Sunday, 22 September 2013

Use of Mirrors

The importance of proper use of all of the mirrors shouldn’t be under estimated. Knowing what is happening behind you is as important as knowing what is ahead of you when you are planning ahead and making a plan of action to deal with a hazard, which could just as easily come from behind, e.g. an emergency vehicle, as develop ahead of you.

As well as looking in the mirrors on specific occasions, i.e. before signalling and changing speed or direction, you will be a better and safer driver if you can get in the habit if checking your mirrors every few seconds or so. But which mirror should you use and when?

Inside Mirror – this is the mirror you will look at more than the others. Use it whenever you use the others or on its own if you are slowing down with no turn to be made or when you are just generally checking the situation behind you. 

Left Mirror – use this mirror whenever you plan to turn or move to the left or if you need to check something specific on that side, for example, you’ve just overtaken a cyclist and then come to a stop in a queue at a junction and need to know where the cyclist is.   
Right Mirror – as above, just swap the word ‘left’ for ‘right’

Common Faults

If you watch an experienced driver, you will notice that they look in the mirrors immediately before taking some form of action. This leaves no time for adjustment if you don’t see what you expect to see. Mirrors should be looked at early enough to change plans if needed. 

It’s easy to look in the mirrors out of habit without actually noticing what is there. Make sure you don’t just look, but see as well. That includes the side mirrors where appropriate, and not just the inside mirror.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Changing Gear

The key to a successful gear change is to take your time and hold the gear lever as if you are holding a pen; firmly enough to control it but not so firmly that your hand and forearm become stiff. This will allow you to move the gear lever more easily and guide it into the correct gear. The mantra to remember here is ‘speed before gear’ whether you are speeding up or slowing down. Make sure the car is at the correct speed for the gear you need before you change up or down.  Naturally, the best way to practice gear changing is to do it on the move. However, if you have a spare moment or two, you can practice in the family car while it is parked at home. As long as the engine is switched off, you don’t need anyone in the car with you – just keep well away from the handbrake to avoid a mishap ;-) 

Common Faults

Holding the gear lever too tightly won’t allow the movement necessary for the lever to go to the right place. For example, to go from 2nd into 3rd, the lever has to move a bit to the right. Hold it too stiffly and you will end up in 1st and have a close encounter with the windscreen when the clutch comes back up. Speaking of the clutch, be sure it is fully down before trying to come out of one gear and into another. 

If the gear you want to change into involves moving the lever towards neutral, don’t be tempted to move the gear lever over in that direction too much. For example, too much movement to the right when going from 2nd into 3rd will probably result in going into 5th. 

If you adopt a standard grip on the gear lever, you can make subtle adjustments to help you get into the gear you want. By placing your palm on the top of the lever, you can then turn the palm left, right, forwards or backwards depending on where you need to move the lever to. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Steering accurately starts with the position of the hands on the steering wheel. If you imagine the steering wheel to be the face of a clock, put your left hand on the 10 and your right hand on the 2. Positioning at 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 is acceptable, but 10 and 2 is usually more effective.

Turning Left

Just before you reach the point where you need to start turning a corner, move your left hand to the top of the wheel. When at the point of turn, move your left hand down steadily letting the wheel slide through your right hand so that the right hand doesn’t move. There will usually be a pause in hand movement when you have applied enough turn and are waiting for the car to get around the corner. Use this pause to place your right hand at the top of the steering wheel ready for when you need to turn the wheels back to the straight position. 

Turning Right

At first this will feel very strange, especially if you are only used to turning left up to now. Your hands are doing essentially the same thing as turning left but have swapped jobs, with your right hand getting you round the corner and your left hand straightening the car. As with turning left, put your right hand at the top of the wheel just before the point of turn and pull down steadily letting the wheel slide through your left hand. Use the pause in wheel movement to put your left hand to the top of the wheel ready to get the wheel straight again. 

Common Faults

If you don’t cross your hands over at some point during practice, you will do something no other learner has ever done before! It may help to think of the steering wheel as two different areas, with each area being out of bounds to the wrong hand. Repetitive practice is the only way to get used to the correct steering method so drive yourself dizzy by going round in circles. 

Each movement of the steering wheel should be steady. Move the wheel quickly or with a sudden jerk and the car will move very suddenly in that direction. 

Steering is the only driving topic that can be practiced without being in the car. You can use a circular tray or a plate (go on, shock mum and dad by offering to wash up!) when you are at home to get used the movement your hands need to make.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Clutch Control

This is a useful and important skill to learn as it will be needed in a variety of situations. Clutch control is used when you need to move very slowly for any length of time e.g., when parking or moving out of a tight space.
The best way to practice clutch control is to find a quite road and drive very slowly moving the clutch up and down between the bite point and the floor. While the clutch is up, the engine will need a few revs so press the gas slightly. Before putting the clutch down, release the gas otherwise there will be a loud roar when you put the clutch down and you will wake the neighbours! When the clutch is down, the car will feel like it is drifting or gliding along on its own.  You will know when the clutch is at biting point when the car starts to feel as if it is being ‘driven’ again. As well as developing this important skill, it will also help you gain a clearer sense of where the biting point is, helping you move off in different situations. 

Common Faults

There is only one thing that can go wrong here; moving the clutch up too quickly. You will know if you are doing this as it will feel as if you are on the back of a kangaroo!