Car Advice

10 skills the average driver doesn’t have

In the same way that smartphones are making us lazy and, in the same vein, here are 10 skills the average driver doesn’t have…

EVERYBODY’S GOT the basics of driving down pat – go faster, slower, left and right. But there’s a whole range of unusual skills that come in handy for unusual situations or are just plain fun, and that’s not even counting specialist stunt tricks like handbrake turns and holding a drift.  Here’s a list – how many have you mastered, which are most useful and did we miss any?

1. Left foot braking – using the left foot to brake in either autos or manuals. It has a range of uses from off-roading to circuit racing and rallying.
 
2. Heel and toe shifting – used on manuals to blip the throttle to rev match during a downshift for a smooth, fast change.
 
3. Hill starting without using the parking brake – a whole range of techniques here that don’t involve the parking brake, for both manuals and autos.
 
4. Limo stops – coming to a halt so the car doesn’t rock back on its suspension. Everybody should know this one!
 
5. Skip shifting – the art of selecting the right gear directly, not necessarily 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6.  You might go 2-4 or 3-6.  
 
 
6. No-revs moving – being smooth enough on the clutch to park a car without raising revs above idle.
 
7. Bump start – if manual car’s battery is flat and you’re on top of a hill could you get it started? Here’s how.
 
8. Backing a trailer – can you? Really?
 
9. Double de-clutch shifting – not needed in modern cars, but required even today for some manual heavy vehicles. 
 
10. Skid recovery – could you recover from a skid?
 
More on how to recover from a skid here.
 
Bonus: Just knowing the car – modern vehicles have so many hidden features many drivers own the car and never find them all.  Does your car have active cruise control, hill start assist, or emergency braking via the park brake?  If it’s a 4X4, do you know what all of its modes are for?
 
It won’t be long before we can add “changing gears manually” to the list above!
 
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16 Comments

  1. Snubble Urchin
    March 28, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Snurrr… who needs to heel’n’toe on the public road? Also most of the sorts of cars where that’d be necessary now do it for you (Evo X, Nissan 370Z etc).

    • March 29, 2015 at 6:47 am

      Sorry, but the 370Z et al don’t heel ‘n’ toe for you, rather they rev match, blipping the throttle on a downshift. But good point, it’s not always necessary to heel ‘n’ toe on a public road.

      • Robert
        March 30, 2015 at 7:31 am

        Nobody *needs* heel’n’toe. You can drive perfectly well without it and I do not advocate it be taught to anyone who does not specifically request it.

        The 370Z and others have a rev-match which removes the need to heel’n’toe. That function is also available as an aftermarket addition to many sportscars. This makes driving a manual a lot easier, but purists like me argue it destroys the skill and therefore the challenge of driving a manual at speed.

        • Matt
          April 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm

          Rubbish. If you drive a rear wheel car on a wet road you can lock the rear axle and send the car into a skid quite easily if you don’t match the revs whilst braking and down changing gears. It’s a basic skill any driver should know.

          • Robert
            April 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

            The way around that, Matt, is to slow to the desired speed and then change gears. That way you don’t need heel’n’toe and avoid the problem entirely. This was covered here -> https://practicalmotoring.com.au/car-advice/how-to-change-gears-the-right-way-part-2/

            and if you do skid, we’ve got you covered too:

            https://practicalmotoring.com.au/?s=recover+from+a+skid

          • Andrew Riles
            March 14, 2016 at 12:13 pm

            In my experience Matt, this is only a problem if you are rough on the clutch, or deliberately trying to do it….I’m on my second hilux ute now, and it hasn’t been a problem in either of them….including today when I downshifted without rev matching, while coming down a hill on a wet road and turning slightly….

            You can avoid it a number of ways….my solution is smooth brake and clutch operation, and lowish RPM downshifts under brakes….

  2. trackdaze
    March 14, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    What no cadence braking? Nor scando flick?

    In rally you would scandivian flick, jump on the cadence brake, give the nav a rest with some limo brakes for a cattle grid and load up the throttle to cancel the lag on the exit. Phew.

    Handy for the school run?

    • March 14, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      Cadence braking isn’t a relevant skill any more with ABS, and is a bit specialised for slippery surfaces. Might add it to a second post. Scandi flick – I’ll save that one for the more advanced stuff like j-turns!

  3. Der0
    March 14, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Here’s my opinion on this list.

    1. Probably useful, but for the majority of applications in many instances where drivers are metropolitan bitumen drivers, not necessary… in fact sometimes terrible because they rest their foot on the brake and the brake light is lit the entire duration of driving and therefore downright dangerous because the people behind don’t know when they actually apply the brake!

    2. Unnecessary. You shouldn’t be driving that hard on a public road that you need to revmatch.

    3. Has it’s uses.

    4. Very useful. Probably would help people’s fuel economy as well because they’re more soft on the application of the brakes and likely more soft on the accelerator too.

    5. Useful, but what’s the relevance now? Percentage of sales of manual vs auto transmission vehicles? Tiptronic semi-auto shifters?

    6. See point 5.

    7. See point 5.

    8. Useful, if you have a trailer. How many have trailers?

    9. See point 5.

    10. Extremely useful. Everyone should do a defensive driving course as a matter of getting their driver’s license.

    • March 14, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Fair point Der0. Not all are meant to be useful, some are just fun. Much depends on what you drive and how too. Lots of people own trailers for example.

    • Andrew Riles
      March 15, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      Good point about left foot braking…..wonder how many people who rest their foot on the brake all the time get poor economy and have to replace their brakes more often than they should….

      • March 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm

        The pros and cons of left foot braking are for another article. Short answer – there are far more important road skills to learn.

  4. JohnGC
    March 15, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I have most of these skills! I don’t have number 1 though and probably not number 10. I don’t think I can handle a car at speed very well. Also, I would add “reversing a car with mirrors” to the backing a trailer one. I can reverse a trailer OK, but I have to look over my shoulder back and forth to make sure everything is OK at the front and back.

    • March 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      I’d say reversing a car with mirrors is an essential skill not an optional one!

  5. Captain Obvious
    March 15, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    The number one skill… be realistic about your capabilities and drive accordingly. Most people consider themselves better than average drivers (!!!)

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper