How to drive a car? Automatic and manual car driving tips

Published on 29 Jul, 2021, 11:10 AM IST
Updated on 7 Jun, 2022, 9:46 AM IST

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Cars have become an integral part of our life as they make travelling convenient and comfortable. But driving a vehicle may seem like a daunting task, especially for beginners who are learning the art of driving. Also, some people may be comfortable driving a manual car and not so comfortable behind the wheel of an automatic car. The vice versa is also true in this case. If you are still wondering how to drive a car, this article will help you understand the basics of driving.

How to drive a car

Car driving tips

The first question on your mind would be how to learn car driving. The answer to this question is to approach a good driving school. A car driving school will teach you the basics of driving a car and give you some essential car driving tips. Moreover, the driving instructor takes a systematic approach in teaching you the basics of driving. Moreover, the driving instructor will also emphasise the traffic rules you should know about while driving a car on public roads.

Even before you start driving the car, the first thing you should do is get familiar with the vehicle. Understand all the vehicle's controls, including gear-shift pattern, pedals, and the steering wheel's controls. Next, hop into the driver’s seat and find a seating position that suits you. 

Ensure that you can easily reach the pedals when sitting on the driver’s seat with the seatbelts bucked up. Also, adjust the steering wheel (if there is an option) and hold the wheel in the correct position, ideally, 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock.

When you are driving the car on the road, avoid any distractions. Use the horns and indicators appropriately to warn other road users about your manoeuvres. Always maintain a safe distance from other vehicles on the road. Be calm and don’t drive in an agitated state. Lastly, follow the traffic rules and never go over the speed limits, as it may result in you losing control of the vehicle.

How to drive a car? A step-by-step guide

No matter what type of car you own, the basic principles of driving remain the same. The use of pedals, gear lever, steering wheel, handbrake, etc., does not change drastically from one car to another. Here is a step-by-step guide to driving a manual transmission car if you are wondering how to learn car driving.

  • Step 1 - Hop into the driver’s seat, lock all the doors and wear the seatbelt.

  • Step 2 -  Ensure that the car is in ‘Neutral’ mode and release the handbrake.

  • Step 3 -  Engage the brake (pedal in the middle) using your right foot and start the engine.

  • Step 4 -  Engage the clutch (leftmost pedal) with your left foot and shift into 1st gear.

  • Step 5 -  Next, slowly release the clutch pedal until the car begins to crawl forward.

  • Step 6 -  Use your right foot to use the accelerator pedal to increase the car’s Revolution Per Minute (RPM).

  • Step 7 -  Release the clutch pedal entirely and use the accelerator pedal to increase the speed.

  • Step 8 -  Once you are on the move, use the accelerator, brake and clutch pedal accordingly as per the requirement.

How to drive an automatic (AMT) car?

Automatic or AMT (Automated Manual Transmission) cars are easier to drive than their manual counterparts. One of the advantages of automatic cars is you need not operate the clutch nor shift gears manually. With only two pedals (accelerator and brake) to play with, the driving becomes more manageable. Here are the steps involved in driving an automatic or AMT car.

  • Ensure that the gear selector is in ‘Neutral’ mode before starting the engine.

  • Press the brake pedal and turn on the ignition, and fire up the engine.

  • Slot the gear selector into D (Drive) mode and slowly release the brake.

  • As the car starts to crawl forward, step on the accelerator pedal to gain speed.

  • Operate the accelerator pedal with the right foot and brake pedal with the left foot.

  • Rest your left foot on the dead pedal when you are not using the brakes.

  • While parking an automatic car, slot the gear selector into P mode and engage the handbrake to prevent the vehicle from rolling when parked on a slope.

Note: AMT cars also have a manual mode wherein you can override the automatic gear shifts and select the gears manually.

How to reverse a car with an AMT or automatic gearbox?

Reversing an automatic or AMT car is simple as you need not fiddle with the clutch pedal. Here are car reversing tips if you drive an AMT/automatic car.

