Car Facts Episode 4 – Everyday Driving Skills
If you’ve been following our Car Facts series so far, then you’ve got a basic idea of what’s going on in both your own vehicle as well as vehicle extremes from around the world. You’ve also become a savvy shopper and know when to book vehicle service. All of this information is for nothing if you aren’t confident in your driving abilities. There are a few everyday driving skills that a large amount of people don’t have, like driving a manual transmission or even changing a tire. Gary’s Automotive is here to share some basic everyday driving skills and to help keep you safe out on the road.
Everyday Driving Skills – Safety
Knowing how to handle emergencies with everyday driving skills is important not only for your own safety, but for the safety of other motorists as well. The old adage goes “better to know it and not need it, than to need it and not know”. That holds true with driving. At some point in your life, you may experience or witness another driver in need of assistance, so be ready to step up with your everyday driving skills!
Using Jumper Cables To Boost A Car: While we’ve mentioned the importance of keeping booster cables in your car and knowing how to use them for winter, this is important year round. Following the rhyme “Red from the dead, to red on the good. Black from the good, to under the hood” is an easy way to remember how to jump start a car. You can also follow this everyday driving skills list:
- Make sure both vehicles are turned off. Open the hood for both vehicles and locate the battery. Once you know where the battery is, and both vehicles are off, you can set up the cables
- “Red from the dead, to red on the good” On most car batteries, the terminals (or points where cables are connected to the batteries) will be colour coded for positive (+) and negative (-). If not, look for the positive and negative symbols. The positive (+) terminal will likely be red, either in colour or under a red cap. Attach one jumper cable clamp to the positive (+) terminal on the dead battery. Connect the other end of the jumper cables to the positive (+) terminal on the good battery. Keep in mind, most jumper cables are colour coded for a left and right. You’ll want to make sure that when connecting the two terminals that the same colour cable goes to both terminals.
- “Black from the good, to under the hood” There should still be one unused jumper cable clamp at each end. You’ll now be connecting the black or negative (-) terminals. On the car with the good battery, connect the cable end to the negative (-) terminal. On the vehicle with the dead battery, attach the cable to a piece of metal away from your battery and engine bay. This grounds the connection and makes it safer. Be sure all the cables are connected properly and that positive (+) terminals are connected with the same colour (or side) cable.
- With everything properly connected, start the car with the good battery. Give the connection some time to charge, then try to start the car with the bad battery. If it starts, disconnect the cables in the opposite order you connected them, and close the hoods. If it doesn’t start, you may need to give the battery more time to charge.
Boosting a dead battery could very well be one of the everyday driving skills you end up using the most.
Changing A Flat Tire: Flat tires are an unavoidable part of vehicle ownership. Changing a flat tire is actually a very simple process, but it seems intimidating to most people. With some everyday driving skills advice from Gary’s, you’ll be able to change a tire in no time!
- Ensure the vehicle is stopped, parked, on as level ground as possible, and that you have enough room to work. If you have to pull over to change a tire on a highway and your flat is on the driver side of the vehicle, make sure you give yourself enough room to work when you pull over (but don’t drive into the ditch) Once the vehicle is out of harms way and parked, you can begin changing a tire.
- Some new vehicles skip the spare tire in favour of a sealant with an inflation pump. In that case, repairing your tire is as simple as connecting the inflation pump to your vehicles cigarette or 12V outlet, turning the inflation pump on and putting air in the tire.
- In either case, your inflation pump or spare tire will most likely be in your trunk, underneath a liner of some sort. Here you may also find a jack(to raise your vehicle off the ground) and wrench, two crucial pieces for changing a tire. If you only see a tire, try looking around the plastics in your trunk for a door. When you open the door, you’ll likely find your jack inside. Remove the spare tire, jack, and wrench from your car.
- Before you jack your car up, start by loosening the lug nuts that hold your wheel onto the car. When looking at your flat tire, you may notice 4, 5 or even 6 lug nuts near the centre of the wheel. With the wrench you got earlier, begin trying to turn the lug nuts counter clockwise (lefty-loosey). If this is difficult, you may be able to step on the wrench for extra leverage. You don’t want to completely remove the lug nuts, just loosen them.
- Find where you can jack your vehicle safely. Under your car, you may notice what looks like a metal rail running under your door slightly back from the outside of the car. There could even be some small notches in this rail. If so, that’s where you want to jack up your car. This step is important to your everyday driving skills because if you try to jack up your car on a part that isn’t solid, you can do more damage to your vehicle. If you don’t see this rail, find something metal and sturdy under your car that you can place the jack under.
- Take the vehicle jack and place it under where you’re going to jack up your car. This will obviously be done near the wheel you want to change. Begin raising the jack, normally by turning a screw on the jack. Many cars will include a metal bar that makes turning the screw faster, and in some cases that metal par is part of the wrench. You want to jack the car up so that the flat tire comes just off the ground.
