Good use of the steering wheel is essential for keeping your vehicle under control. Keep both hands on the wheel unless you’re changing gear or working another control with one hand and put that hand back on the wheel as soon as you can.
Do not rest your arm on the door because this restricts your movement and, therefore, may affect your control of the steering wheel.
Grip the wheel firmly but not too tightly: you should be able to turn the wheel easily when the vehicle is moving.
The steering lock is the angle through which the front wheels turn when you turn the steering wheel.
Being able to manoeuvre your car accurately is an important part of driving: you never know when you might need to turn the car around, and you may have limited space in which to do so.
Before you start to manoeuvre your car, you need to check it’s
- safe – is there enough room; can you see where you’re going?
- legal – there are rules about where some manoeuvres can be carried out, such as reversing: check The Highway Code (GOV.UK) for details
- convenient – other road users should not have to slow down or change course to avoid you.
You’ll also need to check that you can control your vehicle – for example, if you’re reversing downhill, you may need to use the footbrake to keep the car under control.
When doing any manoeuvring, the car must be under control and you should be reasonably accurate, with good observation. There are some useful tips below.
- Use your mirrors and look behind you to check blind spots before you begin.
- Give a signal if it will help other road users understand what you’re doing.
- Carry out the manoeuvre using the correct starting position.
- Keep a steady, slow speed so you can make the manoeuvre safely.
- Keep looking ahead and around you for possible dangers, such as other road users or pedestrians.
- Pause during the manoeuvre if it isn’t safe and resume when it is.
If you have reversing aids, such as camera systems or proximity sensors, you’ll still need to check all around you before and during a manoeuvre. These aids can add to, but not replace, your normal checks.
While you’re manoeuvring, avoid using the accelerator, brakes and steering suddenly or harshly because this will make it difficult to carry out the manoeuvre correctly. You could also end up getting in the way of other road users.
Here’s a list of the manoeuvres you should prepare for and will use over your driving career
- moving off safely up and down hills
- moving off safely behind stationery objects
- reversing to the left and right
- reversing in and out of parking spaces
- driving in and out of parking spaces
- pull over on the right and stop, then move back on to the left side of the road
- turn your car around in the road
- reverse parking (see more about this in the stopping and parking section).
If you’re unsure about how to do any of these manoeuvres, speak to your driving instructor or take a look at The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.
Never make a U-turn
- on a motorway
- in a one-way street
- where there’s a ‘no U-turn’ road sign.
Controlling your vehicle
Do not reverse your car further than is necessary: it’s difficult to see where you’re going and, while it makes your car more manoeuvrable, the fact that your steering has a greater effect makes it easier to get into difficulties.
Avoid coasting: this is when your car is moving but it’s not being driven by the engine – either when the clutch pedal is held down or the gear lever is in neutral. If your car is coasting, you have less control over it. Doing this while you’re travelling downhill will mean you’ll quickly pick up speed, and you’ll then need to brake harder than should have been necessary.
Skidding happens when the driver loses control and is going too fast for the conditions. Skids happen when you change speed or direction so suddenly your tyres cannot keep their grip on the road.
The 3 factors that cause a skid are
- the driver
- the vehicle
- the road conditions – for more information on road conditions, see the Identifying and responding to hazards advice section.
To avoid skidding
- do not accelerate suddenly or harshly
- do not brake harshly
- do not brake while cornering
- watch out for slippery road surfaces and keep your speed down if you think the road is slippery
- use engine braking as well as the brakes to slow the vehicle down
- keep your vehicle in good condition – brakes that are in poor condition can snatch or pull unevenly, which can cause skidding.
If your car begins to skid
- release the brake pedal – braking makes a skid worse
- turn the steering wheel in the same direction as the skid and ease off the accelerator to bring the wheels back into line.
If the front wheels are sliding, release the accelerator and do not try to steer until the wheels begin to grip the road again.
Different vehicles will react differently when there’s a risk of skidding, depending on whether they’re front- or rear-wheel drive, and on the systems fitted to the car, such as an anti-lock braking system (ABS) or electronic stability control/programme (ESC or ESP). Check the vehicle handbook to find out how these will affect the risk of skidding. If your ABS comes on, you should be able to steer around the hazard without the car skidding.
Engine braking can be useful when you’re driving in slippery conditions because the car is less likely to skid under engine braking than when using the brake pedal. Change down the gears in plenty of time but be careful with the accelerator and clutch, particularly in very slippery conditions, because these can cause skids too.