How to Brake Smoothly in a Manual Car

How to Brake Smoothly in a Manual Car

As a new driver, you’re likely to start off pressing the brake pedal too hard, but don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. If you’ve not done so already, take a quick read of how car brakes work as this will offer a basic understanding of how they operate.

After reading how car brakes work, you’ll understand that when the brake pedal is pushed down, pressurised brake fluid operates a piston that forces brake pads onto the disc rotor. Essentially, the harder you press the brake pedal, the harder the brake pads will push against the disc rotor which results in your car stopping quicker.

Pushing the brake pedal hard is ideal in an emergency, but we need to learn how to brake smoothly and to bring the car to a gentle stop.

Feel Firm Feather

We bring the car to a smooth and gentle stop by using a system is called ‘Feel, Firm and Feather’. This is explained as:


From the diagram, we can see the brake pads are not in contact with the brake disc rotor. Gently apply pressure to the brake pedal and slowly press down until you feel the car begin to slow down. By doing this, you’re taking up the slack and now know that the brake pads are just in contact with the brake disc rotor.


We now apply firm pressure to the brake pedal to lose unwanted speed. Press the brake pedal firmly but still maintain a controlled pressure. Avoid any hard and sudden pressing of the brake pedal.


Once the vehicle has slowed down to suitable speed, slowly ease your foot back from the brake pedal, again to the point where the brake pads are just in contact with the brake disc rotor. You’ve lost the majority of speed from the ‘firm’ phase, you can now feather the brake pedal by making slight adjustments of pressure to the pedal. The ‘feather’ part allows you to bring your car to a gentle stop by releasing some of the brake pressure.

The feel, firm and feather technique takes practice and time to master, but right from the word go, you will gain a feel of your car’s brakes and will increase your ability to control them over a little time.

Practice Braking Smoothly in a Manual Car

To practice braking smoothly in a manual car, you should:

  1. Select a quiet, level and straight section of road.
  2. Park up on the left.
  3. Select 1st gear and move off when ready (don’t forget the safety checks).
  4. When you have reached a speed of approximately 10 mph, remove your foot from the accelerator and gently apply pressure on the brake pedal.
  5. Very slowly apply pressure on the brake pedal until you feel the vehicle begin to slow down.
  6. Firm on the pressure of the brake pedal to lose unwanted speed.
  7. Just before your car stops, fully depress the clutch and release a little pressure off the brake pedal.
  8. Finally, feather the brake pedal so that the vehicle comes to a gentle stop.
  9. Keep your foot on the brake pedal until you have the parking brake applied.

Important: Remember to practice this on a quiet road and always check your mirrors and blind spot before moving out into the road and again before applying the brakes. Always indicate if any other person or road user may benefit. Ask your supervising passenger to help with this.

Once you have mastered braking smoothly and gently to a stop in 1st gear, practice using the same technique in a higher gear and from a faster speed.

Then set yourself specific areas to stop at. For example, pick reference point at the side of the road, this could be a free or road sign for example and practice smoothly stopping the car so that you stop at your reference point.

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