Driving tips for new drivers 1: Understanding and using the clutch correctly
Welcome to the series of driving tips for new drivers.
Each week we’ll focus on a common problem that learners experience which can stall their progress.
Someone new to driving can experience a problem early doors which could put them off continuing their driving lessons.
These problems tend to be minor problems with co-ordination, our using the cars controls correctly, but they can have a profound effect on a new driver.
More experienced learners at some point in their driving may feel like they’ve hit a plateau and can’t push beyond it, or they feel like they’re going backwards.
Either way, it’s a negative vibe and can stop these people progressing with learning, often giving up just hours away from being ready to take a test.
We know how difficult it can be for learners to understand everything that they are being asked to do, and it can be difficult for instructor too, especially if they’ve tried every way they know to explain a situation.
Sometimes you have to see things from a different perspective, so the driving tips for new drivers is designed to help people learn outside the car between lessons.
Today’s driving tips for new drivers is: Understanding the clutch and how to use it correctly.
So’ lets start by explaining the role of the clutch.
Do you know what happens when you press the clutch pedal down?
And, do you know why you have to press the clutch down before changing gears?
Car engines need gears (transmission systems) to help vary the speed of the driving wheels.
Have you ever ridden a push bike with gears? They often have 5, 10 or more cogs on the rear wheel, and well as two or three attached to the pedals.
If you select the lowest gear which is 1st, it’s easy to pedal, your legs will be working quickly and you’ll reach your maximum limit, without gaining much speed.
Change in to 2nd gear and it’s going to be harder to pedal but you’ll be able to go faster.
So, each time you go into higher gears, it’s harder to pedal but your speed will increase.
Which means if you only want to travel slowly, then a lower gear is better than a higher gear because it will be easier to pedal.
Or if you are going uphill a lower gear will be easier to pedal with.
Okay, if you want to change a gear you stop pedaling, this allows the gear mechanism to work freely.
Now think of yourself as the engine on the bike, you supply the power to the wheels when you pedal. When you stop pedaling you stop producing power.
Back to the car, when you depress the clutch you are stopping the power from the engine turning the road wheels. When you bring the clutch up you are joining the engine (power) and therefore turning the road wheels.
So, when you move a car from a standstill, you have to push the clutch down to select the gear, then bring the clutch up to engage the engine to drive the car forward, or backwards if reversing.
It’s the action of bringing the clutch up that causes so many new drivers to worry.
Now this is where it becomes challenging for instructors to explain what’s happening, with the clutch and why learners struggle to move a car without stalling.
So, stalling what does it mean? Now there’s many ways to explain the process, some you’ll understand others maybe not.
But the challenge is to explain it in a way that helps you understand the movement of the pedal and the reaction you should expect to get from it.
So, imagine a coiled spring that you have to apply pressure to. Think of a door that works on a spring system, which is designed to close the door after people pass through.
The door requires pressure to open, but closes slowly after.
Now this is the important bit. There’s a system called a servo that controls the speed the door closes by slowly releasing the pressure on the spring taking the tension out of it, otherwise it would slam shut.
With the help of the server slowing the door close you could be quite some distance away from the door by the time it’s fully closed again.
Back to the car, if you put pressure on the clutch pedal to push it down, you have to release that pressure slowly when bringing it back up.
Like the door example, you are releasing the tension on the spring slowly, which means the car might travel some distance before the clutch is fully in the up position.
As the clutch moves in the upwards direction, what catches many learners out is the fact that nothing actually happens. This is because it’s only as you start releasing the tension that the engine starts to partially engage with the driving wheels, this is called biting point.
It’s at this point that the wheels start to turn, but you must still control the tension of the pedal even as the car moves, because any sudden movement will cause a reaction like a stall or jump (leap forward).
If you depress the clutch and then release it quickly the car will stall (stop the engine from turning), which gives you that horrid experience of the car lunging forward.
It’s like being pushed hard in the back by someone sending you tumbling forward out of control.
Okay, now the second part of the clutch explanation.
As you allow the clutch up through the biting point the car will start moving, but it will only creep forward so you need to give the car power by squeezing the gas pedal.
You can do this while you are still bringing the clutch up, it’s like a see saw, one pedal moves up the other moves down.
The amount of gas you apply should steadily increase as the car starts to move, remember your moving a heavy dead weight.
I hope that explains in an easy to understand language how the clutch works.
If you’ve found this driving tips for learners topic useful please leave your comment below, thanks.
For a visual look of the role the clutch play between the engine and transmission see this video, it shows the moving parts which is really useful.
Driving tips for new drivers