You Got a Car - Now to drive it!

author image Sunday 01 May 2011, 00:00 AM Auto Guides

Learning driving is one of the most interesting things to do for almost all youngsters. We can see the enthusiasm they show to learn driving a car or any vehicle. However, there are plenty of examples of people getting into an accident while learning or during the initial stages of driving a car in traffic. In our Q&A section too, we receive many queries about driving the car. In today’s article, we will consider different aspects of driving and controlling a car.

Control theory

Automobile are described as self-propelled vehicles, meaning that it is a mechanism which can move on its own. In other words, once the car’s ignition is started, the gears are in engaged condition, and it can go on moving continuously till the fuel is empty. Only once fuel is finished or the vehicle comes across an obstacle which the force of vehicle cannot overcome, does the motion stop.

Feedback control theory describes driving as follow. Let us consider a person driving a car who comes across an obstacle and wants to stop the car. The process involves the driver seeing the obstacle through eye and mind process and then gauging the distance between the car and object. Instruction is then sent to the hands and legs for action. The hands control the steering and through the leg, brake is pressed, as well as the clutch pedal to disengage the drive. Through the application of force by legs and control of steering, the vehicle is brought to rest within a safe distance from the obstacle. These, controls are left only after ensuring safe distance from object. In case of continued driving, there will be continuation of the process of the mind sensing distance through eyes, instructing hands and legs to act with relevant force and hence result in controlling of the speed and direction of motion of car.

As we can see, the non-functioning of any one act in the feedback control loop, such as seeing or judging by mind, not applying relevant force by legs or malfunctioning of any component such as steering or brakes, can result in an accident. This indicates the necessity of healthy mind and body of driver and good condition of the car.

Clearly then, apart from mechanisms such as engine, transmission, differential, wheels, electrical connections etc. which are necessary for the automatic motion of the car, the main components involved as far as controlling the car is concerned are Steering, Brake pedal, clutch pedal, accelerator, gear lever, rear view mirrors, and indicators. While this is all of course obvious, it is emphasized here since many tend to only focus on engine and power, but not on the car’s control aspects.

L Board

Getting Ready to take out the Car

The first thing when one goes for a drive, is to check the parking condition of the vehicle i.e. whether the car is parked on a level road or uphill or downhill road, and whether any tyre grip has been put. This is necessary as it can be an obstacle to overcome during moving car in first gear.

After getting in, check fuel gauge, indicators, mirrors, the gear lever, clutch, brake, accelerator pedal, electricals like the indicator, head light etc. and remember to fasten the seatbelt.

Actual driving

Once seated, check the gear lever and ensure that it’s in neutral position. In all manual transmissions, the center position is the neutral and gear lever would be movable easily i.e. play will be there. In case of doubt, moving the gear into first gear, then moving to second gear and bringing it back to neutral, will give perfect confidence of neutral position. It is to be noted that when the engine has not been started, there is no need to press clutch pedal to change gears. In case the engine has been, started then clutch pedal has to be pressed to change gears.

In general, the clutch will be in engaged condition. When we press clutch pedal, the clutch is disengaged and hence disconnects the drive from engine to transmission. Then, we can change to required gear, engage the transmission and move the vehicle.

Gear Knob

After starting engine, press the clutch pedal and put the car into first gear. Now leave the clutch pedal as smoothly as possible. This is the most important point as all learners struggle to leave clutch pedal smoothly, but with practice one will be able to do it easily and smoothly. As the clutch pedal is being left, clutch starts engaging and hence the car starts moving even before clutch pedal is left fully. Here, the driver has to concentrate more on looking to the front of the vehicle rather to check how the clutch pedal is being left. Also ensure that the accelerator pedal is not pressed much. Just a slight touch will be enough to provide enough acceleration.

The initial movement is the most important phase of driving of the car. Most first time drivers tend to leave clutch pedal abruptly and the car moves with a jerk and gets off. In some other cases, while one concentrates on leaving clutch pedal smoothly, the driver unknowingly presses the accelerator pedal hard and hence the car moves very fast leading it to go out of control. This gives rise to tension of the driver and many times ends up in accident. This is why one should always drive car in open areas as many rounds as required and come on to only road after getting reasonable confidence.

