Vehicle Controls and Equipment | First Driving Lesson

| Driving Tips for New Drivers |

Welcome to the exciting world of driving! As you embark on your first driving lesson, it’s essential to start with the fundamentals – understanding and mastering the controls and equipment of your vehicle. This knowledge is not just the foundation of driving but also a critical aspect of your safety and confidence on the road.

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Getting to Know Your Vehicle

Before you even start the engine, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the different parts of the car. Every vehicle may have its unique layout, but certain elements are universal.

The Dashboard

Your dashboard is your information hub. Here, you’ll find the speedometer, fuel gauge, and warning lights that indicate various vehicle conditions – from the oil pressure to the engine’s status. Understanding what each symbol means is crucial for maintaining the health of your car and ensuring safe driving.

Steering Wheel and Controls

The steering wheel is your primary control interface. Along with it, you may find controls for the horn, cruise control, and infotainment system. Some cars also have paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for manual gear shifting in automatic vehicles.


In most standard cars, you’ll find three pedals from left to right: the clutch (in manual cars), the brake, and the accelerator. Your right foot controls both: brake and accelerator, while left foot controls the clutch.  Familiarize yourself with their feel and responsiveness. Remember, smooth pedal operation is key to smooth driving.

Gear Lever

Whether you’re driving an automatic or a manual, understanding your gear lever is vital. For manual transmission, practice moving through the gears while the car is off. For automatics, know the difference between Drive (D), Park (P), Neutral (N), and Reverse (R).


Your rearview and side mirrors are critical for awareness of your surroundings. Adjust them to minimize blind spots, ensuring you can see the road behind and to the sides of your car without straining.

Basic Operations

Once you’re acquainted with your vehicle’s controls, it’s time to learn the basic operations.  Try operating the following controls while your car is in PARK and the EMERGENCY PARKING BRAKE is engaged.

Starting the Engine

For most modern cars, starting the engine involves either turning a key or pushing a button. Ensure the car is in park (for automatics) or neutral (for manuals) before starting.

Accelerating and Braking

Practice gentle acceleration and braking. The goal is to achieve smooth starts and stops. Sudden acceleration or braking can be unsettling and unsafe.

Handling the Steering

Steering might seem straightforward, but it requires practice. Learn to keep your hands in the ‘9 and 3’ position and practice smooth, controlled turns, first to the left then to the right.  Remeber to move your hands so that you can practice turning the wheel with getting your arms crossed.

Using Turn Signals

    • TURNS: Practice signaling left and turning the steering wheel like a left turn.  Notice that the signal will turn off or reset by itself after you unwind the wheel to straighten out.  Practice for right signal and right turn.
    • LANE CHANGES: Practice signaling and turning the steering wheel SLIGHTLY to emulate a lane change.  Notice that the signal does not turn off by itself.  When lane changing, the driver must complete the lane change where all four tires have entered the new lane before turning off their signal manually.

Safety Checks

Before you start driving, always perform a few safety checks:

    • Ensure your seatbelt is fastened.
    • Check that all mirrors are adjusted correctly.
    • Confirm that the handbrake is released (if engaged).
    • Look around for any obstacles or hazards before moving.

Vehicle Controls and Equipment | First Driving Lesson

Your first driving lesson is all about getting comfortable with your vehicle. Take the time to understand each control and its function. The more familiar you are with your vehicle’s controls and equipment, the more confident you will be when it’s time to hit the road. Remember, safe driving starts with a solid foundation in the basics. Happy driving!

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