Foot Pedals

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Foot pedals (clutch, brake, accelerator) – how to use foot pedals properly

Using a car, truck, or van can be very freeing, but only if the vehicle moves forward and stops when the driver wants. The foot pedals help drivers with this part of the process, making the clutch, brake, and accelerator essential elements of safe driving. Everyone who wants to operate a vehicle should learn the best techniques for using these important tools.

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Manual Transmission – 3 Pedals
Automatic Transmission – 2 Pedals

All vehicles have foot pedals, but the number depends on the type of vehicle. Manual transmission cars and trucks have three pedals: the clutch on the left, the brake in the middle, and the accelerator on the right. Automatic transmission vehicles have only the brake and the accelerator as the engine changes gears at the appropriate times without any need for the driver’s intervention. Drivers simply press the accelerator when they want to go and the brake when they wish to stop. How hard they press these pedals determine the speed of the vehicle or how rapidly it stops.

Manual Versus Automatic Transmissions

In manual transmission vehicles, the process is a bit more complicated as drivers change gears manually while they accelerate or slow down. The clutch is an essential part of changing gears, stopping, and starting. When starting the vehicle, the driver should press the clutch pedal and brake to keep the vehicle from rolling away. To start moving, the driver releases the clutch while pressing on the accelerator enough to get the vehicle moving without stalling. This process can be difficult to coordinate, but practice can make it easier.

Drivers of manual transmission vehicles use the clutch frequently during the ride. Each gear change involves releasing the accelerator and pressing down on the clutch while making the shift. Pressing on the clutch is also necessary before using the brake. Sometimes it can also be useful for controlling speed. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation website recommends shifting to a lower gear while travelling downhill, especially for large vehicles that could otherwise be difficult to keep at a steady speed with the weight of the entire vehicle propelling them forward.

Although automatic vehicles are considerably easier to drive than manual transmissions due to the lack of a clutch pedal, they also have their own issues. One of the problems can occur when drivers use both feet for the pedals, the left foot for the brake and the right for the accelerator.

One Foot or Two

One of the problems with using the right foot for the accelerator and the left for the brake is the possibility of inadvertently holding down both pedals at once. Pressing on the brake pedal, even slightly, causes the brake lights to turn on. Other drivers, seeing this, could become confused about whether the driver is stopping or accelerating and may crash if they make an incorrect assumption about the driver’s intentions. In addition, holding down the brake and accelerator at once can cause the brake pads to wear out, possibly making the brakes ineffectual when they are needed.

Always use only your right foot for both the brake and the accelerator, regardless of which foot you normally prefer for other tasks. Using only one foot will help you avoid accidentally pressing down on both pedals at once.

Proper foot position

You only use your right foot to operate both pedals. The heel rests on the floor, so the right foot covers the brake pedal. When pressing the brake, apply pressure in the center of the brake pedal with the ball of your foot. To reach the gas pedal, leave the heel on the floor and pivot the foot to the right.
Do not use your left foot to operate the pedals. Do not use both feet to press on the pedals unless you are driving a manual car. You can place your left foot on the foot rest on the far left side.

Even when the foot pedals are working properly, drivers need to be sure they know how a particular vehicle works. On some vehicles, the pedals are sensitive to the slightest touch, and a small amount of pressure on the accelerator can send the vehicle shooting forward. Learning the characteristics of each vehicle’s foot pedals is important for all drivers. That way, these tools can fulfill their intended purpose of controlling the movement of vehicles on the road.