Know your car: The Controls

The controls are split into 3 sections: Foot Controls, Hand Controls and Eye Controls. The following section takes you through where the controls are and their function.

Foot Controls

There are 3 foot controls: Accelerator (Gas) Pedal, Brake Pedal and Clutch Pedal.

foot-pedals

The table below may help to remind you what each of the pedals does, which foot to operate the each pedal with, where each pedal is located and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating them:

Pedal Function Which Foot? Location Instructor Commands
Accelerator (Gas) Makes the car go faster, gives the car power Right The pedal situated on the Right of the three Set the gas
Off the gas
More gas
Brake Makes the car slow down or stop Right Middle of the three pedals Brake gently
Firm brake
Clutch Controls the car and allows you to change to the appropriate gear for the speed of the car Left The pedal situated on the Left of the three Biting point
Clutch higher
Clutch lower

Hand Controls

The gears, handbrake, steering wheel, indicators, lights and windscreen wipers would come under this section.

Gears

The gears of a car help the car to work better at the speed you´re travelling at. So you change the speed first using the accelerator or brake pedal and then the gear should be changed to match the new speed. Cars are either automatic or manual transmission and this refers to the gearbox.

The table below may help to remind you how many gears your instructors car has, the function of the gears, how to use them, the location of the gears and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating them:

Manual transmission

How many gears? Function How to use? Location Instructor Commands
Usually 5 forward gears, one reverse gear and neutral gear Makes the car work more efficiently at the speed you´re travelling at Press clutch pedal down to the floor and using your left hand slide the gear into the correct shaft. Bring the clutch pedal slowly back up, through biting point and off Gears are to the left of the driver´s seat Select gear
Change gear
Clutch lower
Clutch higher
Biting point

manual-gears

When you change gear you need to try and keep your eyes on the road and not look down at the gear box. The gear box may have a spring action to it so when you are out of gear, resting in neutral, the gear lever would be sitting in the middle of the box. When you change the gear then it is important that you use the palm of your hand to guide the lever left or right into the correct shaft, otherwise you may end up with the wrong gear! If you are struggling why not ask your instructor if you can practise changing the gear whilst the car is stationary?

The timing of the gear change is also important and is only necessary when accelerating. As the car reaches a new speed bracket you need to change the gear up one. Whilst it is not incorrect to go down the gears when braking it is not necessary to do so and so if you were using 5th gear and had to brake for a junction you would only need to change the gear at the point of accelerating again – so if the speed dropped to 10mph you could simply change it from 5th gear to 2nd. If you do go down the gears individually when braking you need to make sure that you bring your clutch pedal back up after each gear change otherwise you will be coasting, which will cause the car to lose control. The diagram below gives a guide as to which gear is used for which speed:

gear-changes

Automatic transmission

An automatic car has a gear box that changes gear automatically, it doesn´t have a clutch pedal either, meaning that the only foot controls a driver needs to use are the accelerator and brake pedals. An automatic gear box looks like this:

automatic-gears

If you take your driving test in an automatic car then it means you can only drive a car with automatic transmission once you have passed. Should you have the need to drive a manual car in the future you will have to re-take your driving test in a manual car.

Handbrake

The handbrake makes the car more secure when stationary. You need to use the handbrake when the car is parked up and if you are waiting at a junction for more than a few seconds. By applying the handbrake it stops you from rolling whilst waiting at the junction, secondly it protects you at a junction should another car hit you. When you press the brake pedal the braking is distributed evenly across all 4 wheels allowing for a more progressive stop. You must never stop the car with the handbrake, however, as the handbrake is only linked to the rear wheels. So if you were travelling and then tried to stop using the handbrake you would distribute the braking power unevenly across the 4 wheels, potentially causing the car to skid.

The table below may help to remind you of the function of the handbrake, how to use it, where it is located and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating it:

 

Function How to use? Location Instructor Commands
To secure the car when stationary for long periods of time To apply the handbrake: Press the button in, raise the handbrake until the car feels stationary, then release the button.
To take the handbrake off: Press the button in, lower the handbrake to the floor and release the button. Check that the handbrake symbol on the dashboard has gone off
To the left of the driver´s seat Release the handbrake
Apply the handbrake
Lower the handbrake
Raise the handbrake

handbrake

Steering Wheel

steering

The steering wheel helps you to change direction by navigating the car left or right. It is important that when you drive you keep both hands on the wheel because if an unexpected situation developed and you needed to swerve you will have better control of the car than if you only had one hand on the wheel. The best hand position is 10 to 2 or quarter to 3 when you are driving normally and you should only be driving with one hand when you are changing the gear or operating a control.

The steering wheel will turn approximately 1.5 times to reach full lock, this is the maximum turn available to the car. So to get from full left lock to full right lock for example you would need to turn the steering wheel 3 times. Only with practise will you start to understand how much steering is needed for corners etc.

