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Beginning to Drive Corner & Junctions Emerging at Junctions Manceovring
  Making Things a Little Easier Good Driving Tips

Beginning to Drive

Starting, Changing Gear and Stopping :
  Every car user should get into the habit of making regular checks of the vehicle he drives.
  Everyday he should check :

The Engine Oil.
Water in the Radiator (if there is one)
That the windscreen and windows are clean
It is also quite a good idea to make it a point to walk round your car at least once a day to check that there is nothing obviously wrong - a tyre going down, for example.
  Every week, at least, he should check:

Tyres - to see that they are at the right pressures (the car owner's handbook will give these)
Lights and indicators - to see that they are all in working order
Battery - to make sure it is topped up

These checks are, of course, besides the regular servicing checks that every car needs to keep it reliable and safe. Owners' handbooks show how often these are necessary for individual cars.


There is also a drill - rather  like  simple  form of  'cockpit drill'  in  aircraft  -  which  you  should  use every time you get in your car. This is:



Are all the doors properly closed and locked ?
Is your driving seat in the right position ?
Are the mirrors clean and properly adjusted ?
Have you, and your passengers put on your seat belts ?
Have you enough fuel ?

Starting the engine :

Having made these preliminary checks and settled yourself comfortably in the driving seat, you can now begin the drill for starting the engine.


Check that the handbrake is on by trying to pull it on further.

Check that the gear lever is in neutral. If it is, it will feel slack and you will be able to move it quite easily and fully from side to side.

Pull the choke out if necessary. (You will soon know whether you need 'choke' for your car and, if so, when and how much.)

Switch on the ignition and check that the ignition light and oil warning light (if fitted) come on.
Release the starter key or knob as soon as the engine starts.

On some cars it may be necessary to press the accelerator while operating the starter. On others, this would upset the air and petrol mixture and make the engine difficult to start. Instructors will be able to tell learner drivers what is best for their particular cars.

  If the engine does not start first time, don't keep the starter motor going. Release the key or knob, wait a few moments and then try again. When the engine starts, the accelerator may need pressing slightly to keep the engine running. But, as soon as it runs smoothly, take your foot off the accelerator so that the engine is running at its normal 'tick over' or 'idling' speed. If the choke has been used, push it right in again as soon as the engine is warm enough to run without it.
  The red ignition warning light will usually glow while the engine is ticking over. If it does not glow, this may be because the engine is running too fast. (Have you remembered to push the choke back?) But the ignition light should go out almost as soon as the accelerator is pressed down. Check that it does. The oil pressure warning light (if fitted) should also go out when the engine is running. If either light stays on, switch the engine off and have the system checked.

Moving off from rest :
  When you are sitting properly in the driving seat and the engine is ticking over smoothly, you are ready to get the car moving:

Press the clutch pedal right down with your left foot and hold it down.
Move the gear lever from neutral into first gear.

Press the accelerator down slightly with the right foot and hold it there, perfectly steady.

Let the clutch pedal come up very slowly and smoothly until you hear a slight change in the engine noise. (This change in engine noise means that the clutch is at biting point - that is, the two clutch plates are touching. With experience you will be able to 'feel' the biting point.)

Hold the clutch pedal quite still in this position
Now make your final safety checks:
a) use your mirror.
b) then look round over your right shoulder - take your time.
Decide whether you need to give a signal to show that you are going to move off - ask yourself if there is any other road user (including pedestrians) anywhere near you who would be helped by a signal.
If a signal is necessary, give it, either by direction indicator or by arm.
When you are sure it is safe to move off, without getting in the way of anyone else (look round again if necessary), let the clutch pedal come up a little more - still slowly and smoothly. At the same time, release the hand brake - remember to put your hand back on the steering wheel straightaway. The car will begin to move.
Press the accelerator further gradually down to speed the car up; and at the same time let the clutch pedal come right up - still smoothly - and then take your left foot off it.

Getting these actions in the right order, and doing them smoothly and gently enough are among the most difficult things a new driver has to learn. Don't try to hurry through. As with so much else, practice makes perfect. Once the knack of holding the clutch pedal at biting point and of not letting it up too fast has been learnt, the whole process of getting the car moving will soon become second nature. But you must get these, right before you can make any further progress in learning to drive. Choose a quiet, level road for practicing how to move off.



A   B
Fig. 4: You cannot steer your back wheels
You must make allowance for this when turning corners. The
back wheels will not follow the front ones, but will take a short cut
along with the tail of the car, as shown in A. The correct position
for turning a corner is shown at B

Steering :

After learning the drill for starting the engine and moving off, it would be good to get some idea of the feel of the steering before going to the next stage - learning to change gear.


