Changing Down a Gear
What does Driving the Essential Skills say?
“When changing down you might need to raise the engine speed to get a smooth change“
(It also talks about keeping a foot on the foot brake when going down a downhill slope – one of the exceptions to brake gear separation)
That one sentence in bold is essential to a correct down change, and is often simply not taught resulting in jerky unsympathetic gear changes – The Essential Skills also says “Smooth, easy gear changes are essential to good driving” or even unconscious use of the gear box to slow down.
“Place your left hand on the gear lever“
“Press the clutch pedal down“
This is another common fault often not picked up -Placing the foot on the clutch before the hand on the gear lever.
Placing the hand on the gear lever first enables the driver to:
1) know what gear they are in without looking – very useful for learner drivers, and means if they have forgotten what gear they are in they can just put the hand back on the steering wheel without being halfway through an unneeded change.
2) Slows down the gear change by giving the driver time to think about the change. Pushing the clutch down first often means they rush the gear stick through the gate.
3) Safety – The gear change should always be planned for the safest moment but by engaging the clutch at the last moment the safety margin is increased as if something does happen the hand can simply be placed back on the steering wheel rather than being half way through a gear change.
“Move the gear lever to the most suitable lower gear for the speed”
It’s extremely unlikely that any instructors aren’t teaching block change methods, but those studying for Advanced tests who have received no further training may want to read up on block changing – Again this goes hand in hand with brake gear separation
“Let the clutch pedal come up smoothly, return to the accelerator or continue braking as necessary”
Again from the Essential skills “How much pressure is needed on the accelerator….when changing down will depend on the speed of your vehicle at the time the clutch pedal is released the sound of the engine will help you judge this”
So both brake gear separation and sustaining engine revs are the official guidance when it comes to driving.
So how to do it? to expand on the advice above
1. Slow down to the speed you have determined is needed for the hazard using accelerator sense or brakes.
2. Hand on the gearstick
2. Keep your right foot fixed on the accelerator,
3. Select the new lower gear, remembering to pause in neutral- The gear change is two movements not one.
As you become more proficient then practice squeezing the accelerator slightly as you pass through neutral to raise the rev’s. If you block change you need will need to increase the rev’s even more as for example bottom end of the range in 4th is going to be quite high in second.
But – I hear some of you ask – what about the full throttle technique used in the Roadcraft DVD?
Well I wondered that as well as I’ve never seen it taught anywhere else even in my own police training –
So I asked Chris Gilbert:-
“The two instructors featured in the Roadcraft DVD made at Hendon in 1996 were Louise …. and John …. and it was their personal preference to blip the throttle for down changes. We have of course two other methods; sustained revs, often known as the racing gear change and the other is releasing the throttle for the gear change but then apply the throttle first before engaging the clutch. They each achieve the same objective which is of course the smooth matching of the transmission to the engine (flywheel). I never minded which method was used provided it was smooth and accurate. Personally, I never blip the throttle I would use one of the latter. The blip (rev up) stems back to the days when we double de-clutched all gear changes”