Steering and manoeuvring

Steering

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, 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. The further the wheels turn to the left or right, the smaller the turning circle of the vehicle. Usually, smaller vehicles have a smaller turning circle than larger ones.

Manoeuvring

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 it.

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 around corners: 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, are you confident you can keep the car under control?

Always use the Observation – Signal – Manoeuvre/Position – Speed – Look routine to make sure you can manoeuvre safely.

  • Observation: use your mirrors and look behind you to check blind spots.
  • Signal: give a signal if it will help other road users understand what you’re doing.
  • Manoeuvre: carry out the manoeuvre using Position – Speed – Look.
  • Position: move into the correct position on the road in good time to make the manoeuvre.
  • Speed: adjust your speed so you can make the manoeuvre safely.
  • Look: keep looking ahead and around you for possible dangers, such as other road users or pedestrians.

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 and you could end up getting in the way of other road users.

The manoeuvres you should know are

  • reversing into a side road on the left
  • reversing into a side road on the right
  • U-turn
  • turn in the road
  • reverse parking (see more about this above 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

Skidding is caused by the driver trying to go too fast for the amount of grip the tyres have on the road. Skids happen when you change speed or direction so suddenly your tyres cannot keep their grip on the road.

The three factors that cause a skid are

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.

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.


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