The best way to do this is to find a quiet, straight road. Go through the drills for starting the engine and moving off and then practice steering the car, at slow speed, in the first gear. Learn to keep the car moving parallel to the kerb, and fairly close to it - about three feet away. Don't look at the front of your vehicle; look well ahead and avoid jerky movements of the steering wheel.


When you can steer a straight course with both hands on the steering wheel, try it with only one hand. Again, practice this until you can steer a straight course with either hand. As you take one hand off the wheel, stiffen your other slightly so that you do not pull the wheel down and swerve.


The reason for practicing steering with one hand is not so that you can drive like this, but because there will be times - for example, when you are changing gear or giving signals - when you will have only one hand free for steering. And it is most important that at these times you don't let the car wander from side to side.


Stopping :

Having learnt how to get the car moving, you should next learn how to stop it. Although you will be on quiet roads with little traffic in the early stages of learning to drive, the drill for stopping (except in an emergency) is always the same. So it is good to learn it thoroughly from the beginning.

  Here is the drill for stopping :

Use the mirror.
Decide whether you need to give an indicator or arm signal to show that you are going to stop.

If a signal is necessary, give it.

Take your right foot off the accelerator.

Move your right foot on to the brake pedal and push it down, gently at first and then gradually harder.
Just before the car stops, press the pedal right down with the left foot. (This will disengage the engine from the driving wheels and prevent it from stalling.) Don't do this too soon, or you will lose the help of engine braking.
Ease the pressure on the brake pedal as the car stops (unless you are on a slope).
When the car has stopped, apply the handbrake.
Put the gear lever in neutral.
Take both feet off the pedals.
  This is not a difficult drill, but like everything else it needs practice, so that you can stop the car just where you want.

Changing gear :
  Having learnt how to get the car moving in first gear and how to steer and stop it, you are ready to learn how to change up and change down.
  Good gear changing depends on two things - knowing when to change and how to change. 'When' is very much a matter of judgement and practice in matching the engine speed, by using the gears, to the work you are asking the engine to do. Until this judgement becomes second nature, listening to the sound of the engine will help you to decide when you need to change gear.
  There are no hard and fast rules about the speed at which you should change up or down. This depends on the car you are driving and whether you are moving on the level, uphill or downhill. You should change up if you are going so fast that your engine begins to run too fast; and change down if you are going so slowly that the engine begins to labour. Learners will be guided in this matter by their instructors.
  Now for how to change gear, we have already been through the drill for getting into first gear and starting off. As your car begins to go faster, you need to change up through the gears, one by one. Assuming that the gear lever is to the left of the driver:

Changing up:

Left hand on the gear lever.
Press clutch pedal right down with the left foot and simultaneously let the accelerator pedal come right up without taking your foot off it.

Move the gear lever to the next highest gear position.

Let the clutch pedal come up smoothly and press the accelerator gradually. At the same time, put your left hand back on the steering wheel.


The reason for releasing the accelerator at stage 2 is to let the engine speed drop, because it needs to be lower to match the higher gear and so give you a smooth gear change. Timing the movement of the gear lever to match the engine speed is a matter of judgement, which comes with experience. Once again, there are no hard and fast rules, but your judgement can be helped by listening to the sound of the engine at different road speeds.

Changing Down:

The drill for changing down is the same. The main difference is that you need to raise the engine speed to get a smooth change instead of letting it drop. In detail the drill is:


Left hand on the gear lever.
Press clutch pedal right down with left foot, at the same time keeping some pressure on the accelerator pedal.

Move the gear lever to the next lower gear position

Let the clutch pedal come up smoothly and press down a little more on the accelerator pedal. At the same time, put your left hand back on the steering wheel.


The content of pressure to be exerted on the accelerator in stages 2 and 4 will depend on the speed of the car and on how fast you need the engine to run to match this speed at the time you let the clutch pedal come up. Again, the sound of the engine will help you to judge this.


Once you get used to it, changing gear is quite a simple process. Nowadays, nearly all cars have 'synchromesh' on all or most of the forward gears. This is a device which matches (synchronizes) the speed of the gear wheels so that the teeth of the wheels are moving at the same speed when they mesh together. Although this means that it is easy enough to get the gear lever into the position you want, there are one or two points you should always remember about changing gear.


Never rush gear changing. Smooth, even movements are best. Never force the gear lever. It will need some pressure on the pull or push when you are moving it, because you are disengaging one pair of gear wheels (as you move from one gear position to the neutral position) and then working the synchromesh (as you move from neutral into the new gear position). But you will soon get used to this. Remember, smooth and even. This calls for a light but firm touch.


