Controls & Cockpit Checks

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The main aim of the first lesson is to teach you about the car and the main controls of the vehicle, as well as the checks that should be made before driving.

The Cockpit Drill

The cockpit drill is a simple sequence of actions that must be carried out each time that you sit behind the driving wheel. The best way to remember it is D-S-S-S-M


Make sure that all the doors are firmly shut. Most modern cars have audible and visual alarms to warn you when the doors or boot are open. Another visual check is to look at the flushness of the doors in the wing (side) mirrors.


Adjust the base of your seat so that you can operate the foot pedals easily. Ensure that you can fully depress the clutch pedal while not over stretching your left leg.You should retain a slight bend in your left knee to help with clutch control. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the closer you are to the pedals the better the control; this is not always the case. If you are too close you may find that you get jerky gear changes, or clutch slip.

Adjust the backrest of your seat so that you can reach all of the steering wheel with your arms slightly bent. A good tip is to fully extend your arms over the top of the steering wheel. You should be able to rest your wrists on the wheel allowing your hands to dangle over. When adjusting the back of your seat, make sure that the 'head restraint' is adjusted correctly to protect your neck. The main body of the restraint should be behind your eyes and ears and as close to your head as possible.


Fasten your seatbelt and make sure that your passengers fasten theirs, You, the driver, are legally responsible for seatbelt wearing by children under 14 years of age. You should ensure that there are no twists and take up any slack.


Many of today's cars allow you to adjust the steering wheel to a height that suits you. If this is possible then adjust it at this point.



Adjust all of your mirrors so that you can obtain a clear view of the road behind and to the side of your vehicle. Use your left hand to adjust the interior mirror and be careful not to touch the surface of the mirrors with your fingers. You should frame the back window in the mirror to see as much as possible behind.

Remember that the exterior mirrors are convex (i.e. curved to give a wider field of vision) and that anything you can see may be closer than you think.

Do not attempt to adjust the seating, steering
or mirrors whilst the car is moving.

The Main Controls

The first controls that you need to learn about are the ‘main’ foot and hand controls.

The Accelerator Pedal

The accelerator or gas pedal is used with the right foot to control the speed of the car by increasing or decreasing the flow of fuel to the engine. This occurs when the car is in gear and the clutch plates are together. The pedal requires very little pressure to operate and should be used very lightly.


The Foot Brake

The foot brake operates brakes on all four wheels and is used to slow the car down. When you press this pedal the brake lights on the back of the car come on to warn other drivers that you are slowing down or stopping. The pedal should be squeezed gently at first then pressed progressively harder until you reach the required speed.

The Clutch

The clutch is used with the left foot to break the connection between the engine and the transmission to the wheels by separating the clutch plates. You will use it when changing gear, moving off and stopping, and to manoeuvre the vehicle at very slow speeds. To operate the pedal you press it firmly as far as it will go and then release it slowly and smoothly.

The Handbrake

The handbrake is used to hold the car still after it has stopped. Because the handbrake is only connected to two wheels by use of a cable it should not be used when the car is moving. To apply the handbrake you press the button with your thumb and pull the lever upwards as far as it will go and then release the button. To release the handbrake you lift the handbrake slightly, press the button and push the lever down.

The Gear Stick

The gear lever is used (with the clutch) to select the gears. On most modern cars there are usually five forward gears and one reverse gear. Between the gears there is a central position called neutral. When the lever is in this position, no gear is selected. First gear provides the power to move the vehicle from a standing start and, as you build up speed and momentum, you will gradually work your way through to the higher gears, which allow more speed but have less power.

The steering wheel

The steering wheel is used to turn the front wheels when changing direction. If you think of the wheel like a clock face you should normally hold the wheel with your hands in the "ten to two" or "quarter to three" positions. Most control is gained when the "push / pull" method is used to turn the wheel.

The Indicators

The indicator switch is usually located on a 'stalk' to the left or right of the steering wheel. The switch is designed for fingertip control. To signal that you wish to turn left or right you simply move the switch in the same direction as the steering wheel turns for the manoeuvre.

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