Driving a car with a stick shift on reverse is almost second nature if you are proficient in driving a vehicle with manual transmission. The clutch and gas pedal are manipulated in exactly the same way when you are in reverse, but the process may feel a little awkward because you will be looking back over your shoulder. But with practice, this becomes second-nature.
Master the launch in first gear. Start the car and fully press the clutch pedal with your left foot. With the clutch still engaged, move the gear lever into first gear. Place your right foot on the gas pedal. Depress the clutch slowly, while at the same time gently pressing on the gas. The precise timing and technique will vary slightly from one vehicle to another. In a sports car, for example, you will need to press the gas pedal gently as the powerful engine can otherwise send too much power to the transmission, resulting in wheel spin. Once you can consistently launch the vehicle in first gear without wheel spin or stalling the engine, you are ready to drive in reverse.
Depress the clutch pedal with your left foot. With the clutch fully depressed, place the gear lever into reverse. Keep the clutch fully depressed with your left foot and place your right foot on the gas, but do not apply any pressure on the gas yet. Place your left hand on the top of the steering wheel and turn around so you can see the road behind you. Your right hand should be just behind the headrest of the passenger seat for support. Now you are in the correct position to launch the vehicle.
Take your left foot off the clutch slowly, while at the same time pressing the gas with your right foot. The amount of pressure applied to each pedal and the timing is exactly the same as in first gear. If the car stalls or you get too much wheel spin, keep practicing the launch before you drive in reverse for an extended distance.
Steer with your left hand, keeping in mind that the steering response is now reversed. The nose of the vehicle will move to the left, not to the right, when you turn the steering wheel to the right side. This may sound difficult to manage, but in practice, your brain adapts to this new directional reality within seconds.
Bring the vehicle to a complete halt before turning your head to the front. Take your right foot off the gas pedal, and then at the same time, press the clutch with your left foot and the brake with your right foot. Complete this sequence and bring the vehicle to a complete stop before you turn your head back to the front. Otherwise, for a brief period of time, you will be going backwards while looking forward--a dangerous habit to develop.
Hunkar Ozyasar is the former high-yield bond strategist for Deutsche Bank. He has been quoted in publications including "Financial Times" and the "Wall Street Journal." His book, "When Time Management Fails," is published in 12 countries while Ozyasar’s finance articles are featured on Nikkei, Japan’s premier financial news service. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Kellogg Graduate School.