You will notice from the diagram of the gear lever positions that changing from first to second gear means moving the gear lever backwards in a straight line. It is a good idea to put a little pressure to the left on the gear lever as you pull it back, to make quite sure that it does not slip to the right (into fourth gear) as it goes through neutral. Similarly, when changing from third to fourth gear, a slight pressure to the right will prevent the gear lever from going across neutral into second gear. There is the same need for this slight sideways pressure on the gear lever, when changing down from fourth to third, or from second to first.


Lastly - practice. Learner drivers can get to know the various gear lever positions and practice changing them with the engine switched off. Sometimes the gear lever will not move freely from one position to another without the engine running. If this happens, leave it  alone. Never force a gear lever into position.

Moving off at an angle :

When you are sure of moving away safely and smoothly straight ahead, you next need to know how to move off at an angle from behind a parked vehicle. With kerbside spaces becoming scarcer everyday and vehicles parking closer, this is something that all drivers must know how to do.


The drill is the same as for moving off straight ahead, up to the stage where you are holding the clutch pedal at biting point. Then you go on to your safety checks. But you have to add another one: 'At what angle shall I have to move out, and how far will this take me out onto the road?' The answer to these questions will depend on how close you are to the parked vehicle, and how wide it is. You will have to pay even more attention to other traffic - both from behind and coming towards you. But the last  question is still the same: 'Will I get in anyone's way if I move now - and do I need to give a signal?'


When you are sure that it is safe to go, you can get the car on the move. But at the same time you have to turn the steering wheel enough to clear the vehicle in front. Move out slowly and straighten up as soon as you are clear of the vehicle in front. Caution, be ready to brake - a pedestrian may come out from in front of the parked vehicle.

Moving off uphill :

When you can move off smoothly and safely on a level road, either straight ahead or at an angle, the next stage is to learn how to move off up a hill. The tendency will be for the car to roll backwards down the hill. The steeper the hill, the greater this tendency will be. To avoid rolling back, you must be able to use the accelerator, clutch and handbrake together and properly. Choose a quiet road where the slope is not too steep to practice this. Later, when you have got the idea pretty well, you can try it on steeper hills.


The drill for moving off up a hill is the same as for moving off on the level, except for a little further pressing down of the accelerator after moving the gear lever to the first gear.


Hold the clutch pedal quite still in this position:
Now make your safety checks.
a) Use your Mirror.
b) Then look round over your right shoulder.
Decide whether you need to give a signal to show you are moving off and give it, if necessary.
Lift the handbrake and release the catch button. At the same time press the accelerator down a little more (how much more depends on the steepness of the hill) and let the clutch pedal come up little more, very gently, until you feel and hear the engine trying to move the car forward.
Then release the handbrake smoothly.
As the car begins to move forwards, press the accelerator down gradually to build up speed and at the same time let the clutch pedal come right up, still smoothly.

The most common faults are letting the car roll back - because the handbrake has been released too soon; stalling the engine - because the handbrake has been held on for too long, or the clutch pedal has been allowed to come up too quickly or too far, or the accelerator pedal has not been held down far enough (or any combination of these).


Try to follow the drill and practice it until you have mastered it. When you can start up on a hill smoothly and without rolling backwards, practice doing it from behind a parked vehicle - in other words, at an angle.

Other points about stopping :

We have told you how to stop and suggest practicing until you are able to pull your car up, without violent braking, just where you want. But there are two more equally important points about braking - knowing your 'stopping distance', and knowing the proper way to stop in an emergency.

Knowing your stopping distance :

The Highway code says, 'Leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it slows down or stops suddenly'. Although many agree with this advice, very few put it into practice. This is probably because they don't realize how far they will travel before they can stop. It is a 'must' for safe driving to know your stopping distance - the distance your car will travel from the moment you realize that you must brake to the moment the car stops.

  Stopping distance depends on five things:

How fast are you going.
Whether you are travelling on the level, uphill or downhill.
The weather and the state of the road.
The condition of your brakes and tyres.
Your ability as a driver.

It can also be broken down into two parts - thinking distance and braking distance. Thinking distance depends on how quickly you react. Unless you are tired or unwell, the time you take to react will be fairly constant. But the higher your speed, the farther your car will go before you react. Even if you are going only at 20 m.p.h., you will travel about 20 feet before your brakes begin to act. At 30 m.p.h., you will go 30 feet; at 40 m.p.h. 40 feet, and so on.


Speed has even more effect on braking distance. At a speed of 20 m.p.h., your brakes, even if they are good, will take about 20 feet (apart from the thinking distance) to stop your car on a dry road. If you are going at 40 m.p.h. (twice the speed), they will take about 80 feet (four times as far).


