The Ontario Manual Shift Road Test Guidelines

As things stand, and until the rules are brought up to date and clarified, I recommend doing the road test on automatic, but if you must do it with a manual car, here are the general guidelines (Note that examiners are not given a clear set of rules with regards to stick shift, and therefore some will accept certain actions done a certain way and others won’t – the following should satisfy most examiners, but there are no guarantees):

  • You must downshift through each gears (no skipping) whenever you slow down or stop, (except for an urgent stop) – you will normally be disqualified if you don’t. Each downshift must be a complete downshift – meaning the clutch has to be re-engaged (let back up) in each gear.
  • Avoid lugging or revving too high. Shift up in the 2000-3000 rpm range (a little higher when getting onto the highway or a faster road) and generally try to keep your rpm in the 1500-3000 range when driving along.
  • With most cars, you should downshift to 2nd when taking corners and sharp curves at normal speed (15-20kph). Important: the downshift must be completed (the clutch back up) before you begin to turn; don't keep the clutch down until you get back to the gas half way into the turn! When you take a very slow turn and going down to 1st gear, you’re allowed to coast a little, or keep the clutch near the contact point to creep as you enter the turn.
  • Don’t drive with one hand on the shifter, and make sure you bring your hand back to the wheel between each shift (especially when cornering or crossing intersections).
  • Don’t “ride the clutch” (that’s driving with your foot resting on the pedal). Place your foot off to the side when driving along after you’re done shifting, and make sure you let the clutch up all the way between each shift.
  • You’re normally “allowed” a couple of stalls during the lesson (although you will lose points); but, if you stall 3 times or more, or you stall where you’re “impeding traffic” – then you will likely be disqualified.
  • You must avoid shifting (that means staying in 1st if you’re starting from a dead stop), and keep both hands on the wheel while crossing intersections or cornering. If your're crossing a wide street (4 lanes + median), you may be allowed to shift to 2nd a little before you’re all the way across, or when you’re near the end of a wide left turn. If you can (say when you’re behind one or more cars), try to shift to 2nd before entering the intersection. Also, you must avoid shifting up or down in sharp curves, going over railroad tracks, making lane changes, or driving by “hazards”.
  • You should not roll back (not even a little) when starting on slopes or hills. I recommend using the clutch-control start (Hendon start) on gentle inclines and the E-brake on steeper hills.
  • While sitting at a red light, stay in 1st gear with the clutch down. Some examiners may allow you to leave it in neutral with the clutch up - as long as you make sure you get back in 1st (ready to go) before the light changes. If you're in the habit of doing that, you may ask the examiner before the test begins if it's ok with him/her. In either case, your right foot must stay on the brake while you’re waiting (no E-brake). There are valid arguments to be made for either choice.
  • When you stop and idle (such as for the roadside stop), leave the car in neutral with the parking brake on and your feet off the pedals. You may be asked to turn off the engine; in this case, you must leave it in 1st or R with the parking brake on and your feet off the pedals.
  • If you do the roadside stop on a hill (or told to “pretend” you on a hill), and you’re asked to turn off the engine, don’t forget to put it in first gear and turn your wheels before turning off the engine (you’re allowed to “dry steer”). When you resume, hold clutch and brake down, start your engine, straighten your wheels, turn off the 4 way, and signal before you get ready to take off (if you’re starting uphill, you’ll need both hands to do your hand-brake hill start – one on the wheel, the other on the E-brake). Make sure you practice this.

Note that I disagree with a number of those requirements, especially the obligation to gear down when stopping or slowing down.  I therefore urge you to revert back to correct driving practices after the test.

Good luck,


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