How to Drive a Car
Some of us can’t wait to start learning how to drive a car and some of us simply learn because it’s a life skill and seen as more of a chore. Regardless of your situation, you are likely to want to learn how to drive a car at some point.
PROVISIONAL DRIVING LICENCE
If you intend to start learning to drive a car on UK public roads, you will initially need to apply for a provisional driving licence. You can apply for the provisional licence 3 months before your 17th birthday and receive it in time to start driving at the age of 17.
There are various methods for applying, all of which can be found in the learn to drive guide. You do not need a provisional driving licence if you intend on learning how to drive a car on private land. Certain driving schools offer professional driving lessons for 16 year old candidates taking place on private land
Before learning to drive a car, you will need to familiarise yourself with the car controls and basic functions. This is known as the cockpit drill. This is usually completed by a driving instructor on your first driving lesson and will include seat adjustments, use of foot pedals, hand controls including steering techniques and mirror adjustment.
The cockpit drill tutorial explains all of these functions, just as a driving instructor will. Once you have gained a sufficient knowledge and understanding of the cars controls, have your seat and mirrors correctly adjusted, you can begin learning how to drive a car.
How to drive a car
The following instructions if to learn how to drive a manual car for beginners, for the first time. If you are learning how to drive a car on a public road, choose a quiet, residential area and start on a straight road. Although some believe country roads are the ideal starting location, these types of roads are in fact the most dangerous roads and are not advised for a novice driver.
Ensure your seat belt is on, the handbrake is secured and the gears are in neutral. Now start the car by turning the key clockwise till it stops for around 2 seconds or so and remove your hand from the ignition key. What we shall do is to drive the car off from a stationary position, for a short distance and park the car in a similar position to where it is currently parked, close to the kerb (or curb as known in other areas) a little further down the road.
- Get the car ready to move
You should be familiar with the car controls and functions at this point by reading the cockpit drill tutorials. Press the clutch fully to the floor using the ball of your left foot and put the gears into 1st. We now need to attempt to move the car off gently, slowly and ideally without stalling. Very gently and slightly press the accelerator pedal using the ball of your right foot to increase the engine revs. Looking at the rev counter, press the accelerator until the revs reach approximately 1500 rpm. This will provide the engine with power enabling the car to move. Hold the accelerator in this position while we find the clutch biting point.
- Clutch biting point
Now we need to locate where the clutch bite point is. The clutch is essentially 2 plates, 1 connected to the drive wheels and the other to the engine. When you press the clutch pedal down, it separates the plates (engine and wheels) and when you raise the clutch it connects them, allowing the car to move. The clutch bite point is when the clutch plates just begin to meet.
Very slowly raise the clutch until you hear the engine change sound. The plates at this point will star slipping and trying to pull the car, this is why the engine will change sound. You may also experience the car bonnet lowering and a creaking noise. when you reach this point, hold the clutch in this position. The car is now ready to move off, all that is preventing it from moving is the hand brake.
Safe observations is an essential part of learning how to drive a car. Before releasing the handbrake and moving the car, take a look around to see if it is safe. At the very minimum, you should check your internal and right mirror, followed by the right side blind spot. If taking a driving test, failure to check the blind spot before driving off is highly likely to result in a failure.
In regards to signalling, if there are no other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians, you may either signal or not, the choice is yours. If there are vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians that may benefit from you signalling, you must do so. Be careful however, if anything is approaching you from behind and you intend on waiting for them to pass before moving off, you must signal only once they have passed. Doing so before may result in them flashing you out, slowing down or swerving, all of which may result in a driving test failure.
When it is safe to move the car off, release the handbrake and very slowly, slightly raise the clutch until the car starts to move. Steer around half a turn of the wheel to the right as you begin to move until your car is in the middle of your side of the road and straighten the wheel.
As the car gains momentum, keep raising the clutch in small amounts and after around 5 seconds, fully release the clutch. Ensure to cancel a signal if you applied one. As you are learning how to drive a car for the first time, keep the car slow at around 5-10 mph and remain in first gear.
Parking the car
We will now park the car alongside the kerb just a little further up the road from where we moved off. As a beginner, it is often difficult to judge where the kerb is in relation to the car. The kerb parking tutorial offers some reference points to aid in understanding where the kerb is to establish an acceptable distance once stopped.
