How a car works - use of car controls

Now that you have gone through the cockpit drill, you now need to have an understanding of the main controls of the car.

Foot controls
Let's start with the foot controls. On the floor are 3 pedals. On the right is the accelerator or the 'gas' pedal. In the middle is the brake and on the left is the clutch. From right to left it's easy to remember by A (Accelerator) B (Brake) and C (Clutch).

The accelerator
This pedal is operated with the right foot and controls the flow of petrol into the engine. The harder you push the pedal the more petrol is pumped into the engine making the car go faster. When you ease off the gas pedal the engine runs slower making the car slow down. This pedal is very sensitive and only slight pressure is required to get a result.

Clutch brake accelerator

The brake
This is also operated with your right foot as there is no need to speed the car up whilst simultaneously slowing the car down. By applying pressure to the brake pedal, it in turn uses carbon pads that apply pressure to metal discs attached to the car wheels. Friction is used to slow the car. The harder you push the pedal the more pressure is applied to the brake pads and discs, slowing the car down faster. Progressive braking needs to be used. Think of a bicycle. When you use your brakes on a bicycle, you apply them gently, gradually increasing the pressure until you come to a gentle stop. The same technique is applied to car brakes.

The clutch
This pedal is operated with the left foot and is used to move the car off from a stationary position, change gear and to stop the car without stalling the engine.

Think of two plates in the engine. One of these plates is the clutch the other is what's called the flywheel. When you press the clutch pedal down it separates the two plates. This separates the engine from the drive wheels allowing you to change gear. When you release the clutch pedal, it then re-engages the engine with the drive wheels and the plates come back together. The clutch works in a similar way to the brakes as it uses friction. You can push the clutch pedal down as fast as you wish, but when bringing the pedal back up, especially when moving off for the first time it has to be done slowly. Holding the clutch at the point at which the plates just start to meet is known as the biting point. Moving off safely section provides further information on the biting point. By use of clutch control, the car can move at very slow speeds.

Hand controls

The gear lever

The gear lever is operated together with the clutch. Gears are used to adjust the cars speed and to increase engine efficiency. There a 5 forward gears and 1 reverse gear. The 5 forward gears listed 1 to 5 on the diagram will always be in the same place although reverse may differ from car to car. To move the car from a stationary position gear 1 should be selected working your way up to gear 5 matching the speed of the engine to the speed of the car. It is not always necessary to use the gears in order, especially when slowing down.
gear stick

Parking brake
The parking brake is used to secure the car once it has stopped. Using the handbrake secures the back wheels. To apply the handbrake, push the button in and pull the lever up till it is tense and then release the button. To release it, pull the lever up slightly, push the button in and lower the lever to the floor.

Steering wheel
Whilst driving hold the wheel in the ten-to-two or quater-to-three position. Try to not cross your hands whilst driving. A push and pull steering technique is used. Your driving instructor will explain this fully to you. Also remember the slower the car is moving, the more you need to steer.

Ancillary controls
These controls vary to each car. The indicators can be found on either the left or right side of the steering wheel. You will need to familiarise yourself with where the lights are, how to operate the windscreen wipers and de-mist the front and rear windscreen.

Now that you are familiar with the car controls, we can now move the car off safely.

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