Your car: The Controls at a Glance

January 28, 2014 at 12:51 PM

When you first learn to drive, it is important to familiarize yourself with the interior of your car. You need to know where all of the controls are located before you can successfully operate a car. It is important to know where to find a control when you need to use it without having to think about it too hard.

The controls you operate with your feet

The floor of your car has three pedals that you control with your feet. On the far right is the accelerator (or gas pedal), the brake is in the middle and the clutch pedal is on the left. The accelerator is what you press to increase the flow of gas to the engine. As you press the accelerator down with your right footcar-controls.jpg  to the engine, causing the engine to run faster. By easing your foot off of the accelerator you will slow down. One of the skills that new drivers must master is putting the appropriate pressure on the accelerator to get the right result.

The brake pedal is also operated with your right foot. As you apply pressure to the brake pedal, you will slow the car down. You will only use your foot on the accelerator or the brake, not both at the same time. As you add pressure to the brake pedal, carbon pads are pressed against metal discs attached to your car’s wheels. This slows your car down. It is important to apply pressure to the brake pedal on a gradual basis and avoid sudden stops (except in the case of an emergency).

The clutch pedal is operated by your left foot and is used simultaneously with the accelerator to move the car from a parked position to slow movement. As you start to pick up speed, you will hear the engine rev and then re-engage the clutch and change to the next gear. The clutch pedal separates the clutch plate and the flywheel from one another, allowing you to switch gears and move. It does take a lot of practice to get a feel for the point where the clutch in your vehicle “bites” and changes gear. If your car is an automatic, you won’t have a clutch pedal. Slow release of the clutch is important as you accelerate and move through gears or you can get the “bunny hop” effect where your car jerks along and may even stall due to improper clutch operation.

The controls you operate with your hands

The parking brake is an added security measure that ensures that your car does not roll away when it is parked. The handbrake is engaged when it is pulled all the way up. If you want to release the brake, you press the button on the brake and lower it towards the floor.

The steering wheel is what you use to navigate your vehicle. For the purposes of safe driving and your driving test, you will need to place your hands in the “10” and “2” position, just like the hands on a clock.

The gear shift is the shaft that is located on the floor and operates together with the clutch. Gears are utilised to change the speed of the vehicle and optimise engine efficiency. Most vehicles have five forward gears and a reverse gear; some vehicles only have four forward gears. The gears are easily located by looking at the diagram on the gear shift. Reverse may be at the top of the gears or at the bottom, depending on the vehicle you are driving.

The other controls located in your vehicle are indicators (or turn signals) on the side of the steering wheel, and the windscreen wiper control. You should know how to turn on the vehicle’s lights and how to adjust mirrors and operate the defogging device if your vehicle has one.

What you need to know to pass your road test

When you are ready to take your driving test, you will need to know how to operate the vehicle correctly and the examiner will be looking for certain things. During your road test, the examiner will be watching the way you use all of the controls of your vehicle and scoring you on your efficiency with those controls.

During a road test, the examiner will watch how you control your vehicle (if a manual) by how you accelerate and use the clutch to accelerate smoothly, avoiding any jerky movements or surging. You will also need to press the clutch in just before you stop the car. In an automatic you will need to accelerate smoothly.

Be sure to check your mirrors and adjust them before you start off. Look around to make sure that the way is clear before pulling out into traffic. The examiner will be watching to ensure that you check all of your blind spots before pulling out.

Always ensure that you are holding the steering wheel correctly, with two hands on the wheel at the correct position. Steer smoothly and turn the wheel slowly and carefully to avoid abrupt and jerky movements. When you come to a stop, avoid hitting the kerb or you will lose points.

When travelling up or down steep hills, the examiner will be watching for you to choose a lower gear that is appropriate for the hill.

When braking, the examiner will expect you to brake smoothly, allowing for plenty of time to stop in advance of any obstacle or traffic light. If you are driving an automatic vehicle, the examiner will be watching to see that you place your foot on the brake before you switch your car into drive.

Handbrakes are an important control and the examiner will be watching to ensure that you apply or release the handbrake as required as well as applying it when you come to a full stop. If you are parking, you will be expected to apply the handbrake on a hill to ensure that your car does not roll once it has stopped.

Do you have any questions about the controls on your car?  Ask them in the comments below.

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Category: Learner Driver Tips