When learning how to drive, things may look a little intimidating. But driving is a lot easier than it looks. Of course, from the passenger's seat, or from what you have seen in the movies, you can get the idea that driving a car must definitely be difficult. However, if you get behind the wheel and gently put your foot on the pedal, you'll see how easily the process can become very intuitive.
We'll show you how to take things slow in the beginning, step by step, and soon enough you'll be well on your way to mastering the basics. Whether you'll be driving an automatic transmission vehicle, or a manual transmission vehicle, here you'll find everything you need to know about how to drive a car.
Making Yourself Comfortable with the Car’s Control
1.The first thing you need to do is to adjust the seat. Do this so that your feet comfortably reach the pedals. The seat can be adjusted either forward or backward, as well as up and down. Keep in mind that some cars will have electronic controls (most of the times, they're on the left side of the seat). Also, you'll find that older cars have a latch underneath the seat. The latch helps you control the position of the seat.
2. Next, you'll have to familiarise yourself with the foot pedals. If you're driving an automatic transmission car, you'll only have two foot pedals which control the acceleration and the braking. The acceleration pedal, which is usually smaller than the other one, is on the right. By pressing down on it, the car speeds up. If you press the larger pedal on the left(the brake pedal), your car will slow down.
Later on, in the article, you'll see that things are a little bit different on a manual transmission car.
It's important to remember that ven if you are left-foot dominant, you have to use your right foot to reach both pedals. Although it'll feel weird in the beginning, you'll soon get used to it. This is very important because it's the safest technique you can possibly use. And safety comes first.
· Also, never use both feet at once to reach the pedals. You have to use only one foot at a time to access each pedal. By doing this, you'll make it impossible to accidentally press down on both pedals at the same time.
3. What you need to do next is adjust your car's mirrors. Adjust them so that you can see clearly and effectively. Usually, the car should have three mirrors:, each with its own function. For instance, the rear view mirror allows you to see directly behind the rear windshield in back of you. The other two outside mirrors let you see to either side of the car, while also protecting you from blind spots.
· Remember that your rear view mirror should always be positioned effectively. This means that when you're in your normal driving position, you should see directly behind you and as much of the rear windshield as possible.
· We recommend to position your outside mirrors so that all blind spots are eliminated. By positioning the mirrors further outward than normal, they'll just overlap with the viewing angle of the rear view mirror. Although this may seem disorienting at first, it'll actually erase the blind spots which you might otherwise only be able to spot by looking over the shoulder.
4. Next, you have to make sure you know where the parking brake (or hand/emergency brake) is. The parking brake looks like a lever with a button on its tip and when is pulled up, it helps locks the car in place, making sure that it doesn't move. If the hand brake is pulled down, it means that's disengaged. Now the car can freely move. Therefore, make sure that your parking brake is disengaged before you start driving.
5. Now, try to get a feel for the shift lever. This lever is usually positioned in between the two front seats of a car. What it does is to control some of the car's gears (such as park, neutral, drive, reverse). However, sometimes, the shift lever is on the right side of the steering wheel.
Here are some things you need to know about the shift lever:
· When the shift lever is engaged in Park and you turn the car on, it won't move forward no matter how much you press down on the acceleration pedal.
· When the shift lever is in Neutral, the car's natural momentum will continue to carry it forward.
· When the shift lever is in Reverse, the car will move backwards instead of moving forwards if you take the foot off the brake.
· When the shift lever is in Drive, the car will move forwards if you take the foot off the brake.
6. Then, make sure you understand your basic dashboard controls. This is very important because the gauges help show the driver crucial information. For example, they display how much gas the car is carrying, how fast the car is going, how hot the engine is, and how many RPM (revolutions per minute) the engine is clocking.
· The speedometer is one of the most important dashboard controls in the car. This tells you how fast your car is traveling, whether in miles per hour (MPH) or km per hour (KPH).
· The RPM gauge shows you how hard your engine is working. Usually, most RPM gauges will have red areas starting at 6,000 or 7,000 RPM. If the dial in the gauge turns into red into, just ease off the acceleration pedal.
· The gas gauge shows how much fuel your car has. Its dial usually travels between "F" and "E," with "E" meaning "empty" and "F" meaning "full."