  • Slot the gear selector in R (Reverse) mode.

  • Look over your shoulders to ensure that the road is clear for reversing the car.

  • Next, slowly release the brake pedal, and the car will start crawling backwards.

  • Usually, you don’t need to use the accelerator unless there is an incline. However, if required, you can gently press the accelerator pedal as per your requirement.

  • Next comes the tricky part. When reversing, the steering is also reversed. If you turn the steering wheel to the right, the car will steer left and vice versa.

  • Last but not least, use the brake pedal to bring the car to a halt.

How to drive a manual car?

Unlike automatic cars, it takes a bit more effort to drive vehicles with a manual gearbox. It is mainly because of the clutch pedal and manual gear shifts. A car with a manual transmission has three pedals: accelerator, brake and clutch. The gear lever is used to select the desired gear in a manual car. Here are some tips for driving a manual transmission car.

How to change gear?

If you are wondering how to change gears in a manual car, then the below steps will help you in that regard.

  • It doesn’t matter if the car is parked on rolling; release the accelerator before changing gears.

  • Press the clutch entirely with your left foot and select the desired gear using the gear lever.

  • Ensure that you press the clutch pedal completely to shift gears smoothly without any jerks.

  • Next, release the clutch pedal (release gradually if the car is parked) and step on the accelerator to gain speed.

  • Use only the accelerator pedal to control the speed, and do not step on the clutch pedal unnecessarily unless you are shifting gears.

  • If you do not press the accelerator pedal while releasing the clutch, the car may stall.

How to control car steering?

Controlling the steering wheel in a manual car is tricky as you will constantly be shifting gears with your left hand. But with practice, you will find it easier to control a manual vehicle. Here are some tips to control the steering wheel in a car with manual transmission.

  • Adjust the position of the steering wheel (if there is an option) as per your requirement. It shouldn’t be too close or too far from your reach.

  • Hold the steering wheel in the 10 o’clock or 2 o'clock position.

  • Always place your right hand on the steering wheel while shifting gears with your left hand.

  • Ensure that your inputs are smooth. Do not steer suddenly or weave from left to right or vice versa unless necessary.

  • Never let go of the steering wheel while on the move.

How to control the clutch and accelerator?

Clutch plays a vital role in a manual car as it assists in shifting the gears smoothly. So, one has to be careful while using the clutch in conjunction with the accelerator. Always use the left foot to operate the clutch and the right foot to operate the accelerator. Here are a few tips to control the clutch and the accelerator efficiently in a manual car.

  • Release the accelerator and press the clutch fully before shifting gears.

  • Release the clutch gradually after selecting the desired gear and step on the accelerator at the same time to avoid stalling the vehicle.

  • Never use the clutch to control the vehicle speed. It may damage the clutch plates.

  • Do not shift gears when the clutch is not engaged/fully engaged. It may cause severe damage to the gearbox.

  • Use the accelerator pedal wisely and gradually increase the speed.

  • Avoid sudden acceleration as it may result in loss of control or may reduce the fuel economy.

How to reverse?

Reversing a manual car is almost similar to reversing an automatic or AMT car. The only difference is the clutch pedal. One has to be careful with the clutch and the accelerator pedal while performing a reverse manoeuvre. Here are the steps to reverse a manual car.

  • Press the clutch pedal, engage the brake and shift to ‘Reverse’ gear.

  • Slowly release the clutch and gradually press the accelerator pedal.

  • Be gentle with the accelerator as you don’t require too much speed to reverse.

  • Turn the steering wheel carefully as there is a reverse steering effect when reversing the vehicle.

  • Turn the steering wheel to the left to reverse right and vice versa.

  • To stop the car, press the clutch pedal and apply the brakes.

Mistakes to avoid while driving a manual car

Here are some mistakes that you want to avoid while driving a car with manual transmission.

