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Cockpit Drill and Car Controls

Our Driving Lesson Tutorials are here to help you. They’re designed to run alongside your driving lessons, allowing you to go into your lesson with some knowledge, which leaves more time for practice. You can also use them to recap previous lessons and help cement the information.

Welcome to our first lesson at Cowley’s School of Motoring. On your first driving lesson you will learn about Cockpit Drill, this is just how to set up the car ready for you to drive. You’ll also go over the basic controls, ready for you to progress on to Moving On and Stopping.

To help us remember the Cockpit Drill we use the acronym D.S.S.S.M. 


Doors, Seat, Steering, Seatbelt, Mirrors


– Check that all of the doors are safely closed.

– Looking down the side of the car in the side mirrors can help

– If the interior light stays on, that could be a clue that something’s wrong.

– When opening the door always check behind first.


– Set the height adjustment first so that you have a good view out of the window.

– Adjust how close to the pedals you are, you should be able to fully press the clutch without stretching.

– Adjust the angle so you feel comfortable.

– Adjust the headrest so that the centre of the head restaint is level with the centre of your head. (Top of your ears)


– Adjusting for a comfortable steering position is a combination of two things.

– the angle of the seat back.

– and any adjustment in the steering wheel position.

It’s best to have the steering wheel around level with your wrists when your arms are held straight forward.


– You are responsible for – your own seatbelt and

– Anyone in the car under the age of fourteen.

– Anyone over fourteen is legally responsible for their own seatbelt, however the driver has the final control, as they can refuse to drive away until everyone is properly belted up.

– Make sure there aren’t any twists in your seatbelt. 


– Once you’ve finished moving your seat, now you can adjust the mirrors to give you the best view whilst driving.

– Centre Mirror: You want to see the whole rear window and the edge around it

– Wing Mirrors: Set up the wing mirrors so that you can see some of your car and level, so that you can see any cars down the road.

– We always check the centre mirror first, because it is a flat glass, and allows us to judge distance. Objects in the wing mirrors may be closer than they appear, because the convex glass distorts the image.

Car Controls

Foot Controls

In manual cars there are three foot pedals, ABC, reading backwards from Right to Left, Accelerator, Brake, Clutch.
The Accelerator (or Gas pedal as it’s frequently called) controls the speed of the engine (by adding more gas to make it go faster) and needs to be used very gently.

The Brake pedal is used to slow the car down when it’s moving, or hold the car still for short periods of time. Remember to
– brake gently,
– continue adding brake pressure until the car is slowing enough,
– keep the brake pressure in place until the correct speed is nearly reached – ease off the brakes slightly as you come to a stop.

Finally the Clutch pedal connects and disconnects the engine to the wheels (via the gearbox). You’ll be using this when moving off, coming to a stop and when changing gear.

You will use your left foot for the clutch pedal and your right foot pivots between the accelerator and brake pedals.

Gear Stick

Most gear sticks have a small diagram to show where the gears are, different makes & models of cars might have either 4, 5 or 6 gears.
Reverse can often be in a different place and some cars also have a button to press or a collar around the gear lever that you need to lift in order to to go into Reverse.

On most modern cars, the gear lever will sit in neutral between 3rd & 4th gear.
To get to 1st or 2nd gear you will need to push the lever to the left first then forward or backwards for the gear that you want.
Don’t grip the gear stick, use your palm (with your thumb slightly down) to push it left.

The gear stick will do half the work for you with 3rd and 4th. The gear stick naturally springs back to middle so all you have to do is push forward for 3rd and pull back for 4th.

5th and 6th gears are the opposite to 1st and 2nd. Using your palm pull the gear stick right then push forward for 5th and pull down for 6th.


The handbrake is only designed to hold the car still
– such as when the car is parked
– for longer periods in traffic
– or when setting the foot controls, such as on a hill start.
Remember, the handbrake is only used once the car has stopped, use the footbrake instead if the car is moving. To apply the handbrake
– make sure the car has stopped
– press in the button
– lift the handbrake high enough to hold the car still – release the button so that it stays there.
Not pressing the button will gradually wear away the ratchet on the brake lever, and one day you might unexpectedly find your car at the bottom of a hill!

To release the handbrake
– press the button lightly
– lift the lever slightly as though you’re applying the handbrake
– when the button goes in, press it fully
– lower the lever as far as it goes.
Remember to keep the button fully pressed until the lever is fully down to the floor, otherwise it might stop even though the brake isn’t fully released.
Some modern cars now have an electronic handbrake, operated by a small switch, and on some models the handbrake will release automatically as you drive away.

Direction Indicators (Signals)
On most modern European cars the indicators are on the left stalk, while on many Far Eastern models they are on the right hand side. Remember that
– the indicators always follow the direction of the steering wheel
– always keep two hands on the wheel and just use your fingertips – most signals cancel when you straighten the wheel
– listen for the sound in case they cancel too early

Newton Abbot Lessons

 Torquay Lessons

Paignton Lessons

Lesson Tutorials

Would you like to book driving lessons with Cowley's School of Motoring? We offer a range of options to suit everyone's needs. Get in touch to book your driving lessons and you'll be out driving in no time.

Teignmouth Lessons

Automatic Driving Lessons

Female Instructor

Intensive Courses

Instructor Training

Standards Check Training

Cockpit Drill and Car Controls

Moving Off and Stopping



Penn Inn Roundabout

Meeting Traffic

Driving Test Tips


Pedestrian Crossing

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