to use these skills, but the fact of the matter is that if an emergency does happen, you will be glad that you took the time to master this skill.

In other words, there are situations where you may find yourself having to choose between shifting without the clutch and waiting for someone else to come and rescue you. In that situation, wouldn’t you like to have the skills at your disposal to be a self-advocate? 

If you learn how to do it well — e.g., you’re able to switch gears without the clutch while producing zero grinding — then you won’t damage your transmission. However, you’ve got to learn quite a bit to get to that point. 

Cons of Clutchless Shifting

The biggest potential problem of shifting without the clutch involves the potential harm you may do to your transmission — which is, of course, an integral part of your car that will cost a lot to replace, if necessary. So it’s not exactly a cheap fix or a low-stakes endeavor!

Another con is simply the fact that it is more difficult to learn. In the debate between automatic and manual transmissions, manual transmissions obviously came out on top as the most difficult system to learn. Clutchless shifting is just another lesson in the difficulty index of the manual transmission system.

There are other downsides, as well. For example, the long term impact of clutchless shifting can be a negative one. Let’s take a look at that in the next section.

Long-term impact of Clutchless Shifting

The main long-term impact of clutchless shifting has to do with grinding your gears. You want to protect your gears, as they’re an integral and expensive part of your car — but even practicing clutchless shifting can result in a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle.

As you’re manipulating the transmission of your vehicle, just be aware that if you shift often without your clutch, even if you’re really good at it, you can do a lot of damage to the transmission. This can result in damage to your vehicle, cause a lot of unsafe situations, and result in expensive mechanic bills. So, if you plan on learning how to shift without your clutch, just know what you’re doing and why it’s important to get it right!

Clutchless shifting is a great thing to know how to do because in an emergency it may constitute the difference between being stuck in your car on the side of the road and being able to get yourself home safely. However, this peace of mind will not come without some wear and tear on your vehicle.

Clutchless shifting can grind your gears and cause severe damage to your transmission. Make sure that you’re aware of both the risks and the rewards before you start learning how to shift without your clutch.

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