Gas, then bite – or bite, then gas? We hear a lot of debate about which method is best for pulling away; pressing the accelerator, before finding the clutch bite point – or the other way round? In this video, we will show which method is officially recommended to new drivers, and explain why the other method can lead to unnecessary stalling and frustration. Before we start, make sure you subscribe to our channel and click the bell so you are alerted when we upload a new video. Also, we love to read your comments – so please scroll down and let us know what you think! In Great Britain, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (or DVSA) set the standards for safe driving, and carry out the driving tests that everyone must pass to get their full driving license. In their ‘Official Guide to Driving’, they offer advice for all drivers – and this is their recommended method to move off: Press the accelerator slightly and hold it steady Let up the clutch pedal until the clutch is at the biting point. Release the parking brake, and then let the clutch pedal up a little more. Depress the accelerator for more speed and let the clutch come up smoothly.
For a more thorough explanation of this process, Please click the link above to watch our separate video ‘How to drive a manual car’. Let’s stop the car and watch that again. The reason that we increase the engine speed before biting the clutch is that this provides a little more power, ensuring there is enough to drive the car forward.
Also, the extra engine speed reduces the chance of a stall, even if the driver engages a little too much clutch bite. At the end of this road, it’s hard to see on camera but the Give Way line is on an uphill gradient. We’ll watch the technique one more time. The reason ‘gas, then bite’ is the recommended method for moving off, is that it is very reliable. It works with all drivers, in all cars, and in all situations. We’ll stop the car and switch to the clutch first method. Some drivers with really good clutch control might be able to move off by using only the clutch biting point, and then adding gas afterwards to accelerate. One disadvantage with this method is that it takes longer to get the car up to speed – not ideal at a busy junction.
The other disadvantage with this method is that it is easy to accidentally engage too much biting point – which will make the car judder or stall completely. For a new driver still developing their clutch control, this would be very easy to do – especially when trying to pull away quickly. Going back to the ‘gas, then bite’ method, the extra engine power will ensure that even if we lift the clutch pedal a little quickly the car will still pull away. It is more likely to spin the wheels a little, than stall. Even if we are just manoeuvring the car, setting the gas before using the clutch bite to move the car ensures there is always enough power available – especially handy if we need to reverse uphill.
There are a few other factors to consider when choosing which technique to use. The car being driven will also make a difference – in a modern car, especially one with a diesel engine the engine management will help the driver move away. In an older car without this function, or with a less powerful engine there will not be any help from the car and the engine will be far easier to stall. Watch how the car recognises we are biting the clutch and automatically increases the engine idle speed – this is called ‘anti-stall’! The situation the driver finds themselves in may also require the extra engine power that ‘setting the gas’ gives.
Pulling away gently in a quiet area might be possible without much engine power, but try doing that at a busy junction or roundabout could easily result in a stall. Instead, setting the gas will ensure there is enough engine power to pull away confidently and get the car up to speed. Other situations that could cause problems would be steep hill starts, or when driving a car fully loaded with passengers – in both cases extra engine power will be needed. Once a driver has enough experience of using the technique, it can be done smoothly and quickly. The accelerator pedal only needs to be pushed a fraction of a second before the clutch pedal is lifted, and the car is ready to move away.
This technique can then be used in all cars and driving situations safely. One aspect of using this method is that we must be careful not to damage our clutch. The DVSA even mention that we should avoid waiting unduly with the clutch at the biting point. The reason for this is that the clutch could overheat, which will reduce its lifespan. However, a modern clutch is very durable, and ours normally last at least 100,000 miles. Considering the hard life of a driving school car we think that is more than acceptable and proof that the ‘gas then bite’ method doesn’t decrease the life of the clutch too much. On the driving test, the examiner will not mind which method you use to move away, so long as it is smooth and effective. There will be no faults given for using the ‘bite, then gas’ method – but if you misjudge anything and the car stalls there will likely be a fault awarded. Many drivers feel a little nervous at the start of their test, and this might affect their clutch control and result in a stall. We would suggest the recommended ‘gas, then bite’ method gives a little more room for error and will be a more reliable way to move away at the start of the driving test.
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