Before moving over to the left to park, mirror checks need to be completed. Start with the internal mirror, followed by the left door mirror. As with moving off, there is no need to signal to the left if there are no other road users or pedestrians. If there are, a signal to the left must be applied.
Cover the brake and the clutch, this means placing your feet over the pedals but not pressing them. This is in preparations to stop. Covering the brake is especially important in many situations whilst driving, most often when a hazardous situation is developing such as busy pedestrian crossings.
Gently steer to the left to move closer to the kerb. Do not steer to harshly as there is a higher probability of you hitting the kerb. To help with this, steer in sections. So steer left, straighten up, steer left again etc. This will keep the car more parallel with the kerb instead of a harsh angle where the front will be at risk of hitting the kerb. Use the reference points found in the kerb parking tutorial and just before you stop press the clutch to the floor, gently apply the brake until you stop. Keep your feet and pedals as they are, put the handbrake on and select neutral. You can now remove your feet from the pedals and cancel the signal if applied.
How to drive a car step by step
Try not to do too much too soon. Learning to drive a car must be done step by step and to slowly increase your ability. Moving the car off and parking should be completed until you are reasonably confident in your ability. The next step should involve traveling further distances and to use the gears as your speed increases. See changing gears for the correct procedure. Below are some tutorials and tips on mastering how to drive a car.
Similarly to parking next to the kerb, a driver with little experience can find it difficult to establish a safe distance for passing parked cars. Read more
Inexperienced drivers frequently deal with cyclists inappropriately, often by not providing them with enough room when passing. Read more
Whilst learning how to drive a car, it’s essential you know how to stop it safely and in good control in a emergency situation. Read more
When learning how to drive a car on public roads, to avoid accidents, a good understanding of road positioning. lane discipline and how to safely change lanes is important. Read more
Shortly after you have learnt the basics of how to drive a car, you will move onto making left and right turns. Our tutorials explain the correct procedure. Read more
As your driving skills progress, you will need to learn how to deal with joining dual carriageways, driving on them and exiting them. Read more
Driving too close to another vehicle is a common cause of accidents. The 2 second rule is an easy to remember system for keeping a safe driving distance. Read more
Country roads may appear an easy drive, they are in fact the most dangerous roads to drove on in the UK. Read more
Learning how to drive a car fist time
If choosing a qualified driving instructor, learning how to drive a car for the first time will involve them explaining the cockpit drill to you on your first driving lesson. Once they have completed the cockpit drill, if time permits, you may be able to move the car off and stop.
Driving instructors use driving routines such as the well-known Mirror Signal Manoeuvre routine. These are used to help learner drivers remember safety routines which is essential for passing the driving test and road safety. Learning these routines will help you learn how to drive a car safely and quickly. The following routines are:
Once you have a reasonable ability for driving a car and if you are planning on taking the UK driving test, learn the driving test manoeuvres as soon as possible. They are used in the driving test to demonstrate to the examiner that you have a good level of control of the car. They require excellent observations, technique and clutch control. The 4 possible manoeuvres are:
When learning how to drive a car, an essential part of training is how to deal with pedestrians on pedestrian crossings from a drivers perspective. Read our pedestrian crossing tutorials to gain an understanding on how they should be dealt with as a driver.
How to drive a car and advancing
As you reach a more advanced level of learning to drive a car, an essential skill is to know how to deal with all junction types. Junctions and T-junctions come in all shapes, sizes and vary on how busy they are. Sometimes the quieter ‘closed’ junctions can be the more dangerous. The in-depth junction guides will teach you how to deal with all junction types effectively.
- Types of T-junction
- Turning left at a T-junction
- Turning right at a T-junction
- Box junctions
- Junction lines
Roundabouts often strike fear into learner drivers as they can often be unsure when they should proceed or wait. Statistically, roundabouts are the safest type of junction in the UK and once mastered, are often easy to navigate. The guides below offer advice on how to deal with roundabout traffic, mini roundabouts and large multi-lane roundabouts.
Learn the driving test routes
As you progress in your driving, start incorporating the driving test routes for the driving test centre of your choice. The sooner you become familiar with these routes, the better as this will increase your chances of passing the driving test.