AA Driving School (Peterborough)

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Moving off

Posted by aadrivingschoolpeterborough on October 5, 2008 at 5:40 PM

This is the first thing you learn and feels like a complicated procedure until you get used to it. Though experienced, qualified drivers will carry out the procedure quickly and in a variety of different ways, you as a learner need to master ONE way, the most effective way for both lessons and the practical test itself. Repeat this procedure every time you move away from the kerb or the side of the road. Ensure that the handbrake is on and the gear lever is in neutral before starting the engine.


1. Prepare the car to go (gear, gas and bite!)


Clutch down and select 1st gear. Apply some acceleration (gas), about 1,500 revs or so. If your car does not have a rev counter dial then just make sure you can hear the engine racing a little bit more loudly than the sound you hear when the engine is switched on (this is called 'idle' speed). More gas may be required in situations where you need to move off quickly but that's for later. Let the clutch up to reach the 'biting point'. This is the point where the engine partially connects with the wheels and tries to turn them and so move the car forward. You will either hear a change in the sound of the engine (the partial connection will slow the engine a little) or feel as if the car is actually trying to pull forwards. If you hear any slight 'cracking' sounds from the back of the car, push the clutch down a tiny amount as you have the clutch too high up, there is stress on the rear wheels because the handbrake holds them and you may 'stall' the engine if you go any higher with the clutch. Sometimes it is possible for the car to move at this point without stalling even with the handbrake still on. This will be because the handbrake is not on very high and there is sufficient gas and clutch 'height' to overcome the force of the handbrake. If the car moves while trying to find the biting point, then again push the clutch down a tiny amount until the car stops. I know we want the car to move but not yet! So balance your feet with right foot applying gas and left foot at the biting point.


Note: If you stall whilst moving off carry out the following procedure. Push the clutch down immediately and come off the gas. If the car is still moving slightly as you are stalling or rolls backwards, do the same but also brake quickly to a stop with your right foot. Apply the handbrake if it is not on (usually it will still be on). Leave the car in 1st gear and do not select neutral. Restart the engine. Now get the 'gas' and 'bite' ready for a second and hopefully more successful attempt at moving off. When you reach a higher skill level (usually after passing the test) you may stall whilst still moving forwards but not wish to stop the car. This will be in circumstances where the car is aiming in the correct direction and you are not causing a hazard to any road user who had priority over you. Here you just push the clutch down and quickly restart the engine and get the 'gas' and 'bite' to move more quickly again.


2. Observe (mirror, signal, manoeuvre routine)


Moving off is a 'hazard' situation. A hazard technically is anything that would involve anything more than slight alteration to the car's speed (especially slowing down) and/or the car's position from its normal position or driving line. With 'moving off' we are moving the car from a stationary position (obviously more than a slight alteration of speed) and changing the car's position from near the left edge of the road out to the right into the path of following traffic. Therefore because it is a hazard we must take account of what is happening behind us before we move off and go through the mirror, signal, manoeuvre routine. Always check the main interior mirror first. If you see anything you're not sure about then continue to look in this mirror until you think a moment is about to arrive where it might be safe to move off. Next check the right door mirror because there might be something over to the right that you couldn't see in the main mirror. If you see something here that you're not sure about then continue to look in this mirror until you feel it will soon be safe and then go back to checking the main mirror and start the procedure again. Next check the (right) 'blind spot'. This is an area directly to the right side of you and slightly behind you that even the right door mirror will not see into if it is far enough to the right of you. Over in the blind spot you could have a driveway or a side road and if you dont check this area when moving off you could be asking for trouble. Again, if there is something in the blind area wait until it is about to clear and return to the main mirror to quickly go through these three observational checks all over again. Once you have observed in all areas and you have decided that it is safe to go, you then decide if it is necessary to signal to warn any road user that you are moving off. At this early stage of your learning, give a signal if any road user is approaching you (including pedestrians) from front or rear if you think in some way they will benefit from the signal given. Give yourself plenty of time to decide if it is safe to move off. If you are in the early stages of learning you will move off a lot slower than an experienced driver and you must not cause a hazard to other vehicles. That is you must not cause those vehicles (who at this stage have priority over you) to slow down, stop or swerve because of your actions.


Note: If you have an instructor already they may insist that you also check your left 'blind spot' and left door mirror before starting the main mirror check. These checks, though beneficial, only serve to complicate things and are not essential in my opinion as long as ALL other observation advice here is carried out. But as long as you are happy with your instructor then do as they ask as they will have their own opinion of how things should be done.


3. Manoeuvre


Release the handbrake. Depending on how high your clutch is at the biting point, the car may start to move slightly. Keep your feet still for a moment then carefully let the clutch up through the biting point area (about the thickness of your thumb!). If you let it up quickly at this point it could easily stall the engine. Once the clutch is through the biting point area, the engine and wheels are fully connected and the rest of the clutch can be let back up to the top quickly. If the car does not move when you release the handbrake this is fine. You just need to carefully let the clutch up until it moves and follow the above procedure. If your car rolls backwards when you release the handbrake then you are obviously on a slope and your clutch is not high enough to allow the engine to connect enough with the wheels to drive the car forward against the force of gravity trying to pull the car backwards. Dont panic if this happens. Again, the clutch should be very close to the correct point so just carefully let the clutch up until the car stops rolling backwards and begins its forward motion. This problem will gradually disappear once your confidence with the biting point increases with experience. Once you are moving and have reached your correct road position cancel any signal you may have given and just concentrate on very gentle acceleration and straight steering (if possible!). Hold the hands fairly loosely on the steering wheel at 10 and 2 or 9 and 3 and if you need to move slightly to the right or left dont keep both hands fixed on the wheel. Try to use one hand to move the wheel whilst you just slightly loosen the grip with the other. This will start to get you used to correct steering technique. Remember that steering in a straight line can be more difficult than you think before you try it. And once you've gone down the road a bit, await the next instruction!!!


Note: Continue with some right door mirror observation until you reach your correct position in the middle of the lane. If you start to move off and realise it is a mistake or see a problem immediately clutch down and brake to a stop, apply the hanbrake, get the gas and bite ready and do parts 2 & 3 again.  After you have moved off make sure you keep your left foot on the clutch pedal (though not pressing it). This is because when you become confident you will realise that after moving off, the car is very quickly ready to go into 2nd gear and it is a waste of time and energy to move your foot away only to have to put it back again!


4. Short (and easier) recap


1. PREPARE - Into gear1, apply or 'set' the gas, find biting point.


2. OBSERVE - Main mirror, right door mirror, blind spot. Decide if signal necessary.


3. MANOEUVRE - Release handbrake, clutch up carefully through biting point then quickly to the top, continue some right door mirror observation from the moment you release handbrake to the moment you establish your correct road position,cancel signal once moved off, gently increase acceleration and steer straight (if possible!).

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