· The temperature gauge in the car shows whether your car's engine is overheating or not. The dial usually travels between "H" and "C," meaning "hot" and "cold." The dial should normally be in the centre of the gauge.
Getting Down the Basics
Now that you are familiar with your car's control, you can move on to understanding the basics of driving.
1. First of all, put on your seatbelt. Driving without a seatbelt is actually illegal in most places of the world. And this is mostly because seatbelts dramatically reduce the possibility of serious injury or death if you happen to get in an accident.
- Then, keep in mind to always start your car with your foot on the brake. If you turn it on, the car will move forward automatically when your foot isn't on the brake. But if you have your foot on the brake in starting position, you're ready to start driving.
- You can now turn on the engine and release the parking brake, if necessary. Next, put the keys in the ignition (this is usually to the right side of the steering wheel) and turn clockwise. But remember that in some newer vehicles, provided the keys are actually inside the car, all you have to do is push the "Power" or "Ignition" button to get the engine starting.
- You also have to learn how to back your car out. For example, when the car is parked in a lot or a driveway, chances are you're going to need to back your car out in order to start driving. Of course, it may seem intimidating, but there are only a couple of thing you have to remember:
· Start by putting the car in Reverse and double-check. When the car isn't in Reverse, it won't go backward.
· Now look over your shoulder and turn your head to get a good view of where you're going.
· Begin to gently remove your foot from the brake pedal and do not put your foot on the acceleration. Try not to worry about putting your foot on the acceleration. Move the car can by simply removing your foot from the brake pedal. It'll move slowly, but it'll keep you safe, without risking to run into something or someone.
· Don't forget that the steering wheel is "reversed" in Reverse. If you drive your car forward, you'll turn the steering wheel to the right so the car will also turn to the right, and vice versa. And this is because your wheels turn that way.
· Of course, use your brake whenever you need to slow down. Just press your foot gently but firmly on the brake pedal to slow the car down.
5. Now you're ready to move your car forward. Come into to a complete stop and shift the car into Drive. Then put your foot on the brake pedal, shift your car into Drive so that it'll begin to move forward. Next, take your foot off the brake pedal. You need to slowly press down on the acceleration pedal with your foot to get the car to move forward. But you also need to accelerate until you've reached the speed limit. Then take your foot off the acceleration, hovering it over the brake pedal in case you need to start braking.
6. Remember to hold both hands on the steering wheel at the "9 and 3" position. Place your left hand where the 9 would be on a clock, and your right hand where the 3 would be on a clock. This is the way to do it. Do not try to hold the steering wheel with only one hand.
7. Another important thing you need to know is to use your blinkers. The blinkers are flashing orange lights or red. Some cars have red light as blinkers on either side of the car's rear, next to the brake lights. And blinkers are really important in driving. They let other cars know that you're switching lanes or turning. Usually, the blinker switch is located on the left side of the steering wheel. Just press it up to turn to activate your right blinkers (to turn/switch lanes to the right) or press it down to activate your left blinkers (to turn/switch lanes to the left).
8. Another thing you need to learn is how to turn the car using the hand over hand method. You'll see this is quite easy because it's very intuitive. When you need to turn the car slightly, try to turn the steering wheel in the direction you want, but also try keeping your hands at the 9 and 3 position.
If you're making a harder turn, use the "hand over hand" method. If you want to turn right, then turn the steering wheel clockwise, leading with the right hand. When your right hand gets to the 4 or 5 position, release it and cross it over your left hand.
In order to straighten out the car after a turn, just loosen your grip in both hands and the steering wheel will automatically begin correcting itself. You need to apply more pressure to slow down. And simply apply less pressure to speed it up.
9. Now you can start learning how to switch lanes. This comes at some point in your driving, when you'll need to switch from one lane to another, sometimes even very quickly. To do that, you have to remember to use the blinkers to let other drivers know that you're planning on switching lanes.
Therefore, we summed up for you some steps to follow while you switch lanes:
· First, you need to indicate with your blinkers for at least two seconds before beginning to switch lanes. This allows other drivers to know what you are planning to do.