  • Never drive a manual car without knowing the gear-shift pattern. You may end up selecting the wrong gears while on the move.

  • Always select the right gear. Choosing the wrong gear can stall the car or damage the gearbox.

  • Never change gears without engaging the clutch.

  • Do not overuse the clutch to control the speed of the vehicle.

  • Do not use your left foot for braking. Ensure that you only use your right foot for acceleration and braking.

  • Do not let go of the steering wheel while shifting gears. Also, do not get distracted while changing gears. Keep your eyes on the road when you are driving.

Tips to drive a new car for beginners

If you have just learnt to drive and purchased a new car, driving on busy roads may be intimidating. But gradually, you will get accustomed to the vehicle and develop the skills required to handle the car. Below are some new car driving tips to help you understand how to drive a car for beginners.

  • Find the correct seating position: The seating position is crucial for a driver as it impacts the visibility and access to various car controls. Find a seating position that suits you. You can play around with the seat adjustment options to find a sweet spot. Adjust the seat in such a way that your thighs and back are not strained. At the same time, you should easily access the pedals, steering wheel and other controls.

  • Familiarise yourself with controls, adjust mirrors: Acquaint yourself with the car before you take out the vehicle for a drive. Understand all the controls and features, and functions of the various buttons/knobs present in the cabin. Get used to the pedals and ensure that you can efficiently operate them. Get familiar with the gear lever and understand the shift pattern. Next, adjust the ORVMs (Outside Rear View Mirrors) and IRVM (Inside Rear View Mirror). Ensure that you get a good view of what’s going on behind.

  • Hold the steering wheel properly: As a beginner driver, you may tend to overlook this point. But holding the steering wheel in the correct position is crucial. Always stick to the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock position and use the steering wheel with both hands unless you shift gears. Be smooth and gentle with the steering inputs.

  • Don’t rest your hand on the gear lever: It is one of the most common mistakes that beginner drivers make when driving a manual car. Do not rest your hand on the gear lever as it transfers the weight onto the lever, resulting in the wear and tear of internal components of the gearbox. Moreover, it’s not safe to drive with one hand on the steering wheel.

  • Try driving in the daytime and in good weather: As a beginner driver, try to drive during day time. Visibility is crucial, especially with limited driving experience, and driving after sundown could cause problems due to poor visibility. Also, avoid driving in bad weather conditions. For instance, avoid taking the car out during thunderstorms.

  • Drive when you are fresh and in a good mindset: It’s one of those points that you tend to ignore. But driving in an agitated state or under stress can lead to severe consequences. Always drive with a clear mind so that you can concentrate on your driving and the road ahead. Never drive your car if you're tired or stressed.

  • Avoid driving on highways: Initially, when you get the hang of driving your new car, stick to the roads you are familiar with. Avoid driving on highways as vehicles travel at high speeds on multiple lanes, and even a small mistake can cost you dearly. So, it’s better to drive on roads with slow-moving traffic.

  • Do not panic: Be in a relaxed state when driving your car. Focus on the road ahead, and the vehicle controls. Do not panic if there are any minor hiccups while you drive. It will only make the situation worse. Instead, be calm and concentrate on the corrective measures you need to take.

  • Drive at slow speeds: Never drive at high speeds as you may lose control of the vehicle. With limited driving experience, you may not be prepared to take any corrective action if you lose control of the car. Moreover, you should adhere to the speed limits set by the law. One needs to be careful when negotiating the bends/curves. Approach the turns at slow speeds to be on the safer side.

  • Carry all vehicle and driver-related documents: Lastly, carry all vehicle and driver-related documents when you take your car out for a drive. Authorities may inspect your vehicle, and failing to produce the documents will attract penalties. So, always carry vital documents such as the Driving Licence, Registration Certificate, Car Insurance Certificate and PUC (Pollution Under Control) Certificate.