- With the flat tire now raised, used your wrench to fully remove the lug nuts you loosened earlier. DO NOT LOSE THE LUG NUTS! You’ll need them! With the lug nuts removed, take the old tire and rim off the vehicle. The may take some “convincing” depending on the age of your vehicle. Place the flat tire in your trunk and get your spare. Your spare should fit on the now exposed bolts the same as the flat did. Put the spare tire on the car, and tighten it up with the lug nuts. It will be difficult to properly secure the lug nuts with your wheel in the air, so make sure they are hand tight for now.
- At the jack, lower the vehicle back down to the ground. MAKE SURE you now tighten the lug nuts as much as you can to prevent the wheel from coming off. remember to put your jack, wrench, and flat tire back in your car if you haven’t already.
- With everything put away, you should be good to drive. If your spare tire seems small, that’s OK. This tire is designed to get you to a service station or somewhere that can replace the tire. A small spare is NOT a permanent replacement for a flat tire.
After changing a flat with your new everyday driving skills, get to Gary’s for expert tire service!
Everyday Driving Skills – Abilities
Without getting into advanced everyday driving skills like finding apexes and heel & toe shifting, one of many everyday driving skills that people either avoid or never have the chance to learn is driving a manual transmission. While you may never intend on driving a manual transmission, knowing how to can be crucial. You may find yourself in a situation where you become a designated driver and need to drive a stick, you may need to borrow a friends car, or you may
not have a choice of getaway vehicles after robbing a bank want to save money on purchasing your next vehicle. Driving a manual transmission is something that every driver should at least know how to do, and can be one of the most rewarding everyday driving skills.
Driving A Manual Transmission
- In an automatic vehicle, there are only two pedals, brake and gas. Your shifter puts the car in park, drive, or reverse. In a manual, there are 3 pedals: brake, gas, and the clutch. The shifter is responsible for the drive gears and reverse. The basic theory behind “driving stick” is simple. Accelerate, off gas on clutch, shift, on gas off clutch, continue. We’ll go into a bit more detail.
- The clutch is the 3rd pedal in a manual transmission vehicle. This pedal will be the smaller pedal located at the far left of the pedals. The clutch separates the spinning engine from the spinning wheels and allows you to change gears without ruining your transmission. Another different feature of a manual transmission is “neutral”. While automatic transmissions have a neutral gear, you won’t be using it as much as you would in a manual.
- Neutral isn’t a gear, it’s a lack of gear. In neutral, your car isn’t in any gear. It is recommended to put the car in neutral before starting it. To do this, press in the clutch and move the shifter (the stick with lines and the numbers 1-5 or 1-6 on it) between 1st and second gear. Hold down the clutch and turn on the vehicle.
- When it’s time to drive, you will need to put the vehicle in gear. To start driving, press in the clutch pedal all the way. Firmly move the shifter into first gear. Slowly let go of the clutch while slowly pressing the gas pedal. Your car may jolt or jerk forward, or it may even stall. This is natural. Part of learning how to drive a manual transmission is getting this shift from clutch to acceleration correct.
- You are now in first gear and moving. You may notice your engine is making a steady, revving sound. This means you need to shift into second. Paying attention to your tachometer (the gauge beside the speedometer) will also tell you when it’s time to shift. generally, around the 2.5 or 3 mark (2500 to 3000 RPM) is a good time to shift into a higher gear to save on fuel economy. Shifting into second is the same as shifting into first. Foot off the gas and onto the clutch, shift, foot off the clutch and onto the gas. Shifting up is the same process no matter the gear.
- When it comes time to stop, use your brake as normal. Taking off from a stop sign in 5th gear will be difficult, so as you approach a stop sign its best to either use your brake and shift into neutral (as is practised in Europe) or to slowly downshift (a process known as engine braking). Again, downshifting is the same clutch on shift clutch off movement.
- WHEN SHIFTING EITHER DIRECTION, DO NO SKIP GEARS. Learning more everyday driving skills depends on having a functional vehicle. This puts an incredible amount of stress on your vehicles transmission, and can damage your vehicle.
There is only so much you can gain for driving a manual transmission vehicle by reading, so the best bet for learning to drive a stick is to get out there and practice your everyday driving skills. Starting off in an empty parking lot somewhere can let you build confidence and familiarity with your vehicle. If practising your everyday driving skills has taken a toll on your transmission, book service with Gary’s!
While these are some of the basic everyday driving skills everyone should know, there’s no need to stop there. Information isn’t just valuable to you, it can be used to help others when they are stranded as well. If you see someone stranded with a flat tire, don’t be afraid to offer some help!
Have any ideas for other everyday driving skills that you use? Let us know in the comments!