· Then quickly scan your mirrors and look over the shoulder to check for any cars in your blind spots. Make sure not to rely just on your mirrors to tell you where other cars are. Instead, use your eyes to quickly look for yourself before actually switching lanes.
· Now slowly move the car into the other lane. This should take anywhere from 1 to 3 seconds for you to change lanes.
10. It is very important to have a healthy distance from other cars. And this depends on how fast you are traveling. For instance, give yourself and your car 2 to 5 seconds to react, depending on your comfort level.
Putting It All Together
1. Try to drive defensively. Driving defensively is very important because it'll help save you money, provide a pleasurable driving experience, while also helping you stay alive. This term covers several different concepts:
· To begin with, remember not to assume that people will follow the rules, or pay attention, or be cautious. Too often, rules are broken by selfish or clueless drivers. For example, don't assume that drivers will use their blinkers before they turn, that drivers will slow down for you to merge, or that drivers won't run red lights.
· Keep in mind that when you see a potentially dangerous situation, you shoul avoid it before it happens. For instance, don't linger immediately to the right of a big semi truck or try to pass a drunk driver who's swerving in and out of lanes.
· Keep all you senses alert and use them at all times to be aware of what's happening on the road. This means that you shouldn't get too complacent behind the wheel: use your sight to monitor other cars' speeds, use hearing to listen for car horns or the sounds of screeching, use smell to identify burnt rubber or other caustic aromas that can indicate an accident.
2. A great advice is to stay in the right lanes for slower speeds and the left lanes for faster speeds. For example, when you're driving on highways, the leftmost lanes are usually reserved for faster traffic, while the rightmost lanes are reserved for slower traffic. Of course, it'll be rude (and not to mention dangerous) to tailgate someone going slower than you in the right lane. Remember to get in a lane that's roughly at your speed and stay there until you need to turn or get off.
3. Also, if it's possible, pass cars on the left side instead of the right side. The general speed of traffic increases going right to left, so it's important to pass on the left. Since you're speeding your car up and going faster than the car ahead of you, you'll want to pass using a lane that's meant for faster cars.
However, try to never pass a truck on the right. Trucks s are far larger than normal cars and this means that their blind spots are far bigger. They often stay in the rightmost lanes and switch lanes to the right, rarely switching lanes to the left. Therefore, by passing trucks on the left, you're driving your car out of their territory, lowering your risk.
4. It's very important to respect the speed limits. Simply make sure that at most, you're only traveling 5 mph (8 km/h) faster than the speed limit.
5. Remember to be extremely careful in abnormal driving conditions. Weather acts up all the time, so tone it down a notch and drive even more defensively than normal when this happens. rain, for example, implies that the water interacts with the oil on driving surfaces, making it very slick and slippery. Therefore, it's quite hard to get good traction for your tires. Hydroplaning is also a risk in heavy rain, when small pools of water have accumulated on asphalt.
6. Try to be courteous on the road. This simply means acknowledging there are other people on the road. So making their life on the road a little easier it'll also make it easier for you.
For instance, use your horn just to alert other drivers or in case pf imminent danger. Being a powerful device, the horn should be used when someone merges into your lane without seeing you, or when a light has turned green but they're still daydreaming. Using the horn because you're stuck in a traffic jam is very disrespectful.
In order to thank someone, you can use a wave. If someone let's you into their lane, wave your hand to thank them.
7. Of course driving can be dangerous and there sure are a lot of rules that you need to remember, but it's important to have fun while you behind the wheel. You can still be responsible and have fun at the same time. Staying responsible can surely go together with enjoying driving.
Driving a car with manual transmission
Getting Familiar with your Car
The first thing you need to know about a manual transmission vehicle is that it had three pedals: clutch, brake, gas. The clutch pedal, which is absent on an automatic transmission car, is the pedal on the far left. You need to press on this pedal in order to shift gears up or down. The brake is the pedal in the middle and it’s used for braking. Then, the pedal on the far right is the gas or acceleration pedal, which works just like your gas pedal on the automatic transmission car.
One of the things that may surprise you at first about driving a stick shift for the first time is the addition of that clutch pedal. This means that now you have to use both feet when driving — not just your right foot. Therefore, you’ll be using your left foot to press the clutch and your right foot to press the brake and gas pedal.
