If you have a manual transmission car, you NEED to know how to use this maneuver! I have used this technique multiple times over the years in order to get myself out of a bind. In fact, I once used a car with a dead starter for over a month, relying solely on this technique to get it started whenever I needed to go somewhere. It’s not only useful, it is actually pretty fun as well!
I’m using the term ‘pop the clutch’ because that is what I heard growing up, but this technique is also referred to as push starting (Wikipedia), bump starting, or clutch starting. The basic idea is that you get the vehicle moving, either by coasting down an incline or by pushing it, then, when you have reached sufficient speed, put the vehicle in gear and let out the clutch abruptly. The spinning action of the wheels is transferred to the engine and performs the function of the starter.
Follow these steps in order to pop the clutch and follow along with the schematic.
- Get in the car and turn the key to “on.”
- Push in the clutch and put the transmission into 2nd gear. Why 2nd gear? The engine is easier to turn over in a higher gear. This can be vehicle dependent, so you may find that 1st works better for your car. (Another common method is to roll backwards and put the car in reverse.)
- Start the car rolling, either by getting a friend to push you by hand, bumper to bumper, or by rolling down an incline.
- Let the vehicle accelerate to 5-10 mph.
- Abruptly release (‘pop’) the clutch. Things will happen fairly quickly at this point. The car will probably jerk. The engine will turn over and (hopefully) start.
- As soon as the car starts, press in the clutch again to prevent a stall. This may not strictly be necessary, but until you get used to it, and the feel of your vehicle, this offers the best chance of success.
- The engine is now running, the clutch is pressed in, and the car is still coasting. Ease on the brake to bring the car to a stop.
There are a few things you want to be careful of when you’re doing this.
- If you have a friend or friends pushing your car by hand, make sure they are aware that there will be a violent jerk when you pop the clutch. You don’t want one of them to lose a tooth…
- If you are having someone push your car bumper to bumper, take a lot of care. It can be really easy to dent a bumper or smash a tail light.
- If you opt to do the ‘reverse method’ make sure you have a lot of situational awareness. Again, there is a lot going on in a short amount of time, so it is easy to lose track of where you are.
- Though it is fun to pop the clutch, you should be aware that it does cause extra wear on the clutch.
Popping the clutch is a good technique to know to start a car with a dead battery, a non-functional starter, or just to impress your friends! Was this helpful? Let me know in the comments section below!
Check out these money-saving posts on DIY vehicle maintenance!
Does it work if I have lost my key and if so do I just turn hole into on position or put a dummy key in till I can replace or find mine?
The key has to be in the “on” position, so you would need some way to get the ignition to “on.” Also, for newer cars your key may have an “immobilizer” in it. If that’s the case, you need the key! Good luck!
I didn’t know you had to pop it abruptly in order for it to work. I’ve had a dead starter and my success rate with a slow clutch release to try to bump start it has had a 50% fail rate. Hopefully this does the trick.
A perfect explanation. Fun to read and detailed 🙂
Thanks for helping me remember! Haven’t done it in a decade but we got her running!
Awesome, great skill to have!
No only helpful, very funny lol thank you.