Getting to know the controls of the vehicle and being able to operate them efficiently and smoothly is always the first priority when learning to drive. We need to develop car control to a level where it becomes “second nature” to us. ” Really Good” instructors take great care over this developmental stage of learning. We will explain how all the controls work and where they are situated in lesson 1. Soon, you will be so practiced in controlling the vehicle, that all your thoughts will be on the road – practice always pays off!

Foot controls

1. Accelerator (or Gas) pedal

This pedal is used to control the amount of fuel the engine receives. The gas pedal is very sensitive and usually takes a bit of practice to operate smoothly – don’t worry if you are a bit “heavy footed” at first, you will get there. The footbrake is operated by the right foot. Pressing down gently on the gas pedal increases the amount of fuel to the engine, while releasing pressure on the gas decreases the fuel supply. When driving along, more gas makes the car faster, less gas makes it slower.

2. Footbrake

The footbrake is also controlled by the right foot and is used to slow down and stop the vehicle. It operates on all four wheels. Again, it is a sensitive pedal and needs practice. There is a light “freeplay” at first touch of the footbrake. Taking up the” freeplay” will put the brake warning lights on the rear of the vehicle just before it slows. The footbrake should be applied lightly at first, then more progressively. Just before your vehicle stops there should be almost no pressure on the footbrake. This ensures smooth stopping.

3. Clutch

The clutch is used to connect the power of the engine to the roadwheels. Pushing the clutch down disengages the power transmitted through the gears to the wheels. This allows gears to be changed smoothly and also for the car to be stopped without the engine cutting out – or “stalling.” When stopping, the clutch should not be depressed until the car has slowed to about a “jogging” speed.
Releasing the clutch to engage power from the engine to the road wheels needs smooth operation. The point where the clutch is begriming to engage engine power to the wheels is known as the “biting point.”

Hand Controls

4. Handbrake

The handbrake works on the rear wheels and is used to keep the vehicle stationary. It should only be applied when the vehicle has stopped – not to stop the car. The handbrake has a release button which needs pushed in before pulling the handbrake lever up or down. Any time you need to wait more than a moment, the handbrake should be applied.

5. Gear Lever

Using the gear lever in conjunction with the clutch allows smooth changing from one gear to another.
Neutral is when no gear is selected.

1st. Gear is the most powerful and we normally use it for moving off. It is only suitable for very low speeds: About 0 – 15m.p.h. is the normal range for 1st gear.

2nd. Gear: A working gear: Range 8 – 25m.p.h. Second gear allows quick acceleration within this speed range.

3rd. Gear: Again, a working gear approximate. 20 – 40m.p.h.

4th. Gear: More a cruising gear: 27 – 70m.p.h. A driving school expression sometimes used is: “If the road is straight and clear, use 4th gear.”

5th. Gear: An economy gear only effective at speeds around 40m.p.h. and above. On Motorways and Dual Carriageways, where speeds tend to be more constant, using fifth. gear economises on mechanical wear and improves fuel economy.

From the examples above, it can be seen that the speed ratios for the gears overlap. Normally, aim to be in the highest gear possible for your speed to save on fuel, save on mechanical wear and tear, and save on pollution.
6. Steering Wheel

The steering wheel enables the driver to change course or direction. It acts on the front wheels. Normally, the wheel should be held in the “ten to two” or ” quarter to three” position. The more the steering wheel is turned in either direction, the sharper the angle of the vehicle’s turn will be. When the steering wheel won’t turn any more in each direction, it has reached what is known as “full lock.” Practice turning the steering wheel smoothly using the “push- pull” method your “Really Good Driving Instructor” shows you.

Things to avoid

Turning the wheel while stationary is known as “dead” or “dry” steering. Doing this will lead to premature tyre wear and also cause undue stress on the steering components. Make sure the car is moving when turning the wheel and your tyres will have a normal life expectancy! Avoid letting the wheel spin or slip through your hands. Also, try to avoid crossing your hands on the wheel – it is not as controlled or safe as “push-pull.” Keeping two hands on the wheel wherever possible is always safer than just one. As you learn, your instructor will teach you that to keep an accurate course, you need to let your hands follow your eyes.

Direction Indicator Lever

The direction indicator is used to signal your intentions to other road users. Once again, your instructor will give you expert driving advice on it’s use. Pushing the lever up with your fingertips will illuminate flashing amber lights on the right – or drivers side of your vehicle. Pushing the lever down will illuminate left signals. Confirmatory warning symbols – and an audible ticking sound – will also display on the dashboard of your vehicle while the signal is in operation.


The interior – or rear view – mirror gives the truest and widest range of view to the road behind. It should be adjusted so you can see clearly without the driver craning their neck or leaning over. There is usually an anti-dazzle switch at the bottom edge of the mirror.

The door mirrors help the driver see more to the side and back of the car. Most door mirrors are made of convex shaped glass, which make things look further away than they really are. Set them so you can see the side of your vehicle in the inner third of the mirrors- the instructor will elaborate on this. Mirrors need to be used before changing the state of the vehicle – before moving off, stopping,or changing speed or direction. We will instruct you how to use mirrors effectively and in pairs.


Spend time getting used to where the controls are before driving. It’s not such a good idea to have no idea where the brake pedal is when you need it! “Really Good” driving instructors will give you all the help to know and locate all the controls with ease before setting off. That way, you won’t feel stressed, and will be able to give of your best!

Dual Controls

The dual controls mean the instructor can slow the car down or stop it. We would always tell you if we use them, and explain why they were needed. Instructors are trained in using dual controls and always try to minimise their use by practising at a level and in an area commensurate with the learners ability.