Car driving techniques in different zones

Driving style varies depending on what type of terrain you are driving. You may have to adapt different driving techniques to tackle different situations. For instance, driving your car on a congested road requires a different approach than driving on highways. Below are some of the driving scenarios that you may come across while driving your vehicle.

How to drive a car in traffic?

Driving your car on an empty stretch of road is a piece of cake. But driving on a congested road may be a tricky task. Here are some tips for driving on jam-packed urban roads.

  • If you are driving at slow speeds, stick to the leftmost lane.

  • Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Never tailgate a car that is moving at a slower speed.

  • Always overtake vehicles from the right side as the rightmost lane is for fast-moving vehicles.

  • Be extra careful when overtaking heavy vehicles such as trucks. These types of vehicles have massive blind spots and make your move cautiously.

How to drive a car on slope/downhill or uphill?

Driving a car on a slope or downhill requires some special techniques. Similarly, driving on an uphill road is also a challenge. If you are wondering how to drive uphill without rolling back, follow the steps that are mentioned below.

  • Use engine braking to slow down the car while driving downhill. Avoid using brakes as it may lead to increased wear and tear, and the brakes may even heat up and fail.

  • Never shut down the engine or put the gearbox into neutral when going downhill. It will result in free-rolling of the car and becomes difficult to control.

  • If you are driving on an uphill road, keep your right foot on the brake when starting the car.

  • Slowly release the clutch and immediately disengage the brake, and step on the accelerator to move forward without rolling back.

  • When parking the car in an uphill road, engage the parking brake and slot the gear lever into 1st gear. Similarly, when parking on a downhill, apply the parking brake and leave the car in reverse gear.

How to drive a car in a hilly area/ghats in India?

Driving in hilly areas or ghat sections is challenging, mainly if you have limited driving experience. Here are some tips that you can follow to negotiate such roads safely.

  • Always check the car’s brakes before taking your vehicle to hilly areas.

  • Select the right gear when going uphill. You may end up over-revving or stalling the engine if you select the wrong gear.

  • Ensure that you give way for heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses when going uphill.

  • Never overtake near curves/bends or at the crest as it is difficult to spot the oncoming traffic.

  • Use the horn and pass light in tight turns and hairpin bends. Also, do pay attention to the traffic signboards.

Also, read: Hill hold control in cars: Check cars with hill assist in India

How to drive a car on the highway?

Highway brings its own set of challenges as far as car driving is concerned. Follow the tips below to stay safe when driving on such roads.

  • Always maintain a reasonable speed. Driving too slow on highways can be dangerous as other vehicles will be travelling at high speeds.

  • Stick to the leftmost lane if you drive slower than other vehicles or plan to exit the highway.

  • Do check your mirrors before switching lanes. Also, use indicators before making a lane change.

  • Slow down the car at intersections.

  • Watch out for road signs that warn about any speed breakers ahead.

  • Watch out for heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses, and be careful while overtaking such vehicles.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some most commonly asked questions related to driving a car.


How much time does it take to learn car driving?

It depends on the rate at which you can learn. Typically, it may take 2-3 weeks for a beginner to learn to drive a car. However, you may require more time to master the skills since it needs more practice.

Is it easy to drive my car in India?

What is easy and difficult depends on your skills and driving experience. Generally speaking, driving a car is more challenging in cities , as it requires the utmost concentration while driving. So, sometimes it can be challenging to drive a car on Indian roads.

How do I stop a manual car?

To bring a manual car to a halt, you need to release the accelerator and step on the brake pedal with your right foot. When the vehicle slows down considerably, you can engage the clutch with your left foot and keep pressing the clutch pedal until you come to a standstill and slot the gearbox into neutral.

How do I use the handbrake in my automatic car?

You can engage the ‘P’ (Park) mode and handbrake when you need to park the automatic car. Also, a handbrake works as a backup option if the main brakes on the vehicle fail. The handbrake will also come in handy if the automatic transmission fails and you cannot engage the Park mode.

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