Basic Routines: Cockpit Drill (D.S.S.S.M.)

Before we start the engine of the car we need to check that the car´s controls are set in the most appropriate position for us. Our safety and that of others is of paramount importance and you must make sure that you can reach and use the controls quickly and efficiently with ease. If you share your car with other drivers then it is essential that each time you drive the car you adjust things as necessary to suit your requirements.

We check things in a certain order:

  • Doors
  • Handbrake
  • Seat
  • Mirrors
  • Seatbelt



Make sure ALL the doors are properly closed tight. You may have dropped a passenger off or you may have put something in the boot, so before you set off you must make sure the doors have been closed. A quick glance in the side mirrors should show that the side doors have been closed (the doors should look flush to the bodywork of the car). Modern cars also have warning systems too which will alert you if any of the doors are still open.



Before you start the engine you need to ensure that the handbrake is on and that the gear lever is in neutral gear. Always check the handbrake first before the gear! If you were parked on a hill, you may have left the car in gear, 1st gear if the car was parked uphill and reverse if the car was parked on a downhill slope. This helps to keep the car pulling in an uphill direction to stop the car from rolling down the hill. If the handbrake hasn´t been engaged fully then as soon as you take the gear out of its position the car will roll down the hill potentially into the car parked behind or in front of you.


Adjust the seat so that you are comfortable and able to reach the controls of the car easily. Importantly you need to be able to press the clutch pedal down to the floor with your left foot, so make sure that your distance from the foot pedals allows you to do this without stretching. The height of the seat can be adjusted also, by pumping the lever to raise it. This will allow you to see out of the front windscreen more easily, if you are still struggling to see out of the window then maybe sit on a small cushion to help elevate you some more. You can also adjust the rake of the seat, which is the angle of the back of the seat, the more upright you have the seat the closer you will be to the stearing wheel. Finally you need to adjust your head restraint on the seat to make sure that your head and ears are positioned in the middle of the headrest. The headrest protects your head and neck from injury when you have to brake abrasively and it is important that it is set correctly.



The mirrors show you what´s going on around you and MUST be set so that you can use them effectively. The centre mirror should be set so that you can see all 4 sides of the rear window without having to move your head too much. The two side mirrors should be set so that you can see a bit of the car so that you have a reference point of where you are on the road, and the centre line of the mirror should form your horizon line so that you should see half road and half sky out of the each mirror. For more information about use of mirrors click here.




Only once you are satisfied that everything is set up for how you want them to be should you apply your seatbelt. Feed the seatbelt across your body so that the top belt sits over your shoulder and the lower belt sits across your lap and then securely fasten the seatbelt into the buckle. Make sure the belt isn´t twisted in anyway, because if the belt is twisted it will not tighten effectively in an emergency. Never be tempted to drive with the belt under your arm as you are more likely to sustain serious injuries in an accident wearing just a lap belt.