Learning Car Gears FAQ

Learning Car Gears FAQ

The ‘how to change gear in a manual car‘ section covers all the tutorials required for learning to change gears. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions by learner drivers in regards to learning car gears.

Just before coming to a stop in your car, you should:

  • Depress the clutch and select 1st gear when stopping in traffic.
  • Depress the clutch and leave the current gear you’re in when parking.

It depends what type of car you’re driving. For a:

  • Manual car you should remove your foot from the accelerator when changing gear, then gently apply a little pressure to the accelerator at the same time as releasing the clutch pedal.
  • Semi-automatic car (those that have paddle gear changers on the steering column), you can keep your foot on the accelerator when changing gear.

Simply think of a lower gear as a lower number. So if you car has five gears and you’re driving in 5th gear, any gear under 5th gear will be a lower gear. The lowest gear in any car is 1st gear. See high and low gears explained.

Once you have changed up gear, ensure that you bring the clutch up slowly, particularly around the clutch bite point area (where the two clutch plates come back together and reconnect the gearbox to the engine). Just as you’re doing this, apply gentle pressure to the accelerator. 

Do this all slowly and if the gear change is smooth without jerking, work on speeding the gear changing technique up. It’s all about timing and practice.

If your car still jerks, it could be a problem with your car. If the clutch in your car is old, it may require replacing.

Assuming that your car’s parking brakes are in good working order, you can leave a parked car in neutral with the parking brake applied when leaving it on a level surface. If your car is parked on a slope, the following advice applies:

When leaving a car parked on a slope facing downhill, you should:

  1. Park with your wheels close to the kerb
  2. Turn your wheels towards the kerb
  3. Firmly apply the handbrake / apply the electronic parking brake
  4. In a manual, select reverse gear. If driving an automatic, select ‘Park’.

When leaving a car parked on a slope facing uphill, you should:

  1. Park with your wheels close to the kerb
  2. Turn your wheels away from the kerb
  3. Firmly apply the handbrake / apply the electronic parking brake
  4. In a manual, select 1st gear. If driving an automatic, select ‘Park’.

The most powerful gear in a car is usually 1st gear. 1st gear is the lowest gear but has the highest gear ratio and provides the greatest pulling power (torque). The second most powerful gear is usually reverse gear.

Inside a car’s gearbox are a number of cogs. These cogs are meshed together in pairs to form gears. The size of the cogs relates to the amount of teeth each cog has and depending on which cog is meshed to, determines the ratio. Car gears and ratios are important as it would be difficult to do things such as moving off from a standstill without them. For a basic understanding of ratios, see car gear ratios explained.

The crankshaft in a car’s engine rotates due to fuel being combusted, causing reciprocating motion of the pistons, which in turn rotates the crankshaft. It is this rotating force of the crankshaft which is referred to as torque. The more torque a car engine has, the better the acceleration and ability to pull a heavy load.

Years ago, drivers would change gear in sequence, in order from 1st gear working up to 5th gear and for changing down from 5th gear all through the gears when slowing down or stopping. With modern cars and driving techniques, we now use block gear changing due to it being a little easier and safer. Whilst driving examiners prefer to see block changing, a driver who does not use this technique will not fail the driving test providing they demonstrate good control and handling of the vehicle.

Yes you can block change up gears, though this is far less common than block changing down gears. You’ll generally only block change up gears when you need to gain speed quickly in a lower gear. For example, accelerating down a slip road to join a dual carriageway or motorway, you could go from 3rd gear directly into 5th gear once you’ve entered the carriagway.

Yes, you can go from 3rd gear to 1st, you can also go from 4th or 5th gear into 1st gear providing your car can handle it. But the important thing is that before changing into 1st gear, you first slow the car down to an appropriate speed for 1st gear. This is normally around 5 mph or so. Use a combination of engine braking and the foot brake to slow the vehicle down to around 5 mph, then change into 1st gear.

What gear should you be in going uphill in a car depends on what gear you are in just before ascending the hill. Essentially, you need to change down a gear. If after changing down a gear your engine sounds like it’s struggling, change down another gear.

When going downhill in a car, you should change to a lower gear and use a combination of engine braking and the foot brake. Engine braking occurs when you remove your foot from the accelerator and while in gear, the car slows down due to the friction and drag called ‘retarding force’ in the engine. When you’re going downhill in a car, change down to a lower gear as this increases engine braking and gently apply pressure to the brake pedal when necessary.

Yes, it’s perfectly safe to change gear while braking. However, if you’re braking to take a corner, it’s considered safer to brake and slow your vehicle to the appropriate speed before taking the corner. Braking while cornering increases the risk of a skid, particularly in slippery conditions.

Reverse gear has a very similar ratio to 1st gear (see gear ratios explained) and so you’d move off in reverse just as you would forward, in 1st gear.

If you shift from 5th gear into 1st while traveling at 40 mph or more and bring the clutch up without first slowing the vehicle, you car will rapidly slow down and you’ll likely damage the clutch. However, if you’re in 5th gear, you can first slow the vehicle to an appropriate speed of around 5 mph and then select 1st gear.

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