Demystify The Clutch Pedal And Brakes!
The role of the handbrake, foot brake and clutch pedal when it comes to stopping your vehicle temporarily can cause enormous confusion. When you stop at traffic lights, for example, is it best to use the handbrake and keep the car in gear, engage the clutch and accelerator simultaneously to keep the engine at “bite” point or adopt a completely different combination of actions?
To answer this question, it’s important to understand the function of each part of the vehicle’s controls and know which operation will result in maximal safety.
Clutch And Brakes Explained
The clutch disengages the engine from the gears, allowing the driver to change between gears easily. Obviously the foot brake slows the car in a graduated, controlled manner. The handbrake keeps the car immobile when it’s stationary, as the foot brake doesn’t work very effectively when the engine is switched off. The handbrake only works on the back wheels of the car, so never use it while the vehicle is moving, as it may cause a skid.
The Safest Solution
Once the vehicle has stopped at the lights, the safest combination of controls is to have the handbrake on and adopt a neutral gear. This solution ensures that the vehicle is securely parked (minimising the risk of being shunted forward into traffic should you be hit from behind) and doesn’t rely on the driver’s muscular control to keep the car in position. As the lights move to the red/amber phase, simply engage the gears and prepare to move off as usual when the lights are green and it’s safe to do so.
Avoid “Bite Point” Idling
Many drivers tend to keep their car in gear, preferring to rely on the simultaneous application of clutch and accelerator to keep their vehicle immobile at the lights by using the “bite” point. While most competent drivers can hold a “bite” point for as long as necessary, it’s certainly not the safest thing to do when you’re stationary – even a small nudge from behind could be enough to make you lose control.
Although it may take a second or two longer to set off from the handbrake/neutral position rather than simply progress from the “bite” point into motion, the former option is almost invariably the safest. If you’re struggling to remember the optimal control sequences for any driving manoeuvre, lessons with a qualified driving instructor is often the safest way