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Conseils de barlen : The controls


When learning to drive, it is important to know how to use the main controls: steering wheel, pedals, gear lever, switches before starting the car.

The gear lever
Manual gearbox

The gear lever is normally to the left of the driving seat, either on the floor or on a raised console. A few cars have the gear protruding from the instrument panel, and a few have a gear lever on the steering column.

Most cars have five-speed or six-speed gearboxes. The first four gears normally form an ‘H’, while reverse and fifth form an additional ‘L’. The central bar of the ‘H’ represents the neutral gear. On some vehicles, the pattern for reverse can be diff erent. It is important before starting to drive to get used to the pattern of your gear lever. This will help you to avoid the bad habit of learner drivers who look at the gear lever each time they need to change gear.

The best way to remember the pattern of the gear lever is to sit down at the wheel and practise the various lever movements in the stationary vehicle with the engine off . Do not forget to fully press the clutch pedal to do this (see clutch pedal on page 22). The lever is used to change gear. The gearbox allows you to drive at diff erent speeds without stressing the engine.

First gear :

It provides the greatest force on the driving wheels and is normally used to get the vehicle moving.

Second to fourth gear :

As you speed up, you change to higher gears, each one giving you less gear force but more road speed.

Fifth gear :

called cruise speed (little eff ort from the engine thus brings low fuel consumption, high speed, but little power), it is ideal for long journeys on the motorway.

Neutral gear :

In neutral, the vehicle wheels are no longer connected to the engine. Neutral is usually used to start the engine and for long stops in traffi c.