Changing Gears – When and How

Changing GearsWhy is changing gears necessary when driving? Simply put, as the speed of the car increases, the engine also runs faster. Changing into a higher gear brings down the speed of the engine while allowing you to maintain road speed. Having said that, you’ll sometimes need to change into a lower gear to provide extra power; for instance when going up hills or overtaking.

Each gear works most efficiently within a certain speed range. As a rough guide the range for first gear may be from zero to a maximum of around 20mph. For second gear it may be a minimum of 10mph up to 30mph. It depends on the car you’re driving and you should consult the manual of the vehicle you’re using for more accurate guidance on this.

The point at which you should change will also depend on the conditions at the time. For instance if you need to accelerate away more quickly to fit into a gap when emerging from a junction, you may need to hold onto the lower gears for longer than you would when you don’t need so much acceleration.

Changing Up

Soon after moving off, as the speed of the car increases you’ll need to change up to second gear. To do this, put the clutch down and at the same time take your foot off the gas. Then move the gear lever into second gear position. Once the lever is in position, bring the clutch up fully with a nice smooth movement and at the same time go back to the gas.

Once you’re in second gear, I would recommend finding a safe place to stop. Then go through the procedure for moving off and change up to second gear again. Repeat this a few times until you’re comfortable.

Next, aim to move off, change up to second gear, and then into third; for third gear you’ll need to increase your speed up to around 20 or 25 mph. Check your mirrors before changing speed, to make sure no-one is about to pass you. With your palm facing towards yourself, change gear the same way you did for second gear.

If space and the road permits, work your way all the way up into fourth gear before stopping again. When you’re happy with this part, you can practise changing down gears.

Changing Down

Before changing down, you need to reduce the speed of the car; always check your mirrors first. You can then ease off the gas and gently use the brake if necessary. Next, put the clutch down and move the gear lever into the position you want. Then smoothly bring the clutch fully up and go back to the gas to maintain speed.

I would recommend spending some time practising changing up to third gear, slowing down to go into second, and then picking up speed to go back to third.

As an extra challenge, pull away and change up to third again, change down to second, and also into first gear before coming to a halt. You need to be at a very low speed before changing into first gear while on the move; but this is good preparation for when you start approaching junctions later on.

During normal driving you don’t actually need to change into lower gears before stopping (unless you need to manoeuvre into a limited space), you can stop in any gear.

Missing out Gears

Also, it’s not always necessary to change gears one at a time. It’s quite acceptable, and often preferable to miss out gears by going from fourth say, straight down to second (block changing). There is no point in making three gear changes on approach to a junction for instance when one will do. For the time being though, you should continue to use all the gears to get used to the process of gear changing.

Regular stopping during this practise session gives you the chance to relax for a moment or two, and gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes. Once you’ve grasped the idea of using gears and there are no obvious problems however, such frequent halts may be unnecessary. You can keep on the move for longer periods and practise changing up and down through the gears without such frequent stops.

Under ideal conditions, changing gears should be learned fully before progressing to other areas, but this isn’t always possible. In many cases, left turns may need to be covered as well in order to provide the necessary road space.

Turning Left at Junctions >>>

Scroll to Top