Many people drive much too close to the vehicle in front, or too fast for the road and traffic conditions. This is probably because they think they can pull up in a shorter distance than they really can. And this in turn is often because they often cannot judge  distances properly. It is all very well to be able to recite a table of stopping distances, but it isn't much good if what you think is 120 feet when it  is really 80 feet.


Try how good you are at judging distance. While walking on a street, pick out something ahead of you and estimate how far away it is. Then measure it out and see how close your estimate was. Even if you are spot on first time, try it again with different objects at different distances.


You should not only know what your stopping distance is at various speeds, but also be able to judge pretty accurately just what this is in terms of the length of the road as you are driving. Then you must apply this in deciding how far you should be behind the vehicle in front.


Finally - a very important point. Above all braking depends on how well your tyres grip the road surface. If the road surface is wet or loose, your tyres won't grip well and your braking distance will be longer than on a dry surface. We shall go into 'braking in bad weather' in more detail later. In the meantime, remember to leave much more time and room for braking in bad weather.

Stopping in an emergency :

A good and safe driver will never have to brake really hard, still less to make a crash stop. But emergencies do sometimes arise - for instance, a child may run onto the road in front of you - so you must know how to stop really quickly.


The main thing to remember is that although you must brake hard, you should still follow the rule of progressive braking - pushing the brake pedal harder as you slow  down. Here are some other points about emergency braking:

  Keep both hands on the steering wheel -  You need the greatest possible control over steering.

Avoid braking so hard that you lock any of the wheels - Even if you don't skid sideways, a wheel sliding along the road is doing very little, if anything, to help stopping.


Leave the clutch pedal alone - Until just before you stop; this will give some help to your braking and usually to stability as well.


Leave the handbrake alone - (except in the case when your footbrake fails). Most handbrakes operate on the back wheels only and if you put extra braking on them, you stand more chance of locking them and skidding.


If you are not moving on again straightaway after stopping, put the handbrake on and the gear lever in neutral, just as you would after a normal stop.


Many learner drivers tend to put too much pressure on the footbrake, and so lock the wheels. It certainly needs practice to apply the right amount of brake pressure to stop the car without locking the wheels. But every driver should remember that the amount of brake pressure he can apply safely depends on the state of the road surface. If it is firm and dry, you can apply very firm pressure. If it is wet or loose, your tyres will have less grip and the wheels will lock more easily, so you cannot use as much pressure.


Finally, don't bother to give a signal if you have to stop in an emergency. As we have said, you need both hands on the steering wheel. You need to make a special point of using the mirror before starting to brake. If you have been using the mirror properly, you should have a pretty good idea of what is behind you anyway. The most important thing, when you are faced with a real emergency, is to stop as quickly as you possibly can, with your car under full control.



 You should be able to make a smooth change down into all your gears, including first. As we mentioned earlier, most cars have synchromesh on all or some of the forward gears. But if you don't have synchromesh on first gear, you have an extra problem in making a smooth change down because you have to do the matching of the gear wheel speeds yourself. You do this by 'double declutching'. Here is the drill:


Hand on the gear lever.

Push the clutch pedal right down and at the same time let the accelerator pedalcome right up.

Move the gear lever to neutral and hold it there.

Let the clutch pedal come up, press the accelerator pedal quickly and release it immediately.

Push the clutch pedal right down and move the gear lever to the next lower gear position.

Let the clutch pedal come up, at the same time pressing accelerator pedal

The reason for engaging the clutch and using the accelerator at stage 4 is to speed up the gear wheel on the drive from the engine so that, when the gear is engaged at stage 5, the teeth on that gear wheel will be moving at the proper (higher) speed to engage smoothly with the teeth on the new gear wheel.


You will need to speed up the engine quickly by a sudden dab on the accelerator pedal at stage 4, rather than by a gradual pressure. The higher your speed, the more you must speed up the engine. You will have to remember that the engine will begin to slow down while you are carrying out stage 5. So double declutching successfully depends very much on being able to make the various hand and foot movements reasonably quickly - a smooth rhythm is what is needed.


Summary :

The routine car checks: oil, water, clean windscreen and windows, tyres, lights and battery

The 'cockpit drill'; doors, driving seat, mirrors, seat belts, petrol.
The drill for starting the engine.

The drill for moving off straight ahead and the safety checks - using mirror and looking round.

The drill for stopping; progressive use of footbrake.

Changing gear - up and down; the need for smooth, unhurried movements. Learning the right gear to use for different speeds.

Moving off at an angle; the importance of proper steering.
Moving off uphill; using the handbrake to avoid rolling backwards.

The importance of knowing and judging stopping distances and of not driving too close to the vehicle in front. Thinking distance and braking distance and the effect of wet roads.

Stopping in an emergency. How to avoid locking the wheels.
Double Declutching