Driving Lesson #10

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

20 hours of driving lessons completed now, and Kev and I took the time to go through the Driver’s Record that the Driving Standards Agency provides people who book a theory test for the first time. The Driver’s Record is broken down into twenty driving skills and four other skills related to car ownership. You can read more about the Driver’s Record on direct.gov.

Each of the 20 driving skills are rated between 1 and 5, where 1 is Introduced and 5 is independent without prompts from the driving instructor. In total I have one of the skills at level 5, three at level 4, twelve at level 3 none at level 2, two at level 1 and there are two that I have not looked at yet (emergency stops and parking). I am pleased with the progress I have made although I expect I will need another 40 hours of lessons before I will be close to being able to take my practical test.

Onto the actual content of the lesson, we spent some more time reversing round corners which along with turning round in the road, I find quite difficult. We also covered some more roundabouts and junctions both of which I am improving on, but still find difficult.

Kev also taught me a technique for moving off faster, essentially it is moving from the step by step approach to moving off to being about to prepare to move off quickly. Here is the process I have been using up until now, taken from the safely stopped position (i.e. handbrake on and in neutral):

  1. push the clutch down
  2. change into first gear
  3. give the engine a bit of gas
  4. bring the clutch up to biting point
  5. put more gas on to get the revs back up
  6. check the internal mirror, right door mirror and right blind spot, only move on to the next step if it is safe.
  7. take the hand brake off
  8. keep feet in the same place until moving
  9. come off the clutch and add more gas until up to speed

The technique Kev taught me today was to combine 3, 4 and 5 with a single movement to bring the clutch up to biting point and the gas down to provide sufficient power from the engine. It was good fun, I don’t think I have got it yet but I am improving.

Unfortunately I haven’t got a lesson until next Wednesday, I know how learners feel now if they have to wait a week between each lesson.

Driving Lesson #2

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

So today went well, I am starting the cement the moving off procedure in my head now and I got a bit more comfortable breaking (which is always good when moving at anything above stopped). I edited the previous post with corrections from the previous day. Most notably I forgot about checking the position of the mirrors before putting my seat belt on and the hand brake should be the second thing to check after getting in the car.

So on to stopping! The technique it seems is to be able to decouple your feet from each other, I don’t think I do anything else that requires me to use my feet independently so it is a little difficult. The exact procedure from memory goes as follows:

  • Take your foot off the accelerator, this seems fairly obvious but is quite important really.
  • Squeeze the foot brake very gently, this may not even be necessary if you are on an inclining hill as gravity may well counteract the drive provided by the clutch.
  • Steer into where you want to park, by turning the steering wheel to the left
  • Once the front of the car is in position, steer the back in by turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction – straightening up the vehicle to the kerb.
  • Finally straighten the front wheels by returning steering wheel to the “12 o’clock” position.
  • Push the clutch right down to the floor (this is where I tend to press the foot brake down to the floor too).
  • Push the foot brake more so that you come to a total stop, again this may not be required depending on the inclination or of the hill, the reverse is true too, more brake may be required if you are going down hill.
  • Put the hand brake on.
  • Return the gear stick to neutral.

As I said I have been having some problems decoupling my feet, I seem to be getting there though. All in all a very positive lesson.

Driving Lesson #1

Monday, August 4th, 2008

I had my first driving lesson today with Kevin Tant, started off a little nervous however I got more relaxed as the lesson continued. I am going to try and write down what I learnt here to help me remember for the next lesson – please do not take this as official or instructional (in fact it may well be TOTALLY WRONG!) if you are learning to drive there are lots of excellent resources on Amazon and I honestly can’t stress how important it has to have an Approved Driving Instructor.

I suppose this post is inspired to an extent by several other learner drivers such as Sean Moore who have very kindly been sharing their experiences with the world.

First I had to check the doors, driver’s side was easy enough as you can see that it is flush with the side of the car, the passenger side can be done the same, then checked the hand brake was secure by pulling it up. Adjusted the seat, and in theory adjusted the steering wheel (if it was adjustable, which it wasn’t). Next task was to adjust mirrors, and then finally fastened my seat belt (and checked anyone under 14).

So that makes the cockpit drill – doors, hand brake, seat, steering wheel, mirrors, and seat belt (DHSSMS).

Next thing we went through was actually starting the car and moving (or ‘Moving Off’). With the handbrake on I started the engine, changed to first gear by pressing the clutch down to the floor and moving the gear stick into the first gear position. From there I was taught to find the biting point with the clutch pedal (that is where the clutch plate just meets the flywheel – to the point where some of the rotational drive is transferred from the flywheel to the clutch plate¬†and thus through the transmission, driveshaft, differential and¬†eventually the wheels). To actually move off I lightly pressed the accelerator (or ‘gas’ – grr Americanism – easier to say though) and brought the clutch up to the biting point. This is the point we checked the mirrors (internal, right door and left door) and blind spot before releasing the hand break. All of this got the car moving forwards, at which point the clutch could be released.

Just to point out that my instructor had explained stopping in advance of moving off! I was struggling to the foot work right and it was nearing the end of the lesson so I don’t really remember the sequence.

Once of the things that I found hardest was concentrating on what I was doing in the car (feet, hands, dials and so on) and managing to steer in the right direction and pay attention to the road, this is why we are not allowed behind the wheel of a car without ample instruction.