One of the first things you’ll learn in your driving lessons in a manual car is clutch control. Whilst a lot of experienced drivers find that clutch control is second nature, getting to grips with it in the first place is one of the hardest parts in learning to drive. You need to master clutch control in order to pass your test – after all, it enables you to get the car to pull away, drive at lower speeds and also do hill starts.
In this episode of the Driving Instructor Masterclass, Chris is talking through Hill Starts and Clutch Control – giving you tips and advice to prepare for your driving test. You can see the latest instalment of the video below!
What is clutch control?
Simply put – the clutch in your car connects the power from the engine to your wheels, using the gearbox. When you press the clutch down, it separates the engine from the wheels (allowing you to change gear). When you lift your foot off the clutch again and you’re in gear, they reconnect and depending on your gear selection will be what the car is doing or how quickly it’s moving.
Being able to control the clutch is important – especially when pulling away. One of the first things you’ll learn in your driving lessons is about your ‘biting point’ – the point where your clutch is far enough up that the car is ready to move off, but not too far up that you stall. Knowing and getting used to finding your biting point in the car is essential. Practising it is the difference between pulling away first time and stalling which, let’s face it, no one wants to do!
The idea of doing a Hill Start fills many drivers (young and old) with dread – but it’s not as difficult as it seems! The only difference between finding your biting point and pulling away on a hill to a flat surface is the power you’ll need to get going. Many people find the pressure of a Hill Start the most stressful part, as they will usually involve other cars being behind you, or you pulling out onto a busier road but the skills in which you need to do this are taught to you in your very first few driving lessons. It’s all about practice and getting used to the biting point in your car. Master this, and Hill Starts won’t cause you any problems!
1. Take your time
Rushing through finding the biting point and getting the car going will see you missing the biting point altogether and stalling, meaning it’ll take you even longer to get going than it would of if you’d just taken your time to start with.
2. You can feel the biting point
When you find the biting point the front of the car will lift ever so slightly and you’ll feel the car dip – this is a visual clue that you’ve found the biting point, so there’s no guessing involved. Once you’ve spent some time getting used to it, it becomes much easier.
3. Give it some gas
One of the main reasons people stall is because they don’t give the car enough gas. Press the accelerator down slightly and get the revs up to get you going – otherwise you won’t be going very far at all!
4. It's all about experience
You’re unlikely to be a master of clutch control on day one – these things take time! Getting in additional driving practice as a learner is a great way of spending time outside of your driving lessons focusing on one aspect of your driving – such as clutch control!
5. Keep calm and carry on
If you do stall the first thing to do is not panic. It happens to everyone; even experienced drivers so don’t stress yourself out too much. Pop your handbrake on, put the car into neutral and when you’re ready, restart the engine. Put your car back into first gear, take a breath, check you’re mirrors and try again! The only person pressuring you to get going is yourself.