Dave Coleman's Technobabble

Americans can't drive. I've known that for a long time, but the depth of America's collective incompetence became clear when I first drove a Toyota MR-2 with the SMT computer-shifted manual transmission. The car came with a quick-reference card to assuage the concerns of the average Joe first encountering this new technology. The most horrifying passage was this little Q and A:

Racing technique? My mom taught me to rev match, and believe me, she's no racer.
The epidemic of bad driving in America starts with your mom, or whomever it was who napped through the critical job of teaching you how to drive. I've been shocked by the kinds of people I catch downshifting with a lurching clutch drag. Hard-core car enthusiasts, drag racers, auto executives, automotive journalists… the guilty are all around us.

Here's what mommy should have told you to do when you downshift:

1-Step on the clutch,
2-Simultaneously slide the shifter into a lower gear and give the throttle a quick, amazingly precise jab to rev the engine to exactly the rpm it needs to be at in the next gear.
3-Quickly let out the clutch.

Oh, sure, it takes a few thousand tries before you get the timing and precision of your jab just right, but the reward is that you no longer suck.

To the countless thousands of you who skip the blip and think that spreading out the inevitable lurch with a long, slow clutch drag will somehow make it all OK, know this: My mom could kick your mom's ass.

All this blipping gets tricky when you're diving into a corner hard on the brakes. Unless you're very special, you probably don't have enough feet to brake, blip, and operate the clutch all at the same time. That's where the Toyota flyer has a point, it called rev matching a racing technique because at 10/10ths, the lurch passes from being annoying to being dangerous. When you do the drag, the torque to rev the engine comes from the tires. Do a clutch drag at the cornering limit and that extra little load on the tires can push them over their grip limit. In a front-driver, this will either overwhelm the front tires and toss you into understeering hell, or the forward weight transfer from that sudden deceleration will unload the rear tires and give you an oversteer surprise. Do it in a rear-driver and both the friction circle and weight transfer will conspire to back you into the weeds.

Dave Coleman's heel and toe foot positioning
The "Classic" Heel and toe technique for those with dainty feet. Brake with the ball of your foot and blip the throttle with your heel. Awkward and uncomfortable, after a few thousand times it becomes merely awkward.


What's a "race driver" to do? It's called heel-toe downshifting, and even my mom can't do it. If your feet are small, you brake with the ball of your foot, and rotate your heel over to the gas pedal for that amazing blip. If you've got big clogs or your knees don't like yoga, you brake with the left side of your foot and blip with the right side. If the pedals are too far apart for that, I've even seem some ostrich-legged drivers plant the front of their heel on the brake pedal and toe the gas.

However you contort your body, keeping braking force constant with one part of your foot while executing the perfect jab with the other is what separates the big boys from those who should be reading the flyer.

Of course, pulling this off means the engineers who put the pedals there have to have a clue. It's relatively easy to heel-toe an EVO, 350Z or RX-8, but the pedals are at such different heights that it's nearly impossible in a Mustang Cobra R. And the Cobra R is a race car. Go figure.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009 4:26 PM
I loved it. Awesome writing that put a smile on my face and educated me on the previously unknown O'Neil shift- of which I don't have the funds to try out for myself.
Saturday, June 13, 2009 8:04 PM
I love you Coleman. Where are more articles? lol.
Monday, June 15, 2009 3:53 PM
x3 I learned to heel toe from your articles. B13 SE-Rs are great with 350z pedals.
Thursday, June 25, 2009 3:16 PM
I've known about shifting without a clutch(co-worker does it on the work truck a lot), now I can put a name to it. I wonder how many people knows what its actually called.
Miles (San Antonio)
Miles (San Antonio)link
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 9:30 AM

Everytime I get into my friends car he swears he is the best driver ever. I tell him that he shifts like his foot is made of lead and he gets all butt hurt. Then there is the uncomfortable silence in the car for the next 20 minutes.

I can't stand his downshifting. He'll lunge me into the dash forcing me to practically brace myself before face planting the airbag.

I think I will just email him this article. Thanks for keeping my head out of the dash, Dave.
Thursday, September 03, 2009 8:23 AM
"Do a clutch drag at the cornering limit and that extra little load on the tires can push them over their grip limit. In a front-driver, this will either overwhelm the front tires and toss you into understeering hell" -

This is the key point people who can't be bothered to learn how to drive just don't get, engine braking will mess you up BIG TIME dropping into that nice turn at the end of a long 120 mph+ straight when you're braking at the same time, lifting, setting up for the turn. They downshift, then they brake, then they wonder why their car isn't working they way they expect, or why the ass end suddenly isn't planted and the front end feels a little heavier than usual.

