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Changing Gears

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Changing Gears

Tim HillerbyMorgan
27 December 2009


The gear stick matches the speed of the engine to the speed of the car. It moves the cogs in the gearbox to allow the engine to work efficiently.

If you look at the top of the gear stick, you will see a small ball. This ball is designed so that you only need to guide the stick into position. If you have the palm of your hand facing, where you want the gear stick to go - it will go there.

On the ball you will see the numbers 1 to 5 and the letter R. These are the gears. First gear gives a lot of power and little speed. Fifth gear gives a lot of speed and little power. The numbers are set out on an extended H. This H tells you where to aim the gear stick to choose that gear.

How to Change Gears

Clutch down and off gas at the same time Hand on gear stick Move the stick into the new gear Hand on steering wheel More gas less clutch

When to change gear

Set off in first gear. Into second as soon as you can. If the car sounds fast and high-pitched, use a higher gear. If the car is struggling, use a lower gear. Ask your driving instructor for the speed ranges for each gear.

You may need a lower gear going up or down hill

Try block gear changing. This is missing out gears to make the car work more efficiently. You know you will have to stop at the lights - so slow down into gear and change straight to first just before you stop.

Using the Clutch

The clutch is the pedal on the left. You operate it with your left foot. It operates two plates in the gearbox. These plates join the power and drive parts of the engine together. When you press the pedal down, the clutch plates move apart allowing you to change gear.

The Clutch allows you to change gear

It allows you to control the speed of the car. This is useful when travelling in slow moving traffic or in manoeuvres. Ask your instructor to let you try moving and stopping the car using the clutch.

It allows you to move the car when you are on a steep hill.

Which gear do I use?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Each gear covers a range of speeds. Older cars have a narrower range. That is why older drivers will tell you that third covers twenty to thirty. In older cars you may have to change gear to assist with braking. The gearing in modern cars covers a wider range of speeds. Third might cover from 15 to 40. There are two things to think about when changing gear. Listen and feel the engine. If the car sounds and feels as though it is straining change up a gear. The engine will have a higher tone. If the car is sluggish, change down a gear. You must balance the engines needs with the road ahead. Try to select the right gear for the road conditions. There is little point changing up a gear as you approach traffic lights that have been green for some time.


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