Accelerating and using the gears

Always try to use the accelerator smoothly and steadily. This will

  • reduce fuel consumption
  • reduce wear and tear on your vehicle
  • make your driving safer
  • reduce the amount of damage your car does to the environment.

Adjust the driving seat so that you can use the pedals easily and comfortably. If you’re too far from the pedals, you will not be able to operate the pedals smoothly.

Be careful not to over-rev your engine when moving away (do not press the accelerator more than is needed to make the car move) or when your car is stationary because this will waste fuel and may make it harder to control your vehicle.

Using cruise control, if it’s fitted on your vehicle, can help to save fuel because it keeps your speed steady. Only use cruise control if you can travel at a steady speed for a long period; for example, on longer roads, dual carriageways and motorways, and always observing speed limits. Check your vehicle handbook for details on how to use cruise control.

Using the gears

Most modern cars have 5 or 6 forward gears; older cars may have fewer gears. The speed at which you’re travelling when you need to change from one gear to another will vary, depending on the number of gears in the vehicle and how they’re configured.

The way the gears are arranged on the gear lever differs between cars: make sure you know how the gears are arranged, including how to put the car into reverse, before you move off.

Choosing the wrong gear can

  • make the car accelerate too slowly or too quickly
  • make it difficult to control the car effectively
  • increase fuel consumption and wear and tear on the car
  • increase your carbon footprint.

Travelling in the highest suitable gear will help you save fuel and reduce wear on the engine and the vehicle will produce fewer exhaust gases, reducing the impact on the environment.

You do not always need to use all the gears when you’re changing up or down. Missing out gears – sometimes called selective changing or block changing – can give you more time to concentrate on the road and allows you to keep your hands on the steering wheel for longer.

When you’re braking and changing down gears, it’s best to brake to the speed you need to go and then change down into the appropriate gear, so you may be able to miss one or more gears.

You can also use selective changing when you’re changing up gears but be careful not to accelerate too fiercely or for too long in the lower gears.

Driving on hills

Use the gears to help your car travel efficiently when you’re going up or down hills, especially if your car is loaded.

When you’re driving uphill, change down to a lower gear to avoid the engine struggling to give enough power.

Driving downhill, you can use a lower gear to increase the effect of engine braking and reduce the risk of overheating the brakes.

It’s a good idea to leave your vehicle in gear when you park and leave the car unattended, especially when parking on a hill. If the parking brake fails, the engine should stop the wheels turning. (This only applies to a car with manual gears.)

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