Then there's the gear shifter. A gear shifter simply shifts the gears on your manual transmission. Most of the modern vehicles have six gears: first through fifth gears, and then reverse gear. Usually, you'll find on the knob of the gear shift a diagram showing what position the shifter needs to be in in order to engage each gear.
Another thing you need to pay attention to is the tachometer. This is a gauge on your dashboard that shows you how many revolutions per minute your engine’s crank shaft is going. When starting to drive a stick shift, the tachometer is a great way to determine when you should shift up or down. IMost of the times, you should shift gears up when the tachometer is around “3” or 3,000 RPMs; shift down when the tachometer is around “1” or 1,000 RPMs. After some practice, you’ll soon be able to figure out instictibely when to shift by the way your engine sounds and “feels.”
Practice Shifting Gears
Before actually learning anything about the mechanics of driving stick, we recommend that you practice with the car turned off and the parking brake engaged. This gives you a good chance to get a feel for how the gears engage and disengage, or how much give or resistance the clutch has. Also, by doing so, you'll be able to get comfortable with the general body mechanics of moving the gear shifter and pressing the pedals with both feet instead of just one.
Starting the Car
What may seem the hardest and most intimidating part of driving a stick shift is actually getting the car in first gear. Of course, it can take a while to figure out how much you need to press down on the gas and how slowly you need to disengage the clutch. You can prevent any frustration by simply accepting from the outset that you’re going to stall the car when you start learning. But that's more than ok. It's all part of the process. But once you get the car moving, shifting gears will seem extremely easy.
Start by practicing in an empty parking lot. If you’re going to stall the car, it's better to practice where there's not so much traffic and where you have a flat surface. For instance, empty parking lots are the ideal place for stick shift practice. A good idea is to have somebody in the passenger seat who knows how to drive manual and who can provide additional tips or pointers.
In order to start a manual transmission car, you’ll always need to press the clutch while you turn the ignition switch. However, while you don’t need to have your foot on the brake to start the car (as it happened with an automatic transmission), it’s a good habit to keep.
With the clutch pedal pushed down with your left foot, and your right foot pressed on the brake, you can now turn the car on.
Start by putting the car in 1st gear. If it isn’t already, just push the gear shifter into 1st gear. Remember not to shift gears without fully depressing the clutch pedal because doing so while the car is on will trigger a horrific grinding sound. Therefore, make sure your foot is still pressing the clutch pedal all the way down before shifting into 1st gear. Use your right hand to put the car into 1st gear, moving the gear shifter up and to the left.
Keep in mind to have the engine fully engaged. You’ll be able to feel this, as well as see it by observing if the gear shifter stays in place when you remove your hand from the gear knob. Now keep the clutch pedal and brake pushed down. Make sure not to take your left foot off the clutch yet. Otherwise, you’ll stall out.
What you'll have to do next is to move your right foot off the brake and onto the gas pedal. At the same time, gently start to release the clutch with your left foot. This may seem to be the tricky part when you start learning, but you'll soon get the hang of it. Then take your right foot off the brake, move it onto the gas pedal, and start pressing it, while at the same time slowly letting up on the clutch pedal with your left foot.
Continue to keep light pressure on the gas pedal with your right foot so that the tachometer stays around 1,500-2,000 RPM while also letting up on the clutch with your left foot. If all goes as expected, you should begin to feel the gears taking hold of the spinning engine. Now you’ll start slowly moving forward. When you feel you’re rolling at a steady clip, you can let up on the clutch completely. Now you can really be proud of yourself!
However, if you stall, just start again from the beginning. Don’t fret. Just repeat the same steps.
In order to stop, simply press down on the clutch with your left foot and the brake with your right foot at the same time.
Now repeat until you can get the car going in first gear without stalling. Just keep practicing getting the car going over and over again until you can do it regularly without stalling the car.
If you want to back up, you'll pretty much have to follow the same process. The only thing different is that the gear shift will be set in reverse. If you're on even a slight decline, you can get going in reverse without needing to press on the gas. Simply take your foot off the clutch.
