Understanding how the gears and clutch work.

The purpose of a clutch is to allow the driver to change gear.

The clutch mechanism consists of two plates connected to the engine drive system. One of the plates is connected to the back of the engine, the other to the gearbox. When the clutch is in its normal position, the plates are in full contact with each other the power generated by the engine is then transferred to the gearbox and driving wheels, allowing the car to move forward or back, depending on the gear selected.

When the clutch pedal is pressed fully down, the clutch plates separate allowing the driver to change gear. You must press the clutch fully down just before you stop the car, otherwise you will stall the engine, and then have to restart it again before driving off.

The 'biting point'

The biting point is when the clutch pedal is released to a certain position (usually halfway up its travel) where the two clutch plates begin to touch. We also use the biting point when we want to move the car very slowly such as in traffic or performing a very slow manoeuvre.

When moving off, or changing gear, the clutch pedal must always be brought up smoothly every time, to avoid any jolts. It will take time and practice to get used to finding the biting point

To move off

  • with your left foot, put the clutch pedal fully down and select 1st gear;
  • with your right foot, press on the accelerator pedal gently so the engine speed rises, and keep it still;
  • bring the clutch pedal up very slowly, until you you hear a slight change in the engine sound, – we call that ‘the biting point’; you may also see the front of the car drop slightly, (if your car has a ‘Rev counter. you’ll also see the ‘Revs’ drop slightly) then keep that pedal still;
  • check all around including your blind spot, signal right (if necessary) and when safe, release your handbrake;
  • continue to bring the clutch pedal up smoothly, while pressing more on the accelerator (gas)
  • as the car moves forward, keep looking ahead.

Credit: Learnerdriving.com

Try not to rush bringing the clutch pedal up as you might end up stalling the engine, and having to restart it. You may also cause the same problem if you don’t press the gas pedal sufficiently. Be patient, as it takes time and lots of practice.

DON’T release the handbrake unless you’re sure that you have got the clutch pedal at the biting point position – otherwise your car will roll back.

A lot of newer cars are fitted with ‘Hill Start Assist’ which keeps the brakes applied for a number of seconds to allow you  to transfer your right foot back to the accelerator without your car rolling back when you’ve stopped temporarily on a hill without applying the handbrake, for example, when giving way.  Your trainer should tell you if its fitted.

To stop

  • check mirrors; if necessary, signal left
  • take your foot off the accelerator (gas)
  • gradually and smoothly press on the footbrake until the car stops
  • just before the car stops, press the clutch all the way down, and keep pressing it down until …
  • … you apply the handbrake and select neutral gear (if parking)
  • you can then rest your feet