Once the car starts moving in first gear - say up to 20KMPH max - immediately press the clutch pedal and put to second gear and leave pedal. This is easier as one need not worry about leaving clutch pedal smoothly. However as car is already moving, one must not forget to keeping looking ahead while putting the car to second gear. Gentle pressing of acceleration pedal is enough for getting required speed. Once the speed goes to to 30 KMPH again press clutch pedal and put the car to third gear. As a general rule, the car can be driven upto 40KMPH in third gear and later put fourth gear and higher gears as required. Selecting gear should be based on the speed of car and intention to go at higher speed or lower speed.

Suppose one wants to slowdown the car without stopping, then just release pressure on accelerator pedal or apply brake slightly, while pressing the clutch pedal and moving the gear lever to lower positions. Here, many learners doubt whether we have to go to lower gears in descending order. The answer is NO.

As mentioned above, gear selection should be based on speed (i.e. Rotation Per Minute of engine, commonly referred as RPM of engine). Suppose one is moving at around 80 to 100KMPH and suddenly finds a road hump and wants to slow down, it won’t make sense to go in descending order of changing gears. Pressing the clutch pedal disengages drive and pressing the brake pedal slows down car and the harder we brake, the faster the car stops or slows down. As far as approaching a hump is concerned, once we press the clutch pedal the drive is disengaged and applying brakes slows down the vehicle to around 30 KMPH and we can shift the gear lever to second gear as soon as the car crosses the hump and then press accelerator pedal and move on to higher gears.

In short, whenever one wants to stop the car quickly, pressing both clutch pedal and brake pedal will bring down the speed of car faster and safer.

If driving a car with Automatic Transmission then there is no need to worry about clutch pedal. Pressing the desired switch on the gear lever will solve the purpose. All other procedures are similar to manual transmission version.

Driving in reverse direction

Reversing the car is one of the most difficult stages in driving. Generally, the speed of the car is limited to that of speed in first gear which ensures that the driver won’t take too many risks. While reversing, one has to gauge distance and obstacles looking through rearview mirrors and cabin mirror. Many people even turn head towards rear windshield and drive the car. This method is easier as one can easily judge distance better in direct view. Parking sensors or a camera fitted to rear bumpers helps a lot for driving in reverse direction.

First time driving

All learners should have a co-passenger experienced in driving. It is important as he can give proper guidance on immediate action required while driving. Also, it gives sense of confidence to the learner apart from a Mandatory requirement as per RTO rules.


Learning drivers will go through a lot of stress while driving until they get familiar. Having a calm mind is important and one must listen to the instructor or co-driver’s instructions carefully and quickly follow the same. Common mistakes committed by learners are pressing the accelerator pedal instead of brake pedal, leading to accident. Having a calm mind overcomes such actions.

Driving alone

Learning driving with an instructor is quite an easy task. The real test starts when one takes out the car alone or with a co-passenger not familiar with driving. Here, one has to ensure that he/she is familiar with the basics of driving such as moving from start, changing gears on move, steering properly etc. Proper utilization of controls and accessories such as rearview mirror, cabin mirror, handbrake etc helps a lot.

Giving a glance at the cabin mirror gives indication of how close the rear vehicle is and side view mirror indicates approaching of vehicle that is overtaking. Indeed, your mirrors are the most important tool in avoiding accidents.

Suppose the car has to be started when parked or stopped on an inclined surface, then the proper usage of hand brake helps a lot. Once the hand brake is put, the car won’t move backwards and the car can be started in neutral and put to first gear. While leaving the clutch pedal, the simultaneous release of the handbrake will ensure the smooth moving of the car. After practice, using the half position of clutch pedal and simultaneous usage of acceleration helps to move car from stop position on incline surface.

Driving license

A small note on getting your license. For getting a learner’s license one has to pass the test given at RTO covering different signals, mandatory, cautionary and information signs, hand signals etc. Generally, a Learner license is valid for 2 months and the learner has to pass a test for getting a permanent license.

Road Signs

If a person is driving with learner license, he has to display red color L board at front and rear of car and has to be accompanied by other person. Once the person is confident of driving, he can go for test at RTO and get permanent license.


Though driving after learning seems to be an easy task, many accidents occur either during learning period or due to rash driving. In this article, guidelines have been given for learners. We welcome viewers to share give more guidelines, if any.

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