They blame their car, their tires, how screwed up that part of the pavement looks, they just don't get it either because they're dense and stubborn, or they haven't gone fast enough yet to find out the hard way how true this is.

Or they just suck. ;)
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 2:01 PM
I will email this article to the next person that complains about me rev matching, or I could just remove the passenger seat. The rear seats are already gone, and I'm all about shedding weight...

Great article as usual Dave!
Saturday, February 06, 2010 4:40 PM
datsun s130 Zs have the perfect pedal placement for heel-toe downshifting. I loved mine and learned everything I know about driving from that old rust heap. At least I dont just shitf into neitral and slam the brakes anymore.
Monday, March 29, 2010 11:11 AM
D. Coleman FTW
Thursday, October 28, 2010 5:55 PM
There are100's of thousands of people out there doing this Dave, except they don't drive 4 wheels, they drive 18. YES, I know there is a difference between heel/toe shifting and double clutching, but the principle is the same. I can do both. Heel toe rev matching is worlds easier.

For those of you who don't have Coleman's experience, automotive transmissions have synchronizing mechanisms to match wheel speed with engine speed. If it weren't for these mechanism, you wouldn't be pissing Coleman of with poor shifting technique.

Heavy truck transmissions (18 wheelers, dump trucks) don't have sychronizers. The reason for this is that synrcho's are relatively fragile, and heavy truck transmissions need to be reliable enough to turn 500,000 miles between overhauls.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 3:21 AM
Ah, I can't believe I've been missing out on this site for over a year! I was addicted to Sport Compact Car for years until they cancelled it. My favorite columns were Technobabble and Mike's technical articles. This article, or another version of it, in Sport Compact Car is what inspired me to teach myself heel-toe down shifting when I was just learning to drive. I found my 96 Civic EX had pretty good pedal placement for doing so and I''ve been doing it ever since.

So Dave, thanks for saving me from sucking when my Mom couldn't. I'm also ecstatic to see that Technobabble and other Sport Compact Car favorites live on and look forward to reading more in the future!
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 6:13 AM
Viper, I set up my browser so one of the opening tabs is always MotoIQ. Not only do I not miss new stuff, the site gets the traffic which can't hurt :)
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 6:17 AM

Dave, one of your mods which helps this along, I still really like how this made up for the widely spaced pedals.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 3:33 AM
Regarding that last post with the hint to get a set of pedals covers (larger than stock to get the brake and the gas pedal closer to eachother) I did exactly that on my 300zx and it worked great.

Just be careful with the ones with full metal surfice as they can be slipery with wet shoes... ;)
Friday, May 13, 2011 3:45 PM
Haha, I know this is rather late in the game with this blog but I had to chime in.
It's taken me about three years of learning to heel/ toe my little Paseo and get it right. Yup, it took that long, and even now I still don't get the revs quite perfect on every down shift and when it's not right, you know about it.

But when it's just right it's the most beautiful thing to not only hear from your engine/ exhaust but it's a wonderful thing to get it right while making the apex just perfect and accelerating out.

Now that I've finally got my Porsche the downshifting is even easier with the better tranny and I must admit that Toyota did their pedals perfect for heel/ toe shifting as did the Porsche.
I also find if funny that most of my peers have no clue as to how to heel/ toe their cars. lol

Great article for sure and considering that I've still got an autotragic car in my stable, the 5 speed swap will make it on par with the rest of my stallions. :)
Thursday, November 24, 2011 11:58 PM
There's a word in Italian, that has 'kinda made it into the English language. It is, to be one of the "Conoscenti" -- one of the folks that "know". Don't want to sound snobbish, but to be able to double-clutch / heel & toe, is to be one of the Conoscenti when it comes to driving...
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 5:50 AM
When I learned to drive manual I never ever ever blipped on downshifts... and then I got into bikes. Not blipping on a downshift on a bike can become dangerous in a hurry. After I learned throttle blipping on my bike I realized the errors of my ways in my car. Now I blip on downshifts in my car and on my bike.
Friday, November 14, 2014 4:31 PM
My dad was the one who taught me to heel toe. He taught my mom too. I didn't learn double clutching until I did a skip barber school though.. I have no idea what they use now (I assume they're all sequential) but back then they used regular Webster 4 speeds. The mechanics were told to go have a beer while we learned downshifting so they wouldn't hear us crunching our way through the gearbox.
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