How To Change Gears Without Using The Clutch

How To Change Gears Without Using The Clutch

Car nerds and trackday bros love to talk about their “heel-toe shifting” – which involves manipulating the brake and accelerator simultaneously with one foot. It turns out there’s an easier way to get the same job done: simply ignore the clutch.

Team O’Neil Rally School’s Wyatt Knox (he’s a 2WD national rally champion in the US, if you were curious) explains in this video how and why you would want to learn heel-and-toe downshifting. The trick is that as you’re slowing down and downshifting for a corner, you clutch in with your left foot and roll onto both the accelerator and the brake with your right. This lets you match engine speed with your wheel speed, and keeps you from juddering your car around and crashing.

The problem with heel-toe downshifting is it takes a lot of work from just your one foot. You need to brake just the right amount and throttle just the right amount with the same shoe. On pavement there’s more room for error, and you tend to see trackday and sports car drivers using this alone. On slippery gravel, snow or ice this is a bigger ask.

A simple solution is to just shift down without using the clutch at all. It sounds like witchcraft, but watch the video and see that it’s not as difficult as you might expect.

“I made it through that corner,” Wyatt explains, “just as nicely [as with heel-and-toe shifting] without breaking the transmission. We’re still driving along even in this which has a very fragile transmission.”

Shifting up, he notes, is slower without the clutch than it is with it. He wouldn’t do that in racing, but going down the gears gives him “all of the benefits of heel-and-toe braking, without all the kind of fancy footwork.”

I remember when I first saw someone do this in a car. I believed that it was impossible. A little practice though and I’ve found it’s not the hardest thing to get right, and something worth trying out.

This story originally appeared on Jalopnik.


  • Well, you knew someone was going to bite back! Unless you can actually afford to replace your very expensive gearbox, don’t even! This is fine for Fo Racers and Fanboys, but bloody stupid, if you’re in your daily driver. Also very bloody dangerous!

    • How the hell is it dangerous? And sure, you could chip tooth if you get it too wrong, but a lot easier on all the drive components if you do it right. Some gearboxes are easier than others – old Cortinas are one of the best.

      • As I mentioned, This is fine for Fo Racers and Fanboys, but bloody stupid, if you’re in your daily driver. Also very bloody dangerous!so you may infer, that the inexperienced, should not try it. And it’s dangerous if the bloody thing locks up and you don’t have the experience to correct the problem on the fly. Just because you see no problem, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

  • And can you explain how you “lock it up”?
    And just because you see a problem, doesn’t mean there is one!

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