So you have booked your first driving lesson? You will probably be nervous for the first lesson and maybe some lessons after, your instructor will expect this and will try to put you at ease. You are about to start to learn a new skill plus meet someone new to you so all the nerves are natural, they should get easier as the lesson/s progress.
Don't forget you will need to take both parts of your driving licence with you as your instructor will have to take your details off this for legal reasons.
On your first lesson and maybe two or three lessons after, your instructor will drive you from home and drive you back again, he or she will want to start the lesson at a more suitable location, (nursery routes, away from busy traffic).
They will use this time driving you to the nursery route to get to know you a little and give some demonstration (talk through) on how to use the mirrors and some of the controls.
At some point either at the intended destination or on the way they will ask you to read a number plate to check your eyesight, you should be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20.5 metres.
Once this is done they will ask you for your licence and take some detail off this, they will probably ask you some questions about if you have driven before and so on, this can help them pitch their instruction at the correct level.
Getting to know the controls and cockpit drill.
Having got into the driving seat you will now be told how to do the cockpit drill which you will need to do every time you get in the car, this is setting your seat in a position that is safe and comfortable to drive, then you will put on your seat belt and set all your mirrors so that you have good vision behind you.
You will have to pull the seat forward so that you can press the clutch pedal to the floor comfortably, usually will have a slight bend in knee. Then you will need to set the back part of the seat so that with your hands in a ten to two or quarter to three position you have a slight bend in your elbows and can steer the wheel comfortably. Next adjust the head restraint so that it provides the best protection to prevent whiplash should you be involved in an accident, this is adjusted so that eyes and ears are in line with the middle of the head restraint and flat to the head.
Adjusting the mirrors
Start by adjusting the interior mirror, (this is the one that is attached to the window screen in the middle), thumb on the bottom of the frame and finger on the top of the frame so not to put smudgy fingerprints on the glass, adjust the mirror so as to frame the rear window, you should be able to use this mirror without having to move your head to much or not at all, just an eye movement from your normal seating position.
Adjust the door mirrors so that you can see a small portion of your vehicle on the inside of the mirror and road meets the horizon across the centre of the mirror. Some door mirrors will have a toggle to adjust them and some will be electric, with the toggle move up and down to get the position that you want, with the electric mirrors it is usually a button that toggles in all directions, again adjust this to get the correct view.
Interior mirrors are usually made of flat glass so as to give a view to the rear as it a actually is, you can judge speed and distance with this mirror so this is the one you base most of decisions on. Door mirrors can be made of convex glass, this would make things appear further away but gives you a wider field of view, so always use a combination of door and interior mirror to get the full picture.
Some door mirrors have split glass, one portion might cover the blind spot area and the other for the normal position, you will still need to use blind spot checks though.
So now all the mirrors are adjusted as required you should have a good view behind your vehicle, the next step will be to put your seat belt on.
Now it's time to put your seat belt on, it is a legal requirement unless you have medical reasons not to wear it, you would need an exemption certificate from your Doctor for this. When putting the seat belt on make sure there are no twists in your belt otherwise this could cause you more injury should you have an accident, (the twist in the belt will act like a knot and do more damage as there will be more pressure on your body where it is twisted).
Make sure the fastener part of the belt as clicked fully into place, when taking your belt off feed it back to it's normal position, in other words don't just let go where it wants, you might trap part of it in the door and over time this will damage your belt.
Your instructor will now start to cover the controls. Firstly with the pedals down by your feet, from right to left you will have the accelerator on the far right, in the middle the brake pedal and on the left you have the clutch, some people remember them to start with as; A, B, C, from right to left.
The right foot controls this pedal, you will only need to apply light pressure to use this control, the more pressure you apply the faster the engine goes as it increases the flow of fuel to the engine.
(tip) To start with when you are finding the biting point just apply enough pressure to get a lively hum.
Again it's the right foot that operates this pedal, start with light pressure and gradually increase the pressure to bring the car to a halt, if the vehicle slows too much too soon ease off the pedal.
(tip) To make a smooth stop, ease off the pedal a little just before the car stops.