Starting from a standstill up a hill will be the next thing you'll need to practice. Find a hill and practice there. Once you’ve mastered starting on a flat surface, try to find a hill to practice on. Of course, this requires much more finesse with the clutch and gas pedals. As before, you don’t want your first hill start to be in actual traffic with a car directly behind you.
As mentioned earlier, once you can get the car moving from a standstill and into 1st gear, you’ve pretty much mastered 90% of stick shift driving. Upshifting into other gears is a breeze. Generally, you’ll want to upshift when the tachometer hits about 3,000 RPMs. It will be different for every car, but it’s a good rule of thumb. If you shift too soon, you’ll feel the car shudder, and you’ll need to downshift to keep it from stalling.
When you’re ready to upshift, just follow this pattern:
· Take your right foot off the gas pedal and press the clutch all the way down with left foot and move gear shifter fully to next gear in one, synchronized motion.
· Release clutch pedal while simultaneously pressing down on the gas pedal with right foot.
· Completely let your left foot off of the clutch pedal once you’re in gear and continue to press the gas.
While you shouldn’t downshift to get your car to come to a stop in normal driving conditions (see below), there is a place for it in your stick shift driving arsenal. Obviously it’s needed when you’re driving in traffic that slows and speeds up as you go along. Downshift as your car slows and the tachometer drops to around 1.
Also, when you’re driving on hazardous roads, particularly on snow and ice, you don’t want to rely on your brakes to slow down lest you slide into the car in front of you. Instead, slow the car down by shifting into lower gears. If the roads are really slick, you’ll probably just want to stay in second gear.
Knowing When to Shift Gears Without Looking at the Tachometer
You’ll probably rely on the tachometer when you first start driving a stick shift to know when to shift gears. But with experience, you’ll be able to do it by how the car sounds and feels. If the engine is making a high pitched noise and it feels like no matter how much gas you give, you’re getting nowhere, then you’re in too low a gear and need to upshift. If the engine is making a low, rumbling noise and is vibrating a lot, you’re in too high of a gear and you need to downshift.
Don’t Ride the Clutch
You’ll want to avoid “riding the clutch.” What that means is avoiding resting your left foot on the clutch pedal when you’re in gear. While the light pressure of your foot resting on the clutch pedal is not enough to disengage the gear completely, it is enough to partially disengage it which causes premature wear and tear on your clutch.
Bottom line: when you’ve successfully shifted into a gear (or neutral), remove your left foot completely from the clutch pedal.
Coming to a Stop
There are two schools of thought on how one should come to a stop when driving a manual transmission car. The first method is to slow the car down by downshifting until you get to second gear and only then applying your brakes. The second method is to press on the clutch and shift the car into neutral, and then remove your foot from the clutch pedal, coasting to a stop using the brake pedal as needed.
While it’s true you can slow your car down by simply downshifting, it does cause a lot of wear and tear on your clutch and transmission.and this is also the way I learned to do it), it’s easier on your car to use the second method. Shift to neutral and use the brake. When you’re not able to put it in neutral, remember that you need to press in the clutch and the brake at the same time when you come to a stop.
Mastering Advanced Driving Techniques
Merging in heavy traffic is something you have to learn. For instance, when you're on a highway, this can be a difficult thing to do. If the traffic is denser than expected, the best thing to do here is to accelerate. Then judge whether you're going fast enough to fit safely between two cars.
Learn how to drive uphill. Driving uphill can be challenge, particularly if you're driving a stick. Master the art of downshifting when going up a steep hill.
Save gas. With the rising cost of gas or petrol, driving smart means more than just avoiding accidents. Those drivers who can save gas while they drive ultimately have more money to spend on car accessories.
When you park a manual transmission car, the emergency brake is your friend. You’ll want to set it every time you park your car, whether on a flat or sloping surface. For added safety, leave the car in first gear. If you’re parked on a hill, pointing downhill, put it in reverse. And no matter which direction you’re pointed on a hill, turn your front wheels so that if the car started rolling, it would roll into the sidewalk.
Well that covers the basics. There’s more to understand about driving stick, but you’ll learn most of what remains from experience, as you get attuned to listening to your car. After a while, shifting gears will feel as natural as breathing!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.