Car Operation - Learner Driver Tips [EBOOK] Ch 2
April 30, 2019 at 11:12 AM
In Chapter 2, learn about the basics of car operation including the use of seatbelts, car seats, mirrors, the steering wheel and headlights as well as using the controls in an automatic car and what to do when the car is stalled.
2.1 HOW TO USE YOUR SEAT BELT
2.2 HOW TO ADJUST YOUR CAR SEAT
2.3 UNDERSTANDING YOUR CAR’S MIRRORS
2.4 USING THE CONTROLS AROUND THE STEERING WHEEL
2.5 HOW TO EFFECTIVELY USE YOUR HEADLIGHTS
2.6 HOW TO USE YOUR CAR’S CONTROLS (AUTOMATIC)
2.7 WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU STALL THE CAR
Your seat belt is arguably the most important safety feature in your vehicle. Its job is to secure you in place during the abrupt movements that result from a crash. For your seat belt to work as it should, however, it needs to be used correctly.
Here’re a few tips for using your seat belt:
- Make it a habit to put on your seat belt first every time you get into the car with the intention to drive.
- Check to see whether your seat belt’s height is adjustable (this is usually done at the point where the belt attaches to the vehicle over your right shoulder). Adjust the height so that the belt goes across your right shoulder and over the centre of your chest.
- Put your seat in an upright position – as close to a 90-degree angle as you can. The belt won’t work as well when the seat is reclined.
- Listen for a click when you insert the belt into the latching device and tug on it to ensure it’s secure.
It’s important that you’re both comfortable and in the right position when you’re driving. Sitting too far from the steering wheel means that you’ll have to reach out while driving (which will cause fatigue) while sitting too close to the wheel is not only awkward but dangerous as the airbag could injure you in the event of a crash.
Tips for adjusting your seat
- Slide your seat back and forth until you can push the left pedal all the way in while keeping your leg slightly bent at the knee.
- Make sure you can touch the steering wheel with your wrists when your stretch out your arms. If only your hands reach the wheel, then you’re too far. If your forearms can reach the wheel, then you’re too close.
- You can adjust the steering wheel by unlocking the adjustment lever beneath the steering column if you need to.
- Adjust your seat’s angle or the steering wheel's height if necessary so that you are comfortable and can see the road well.
Watch our video on how to adjust your seat.
Your vehicle’s mirrors are important because they enable you to see most of what is going on around your vehicle. Although they do help you see a lot, they don’t cover everything, and a few places around your vehicle remain invisible through the mirrors. These places are referred to as blind spots. As such, you need to adjust your mirrors correctly to ensure your blind spots are as small as possible.
The function of each mirror
- The rear-view mirror is located at the top centre of your windscreen and is used to see what is behind you through the rear window. You should adjust this mirror so that you are able to see as much of the road behind you as possible and as little of the back seat as you can.
- The side mirrors are located on the sides of your vehicle and show you what is behind you on your right and left. These should be adjusted so that they are pointing back at the road to let you see what is behind you. They shouldn’t show your own vehicle or be angled up or down.
Watch our video on how to adjust your mirrors.
In addition to the controls you have at your feet, your car also has another set of controls around the steering wheel. These are used to control other important functions of the car such as lights, wipers etc.
Tips for using your hand controls
- The indicator lever is usually located on the right side of your car’s steering wheel. Pushing it up turns on your left indicator while pulling it down switches on your right indicator. Simply put, pushing or pulling the indicator lever in the direction you want to turn your steering wheel will correctly turn on your indicator.
- On the indicator stick is where you’ll normally find your headlight controls. Twisting the stick will turn them on while pushing the stick away from you switches on the high beam.
- Your windscreen wiper controls are usually on the left stick of your steering wheel. You can push it down in different stages to turn on the wipers and set their speed or push it up from the “off” position for a single wipe/ to remove mist. Twisting the stick towards you controls the rear wiper.
Newer cars have controls on the steering wheel to control the car’s infotainment system. Directions on how to use these will be in the user’s manual of the vehicle.
Your vehicle’s headlights can be adjusted to suit the environment you are driving in. Although switching on the headlights is pretty straightforward, it’s using them to see what is on the road in front of you that’s somewhat challenging.
Here’re some tips to help you use your headlights effectively:
- Switch your headlights to low whenever you’re following another vehicle or when there’s another vehicle moving towards you on the other side of the road.
- If a vehicle shines their full beam lights at you, don’t look towards their headlights or centreline, instead, use the white line on your left to guide you.
- You can prevent being blinded by headlights through your rearview mirror by flicking the knob underneath it forward.
- Always switch on your headlights as soon as it starts to get dark, it’s better to have them on earlier than later.
- Switch on your headlights if you’re driving at least 30 minutes after sunset and until 30 minutes before sunrise.
You also need to have your headlights on whenever you can’t see objects that are at least 100 metres away.
Watch our video on basic car operations.
There are two main controls in a vehicle:
1. The pedals
These are two in an automatic vehicle – an accelerator for going and the brake for stopping. The accelerator is on the right and closest to the door while the brake is to the left of the accelerator.
How to use the pedals
- Control both pedals with only your right foot.
- Your left foot should not be used to control the pedals and should be placed on the foot rest on the left.
- Push the pedals with your foot’s ball (not just the toes) with your heel always on the floor.
2. The Gear shift
Gears are not used as much in an automatic car, but you still need to know what each is used for. The gears in an automatic are:
- D for Drive
- P for Park
- N for Neutral
- R for Reverse
- 2 and L are the lower gears used on steep hills or when you are towing a heavy load.
- Push the button on the gear lever when changing gears (except when changing between Drive and the lower gears).
- Changing between Drive, Reverse, Neutral and Park should only be done when the car is stationary.
- You can shift to the lower gears when you are moving at a slow speed (below 50km/h).
A manual car will usually stall as a result of two things; either you let out the clutch too quickly, or the engine's revolutions per minute (RPM) dropped too low causing the engine to stop.
You can avoid stalling your vehicle by ensuring that your clutch release is always done slowly. Don’t fully release the clutch until you feel the car ‘bite’ i.e. when you hear the engine engage and the car’s front slightly lifts.
If you happen to stall the car, the key thing is to remain calm and not panic. Stalling a manual is quite common for learners and even experienced drivers will occasionally have this problem.
If you do stall, follow this procedure:
- Press the brake.
- Press the clutch all the way in.
- Shift to neutral.
- Start the engine.
- Put the car in first gear.
Make sure to check your mirrors and blind spots before you take off. Practice this before you start taking lessons on the road to ensure you can quickly and confidently restart the car if it stalls.