KNOW YOUR CAR........
This is a handy bit of knowledge to help you to realise why certain things happen when we use the controls within the car, and the significance of various sensations and sounds that occur while we are learning to drive.
Many things will take place during your driving lessons that will be unfamiliar to you at first, but will very soon become clear.
I hope that this page will help you to understand the machine that you are learning to drive, and to realise how straight forward it can be to get the most enjoyment from it.
The following information is relevant to the Ford Focus as well as your own car.
Some of these subjects may be mentioned during your regular driving lessons, but I am a Qualified Driving Instructor not a mechanic, and it is not intended to turn you into a mechanic either, so do not worry.
The following explanations are in their simplest form. In practice the mechanisms may be far more complicated.
First, what happens when we turn the ignition key ?...
When the key is turned, current from the battery is sent through a coil to the spark plugs along 'High Tension' leads.
There is an 'alternator' in there also, that provides the power throughout the car.
As there are more than one spark plug, this electricity is sent to all of them by going through a 'Distributor'. This spilts the current to each plug.
It is the spark that ignites the fuel to get the engine turning.
Now, lets start with getting the car to move.
The petrol from the tank is mixed with air from the outside in what is called the carburetor.
To get the petrol from the tank at the back of the car, to the carburettor at the front, there is a 'fuel pump' in there somewhere !.
This new mixture is then sent to the engine and burned.
The flow of this new mixture and the speed and power of the car is regulated by you pressing the accelerator pedal.
The pedal causes a small disc to 'flip' open and shut, a bit like a tap, which is called the 'throttle butterfly'.
The air is kept clean by the 'air filter', and the petrol is kept clean by the 'fuel filter'.
Now lets see where the petrol and air mixture is burned...
The power is developed by burning the mixture in the cylinders, which are sealed at the top by 'the cylinder head'.
The pistons move up and down. This is caused by the burning mixture expanding.
As the pistons move up and down (the stroke), they turn the connecting rod (the crank shaft), and this basically turns the wheels.
The speed of the wheels and the smoothness of the engine are decided by the correct gear selection.
How do the gears actually work ?.......
The movement of the gear stick, (with help from the clutch), will allow the correct cogs to join up.
1st gear is the most powerful, but can only be used at low speeds.
The higher the gear selection, the faster the car will travel.
Either a too high gear, or a too low gear selection will not allow the car to be driven economically, or safely. (eco-friendly).
The car can be stopped in any gear, but 1st gear should be selected to begin moving again. (There are a few exceptions to this, and these will be covered on your driving lessons).
What does a clutch do ?.......
The easiest way to think about the clutch, is to imagine that it is a switch, that joins the engine to the wheels.
By pressing the clutch pedal fully down you break the connection between the engine and the wheels, and this allows you to select the correct gear.
By allowing the pedal to come up very slowly, you make a very soft connection between the engine and the wheels. (the biting point)
By allowing the pedal to come fully up, (slowly), the engine and wheels are now turning together.(Too fast, and the car may 'kangaroo or stall)
When a new gear change is needed, (the engine sound will change) start the routine again.
Remember to take your right foot fully off of the accelerator pedal just before pressing the clutch.
Where do the burnt fumes go ?......
The hot gasses that come from the burning petrol/air mix come out at a very high pressure.
This would be very loud and dangerous if allowed to go straight into the air.
To make everything safer and to reduce the poisonous content of the gasses, they pass through a length of pipe called the exhaust system.
This is made up of various parts that reduce the noise and pollution before they 'blast' out the end.
How do the brakes work ?
The braking system will be explained during your driving sessions.
To try and keep it simple, this 1st picture shows how the brake fluid (blue) is sent to the four wheels.
This 2nd picture shows the different parts that make up the complete system.
1 your foot
2 brake pedal
3 master cylinder
4 brake fluid
6 brake pad
7 brake disc
Disc brakes clamp together to slow the wheels (like on a pedal bike). The discs may have holes in them to let air flow through and to stop them overheating from friction.
The caliper that houses the piston sits over the disc.
Drum brakes push outwards to slow the wheels. This set up can be less effective at high speeds.
Many modern cars have disc brakes on the front wheels, and drum brakes on the rear wheels.
Finally I need to mention the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS).
This is an electronic sensor that sits in between the pedal and the brakes, and stops the wheels from locking.
How to use this system will be fully explained during your driving lessons,and you will have the oppotunity to 'feel' it working on my car.
Please remember that having ABS on your car DOES NOT make you stop any sooner. It only allows you to steer to avoid an obstacle.
What does the suspension do ?....
Well, the suspension is the name given to the part of the car that helps to make the drive smoother.
This can be in the form of either large springs or oil filled Cylinders called 'dampers'.
Sometimes there may be both. This is called a shock absorber.
There will also be stabiliser bars to keep everything sturdy on the road.
The suspension and the steering mechanism are dependent upon each other for a safe, smooth drive.
The steering mechanism.....
The steering on all cars operates by the front wheels turning, when the driver rotates the steering wheel.
The steering wheel is connected through a steering column.
Many modern cars have a 'pump and fluid' system to assist the steering. This is called 'power steering'.
The name for the way that the steering actually works is 'rack and pinion'.
The 'pinion' is a small gear attached to the steering shaft, and the 'rack' is a flat set of gear teeth that move left and right.
As the rack moves,it pionts your car in the correct direction.
There are various adjustments that are made to make sure that your car steers straight and even. This can be checked at all wheel and tyre service centers.
This page is a very rough explanation of how your car works. It is in no way intended to turn you into the next Phill Mitchell (mechanic).
If you have any questions regarding this information, or would like to know a bit more about what you have read, then please feel to ask me, and I will try to find out the answers for you.
There are numerous places to obtain basic technical information,often with good on-line discounts.
If I have not mentioned anything that is of interest to you, then just ask, and I will do my best to find out for you.
You can also come and see me at my next event day.
Many thanks for reading this page.
Basingstoke Driving Lessons
Qualified Driving Instructor
Manual Driving Lessons