The clutch pedal is the one on the far left and it is your left foot that operates this pedal only. The clutch is used to find the biting point and change gears.
The pedal should be pressed fully to the floor to select a gear, to find the biting point, select first gear having pressed the clutch to the floor, (you will need to add a little accelerator before finding the bite, so that the engine gives off a lively hum).
Slowly bring the clutch pedal up to about the half way mark, you can tell when you have the biting point as you will hear the engine tone change and feel slight tension in the car, keep your feet still now until you are ready to move away from the kerbside.
Most cars have 5 gears 6 including reverse, there is also neutral where no gear is selected. Neutral is in the centre, it has a spring each side so that it will always centre just below 3rd gear and just above 4th when in neutral, this makes it easy to find your way around the gears without looking at them.
1st gear is the most powerful as this gets the car moving from stationary, it's speed range is usually from 0 to about 10 mph.
2nd gear speed range is about 10mph to 20mph.
3rd gear range is about 20mph to 30mph, although can be stretched to 50mph if you need sharp acceleration for overtaking or building up speed having joined a fast road.
4th gear, classed as a cruising gear, the speed range is about 30mph upto 70mph and beyond, the max speed you can legally do in the UK is 70mph.
5th gear, another cruising gear, the speed range for this is about 40mph upwards.
Parking Brake (hand brake).
This can usually be found between the two front seats and used only for holding the vehicle whilst stationary. The parking brake only works on the rear wheels, that's why it's not used it to stop the vehicle as it could cause the vehicle to skid or lose control, plus no brake lights come on when applying the parking brake on it's own so no one behind you would know that you were slowing.
When applying the parking brake press the button in so as not to hear the ratchet sound when pulling the leaver up, when you feel the tension in the cable release the button and the vehicle should be secured, if not apply a bit more tension, (reason for not sounding the ratchet is that it wears over time and you might find that it doesn't secure your vehicle).
To release the parking brake it might be necessary to first lift before pressing the button in.
The steering wheel should be held at the ten to two or a quarter to three position and feed the wheel through the hands using the pull and push method, you shouldn't be crossing your hands or palming the wheel as you will not have full control.
The indicators are usually found on the left hand side of the steering wheel but on some cars they may be on the right hand side. If on the left side it should be clicked up for right signal and down for the left signal, if on the right side it should be clicked up for left signal and down for right signal. There is also a self cancelling mechanism which cancels the indicator to the off position when turning the wheel back from a turn, if it doesn't self cancel then cancel it yourself.
Having covered the main controls that you will need to use for a while, it is now time to cover moving away from the kerbside and stopping in a safe, legal and convenient place.
However, before moving on we will get the car started and practice finding the biting point.
Before starting the engine we must get into good habits, firstly make sure that the gear is neutral, otherwise the car could jump forward or backwards depending what gear it is in.
To make sure it is in neutral, you will need to push it from side to side, It should go into where you feel resistance from a spring, keep pushing and next you will feel a wall of resistance, If it is in gear when you do this you will feel the wall straight away, and it usually doesn't move as far, also take a look on the top of the gear stick, this will have a diagram of where all the gears are.
Next make sure that the parking brake is fully secured, this is to make sure that the car doesn't roll as passengers get in or when you start the engine, ideally check the parking as soon as you enter the vehicle.
Now we are ready to start the engine, put the key into the ignition, once in turn clockwise to release the steering lock, sometimes you have to move the wheel very slightly so you can turn the key, as lock is putting pressure on the system.
Turn the key into the next position, this allows the electrics to work, you should see a bank of lights light up on the dashboard, most will go out but the battery, oil and parking brake light should remain on.
Next turn of the key will start the engine, once the engine has started release the key so that it goes back to the previous position, it will do this itself as there is a spring mechanism to take it back, the reason for not keeping the key all the way round once the engine as started is because this can damage the starter motor.
You are now ready to practice finding the biting point and that will be in the next section.
On your first driving lesson the above can be covered quickly but may be not as thorough as it will be recapped again and again, that means rather than just doing a controls lesson on the first lesson, you will most likely be moving off and stopping and probably deal with some junctions as well.
Next section to follow soon ...Moving off and stopping