The table below may help to remind you of the function of the steering wheel, how to use it, where it is located and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating it:

Function How to use? Location Instructor Commands
To navigate the car left and right Keeping your hands in the 10 to 2 or quarter to 3 position when driving. When steering left or right feed the wheel through your hands so that your hands don´t cross In front of you Steer to the left
Steer to the right
Full left lock
Full right lock

steering2

Direction Indicators

The direction indicators show people the direction you intend to travel in. It is important that you signal only when it is necessary, that you put the correct indicator on for the direction you are intending to take and that you signal at the correct time.

indicators

Necessary

It is not always necessary to signal your intentions. For example when moving off and stopping if there is no-one to benefit from a signal then it is not necessary. Signals are not just for cars remember, it is important to signal your intentions to pedestrians and other road users such as cyclists also. It is also not necessary to signal to pass a parked car if it was on a housing estate for example, again assess the situation and use the indicators accordingly. If the driver is still in the vehicle you are about to overtake e.g bus, bin truck driver, then a signal can give them an indication of your intention to overtake. Also if you have been held up for a while, or if the road is narrow then a signal to move out may be necessary to show road users behind you of your intention to move out.

Correct

It is incredibly dangerous to signal in a particular direction and then to turn in the opposite direction. Once road users have read your signal they will interpret what they have seen and act on it. If you have put on an incorrect signal by mistake make sure you take extra care when following through your turn to avoid causing an accident.

Timing

Likewise the timing of your signal can confuse road users. If you signal too early there may be another junction before yours, road users may pull out in front of you also as they will believe you are turning earlier than you actually intend to. Similarly signalling too late gives other road users little warning of your intentions and may interpret a ´no signal´ as your intention to go straight ahead when in actual fact you wish to turn.

The table below may help to remind you of the function of the directional indicators, how to use it, where it is located and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating it:

Function How to use? Location Instructor Commands
To let other road users know our intentions Push the indicator stalk up or down depending on the direction On the steering wheel column Left Signal
Right Signal

Lights

The lights help us to see better in the dark but equally they help other road users to see us in poor visibility conditions.

Side lights

The side lights are the dimmest out of the three light settings and are ideal for when you are parked up maybe waiting for someone in dusk or poor light conditions.

Dipped headlights

dipped

The dipped headlights should be used when driving in the dark or poor light conditions. These are much brighter than the side lights and so other road users will be able to see you more clearly.

Main beam

mainbeam

The main beam is the brightest of the three lights and should only be used in extremely poor light conditions e.g an unlit country road, and when there are no cars travelling towards you from the opposite direction. As the beam is angled high and is bright, opposing road users will struggle to see what´s in front of them.

Fog lights

foglights

Some cars have front and rear fog lights, others just have rear fog lights. The fog light is a bright red light that enables other road users to see you at times of extremely poor visibility. Fog lights should only be used when your visibility is reduced to less than 100 metres.

The table below may help to remind you of the function of the lights, how to use it, where it is located and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating them:

Function How to use? Location Instructor Commands
To enable us to see in dark or poor visibility conditions and also to allow other road users to see us better Use the light stalk or switch to use Steering wheel column or on the dash board Apply the lights
Switch the lights off

Windscreen Wipers

It is vital that we can see out of our windscreen no matter what the weather conditions are. The windscreen wipers´ job is to ensure that the windscreen is clear and that we can see through it at all times. Aside from the wipers it is also important that the windscreen fluid reservoir is topped up before we go on any lengthy journey and ensure to check the wiper blades also for any tears in them as they may need changing. The function to clean the windscreen should be on the same stalk / switch as the wipers.

The table below may help to remind you of the function of the windscreen wipers, how to use it, where it is located and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating it:

Function How to use? Location Instructor Commands
To enable us to keep a clear windscreen Use the windscreen wiper stalk or switch to use Steering wheel column or on the dash board Apply the wipers
Turn the wipers off

Demister Controls

If the temperature inside the car becomes warmer than the temperature outside the car then the windows may become steamed up, which can be incredibly dangerous if you are driving at the time. The demister controls help to remove that steam by blowing air on to the inside of the windscreen. To operate the demister controls you need to change the dials so that the air flow is coming from outside of the car, the air direction is blowing on to the windscreen, the pressure of the flow is high and the temperature of the air is hot. There may also be a rear window demister control, which heats up the black bars on the rear windscreen. If you do have a rear window demister, be very careful when scraping your rear windscreen as you could damage the heating elements.

The table below may help to remind you of the function of the demister controls, how to use it, where it is located and what commands your instructor may use whilst you are operating them:

Function How to use? Location Instructor Commands
To clear the windscreen when steamed up Set the dials to the appropriate settings to use Usually on the dash board Turn the dial…

Eye Controls

The eye controls incorporate all the dashboard elements and the mirrors.

Speedometer

speedo

The speedometer shows you the speed at which you are travelling. There are usually 2 sets of numbers, one shows you the speed in miles per hour (mph) and the other set shows your speed in kilometres per hour (kph) – make sure you are reading the correct set of numbers!

Tachometer or Rev Counter

rev

The tachometer is an instrument which shows the speed of the engine and it is displayed as revolutions per minute (RPM).