You’ve probably been inside a car before.
And you’re probably aware of the basics – like how the steering wheel directs which way the car moves.
As a new driver, it’s still important to know ALL the tools at your disposal.
That’s why in this lesson, we’re going to go over everything inside your car that you can use!
Starting from the most basic, we have the trusted steering wheel, making you the captain of this ship!
The steering is probably the first thing you need to get the hang of when you start driving.
But apart from simply moving your car where it needs to go, the steering wheel often has a whole host of other functions packed into it.
Many modern vehicles come equipped with infotainment systems, that are operable through buttons on your steering.
Here you’ll be able to skip tracks, increase the volume, and move between options without having to take your eyes off the road.
Additionally, if you’re cruising down the highway, you may be able to initiate cruise control through the steering too, that’ll keep your car chugging along safely.
But those are all for more experienced drivers.
For new drivers, it’s best to use the steering wheel for its main purpose only – to steer your car!
The accelerator or gas pedal is what you’ll need to make your car move.
This pedal is located under the steering wheel and dashboard.
Don’t get confused — the accelerator is the pedal on the right side.
In most vehicles, the accelerator comes in a vertical rectangular shape.
Using your right foot to apply greater pressure on the pedal increases your engine speed, allowing your vehicle to go faster.
Now remember, every car’s accelerator can respond a bit differently, so you’ll need a bit of training to get used to it at first.
On the left side of the accelerator, you’ll have the brake.
This is what you’ll need to stop your car — or make it go slower.
Just like the accelerator, you’ll have to use your right foot for this pedal.
As for the shape, it’s either square or a horizontal rectangle.
The more pressure on the brakes, the greater the force on the brake pads, making your car stop sooner.
The brake also responds differently based on the vehicle you’re driving.
So it’s best to test it to figure out how much pressure you’ll need to apply in different situations.
The handbrake is a lever located between the driver and passenger seat. Sometimes it can be smack in the middle, other times it can be right beside the driver’s seat.
To activate it, you simply need to pull the lever all the way up. Mind you, you might need a little force to bring it to the top.
To release the handbrake, press the button on the lever head, lift the lever a bit, and bring the whole thing down.
What’s the difference between a brake and a handbrake?
Handbrakes offer greater support to your vehicle in a stopped position, most commonly used when parking your car.
Unlike the brakes which rely on brake pads on all 4 tires, the handbrake locks your rear wheels to keep your car in place.
Also, if you release the brake pedal, your car will move forward. But if the handbrakes are engaged, the car will stay in place.
Now, while many drivers neglect to engage it when parking (especially on flat surfaces), it is best to do so to reduce the strain on your engine and tires.
The clutch is a feature that exists on both automatic and manual cars.
This is used to engage or disengage the engine from the transmission.
In automatic vehicles, this is done by the vehicle itself.
However, in manual cars, the driver will have to control the clutch, through the clutch pedal, which is located to the left of the brake.
This can be one of the hardest components to master for manual drivers and requires multiple hours of practice to ensure your vehicle doesn’t stall.
The gear shifter will vary based on whether you’re driving a manual or automatic.
In most cars, it takes the appearance of a stick, that’s located right next to your center console.
Some modern vehicles may have it as a knob, that you’ll be able to turn to get to your desired gear.
In manual vehicles, controlling the gear is almost as important as navigating the car itself.
Most cars have 5 gears and 1 reverse. You use gear one to get your car moving (or if you’re climbing a steep hill), and gear 5 if you’re speeding through an open road.
It’s important here to be able to easily reach the gear, from your neutral driving position.
This will help with quick gear changes that’ll lower your risk of stalling.
However manual gears are becoming more of a rarity, considering the ease of driving automatic.
In automatic, you won’t have to constantly cycle between different gears, as the vehicle will do it for you (hence the name “automatic”).
Here you’ll only have to be worried about putting your car in drive (D), reverse (R), neutral (N), and park (P) for normal city driving.
Gear paddle shifters may be provided in automatic vehicles, allowing you to take control of the vehicle manually if you’re looking for more control.
The dashboard is what greets you when you sit in the driver’s seat.
Located right behind the steering wheel, it gives you a whole host of information that is vital to ensuring safety and control while driving.
Depending on your vehicle’s make it can be completely automatic, manual, or a combination of the two.
However, all dashboards communicate a host of vital stats that you’ll need to be aware of.
Firstly, the speedometer.
This is a very important tool. It tells you exactly how fast you’re going.
In the US, a speedometer is quoted in miles per hour, but many other countries rely on kilometers to tell the speed.
While you shouldn’t stare at the speedometer while driving, it’s a good idea to glance at it once in a while to make sure you aren’t traveling over the speed limit!
Located close by is the trusty gas gauge. This tells you exactly how much gas you have in your tank (and sometimes how far you can go before you need to refill).
While many drivers are tempted to drive until the gauge reads “empty,” you’re much better off refilling before you see the low fuel indicator light, which is often a bright yellow dot.
Again, this is something that you shouldn’t stare at while driving. But it never hurts to glance at it once in a while!
The temperature gauge is another handy tool located on your dashboard.
For the most part, you probably won’t need to analyze exactly how hot or cold your engine is every time you get behind the wheel.
However, the temperature gauge is one of your first warning signs that something is wrong.
If you notice that your engine is overheating, you should pull over and let the engine cool.
Also, for older cars, it’s wise to start the car and let the engine warm up a bit before moving.
The odometer tells you how far you’ve traveled.
It can be adjusted in most vehicles to tell you the distance you’ve covered in a specific trip by pushing down on the long black knob that’s located on the dashboard.
You’ll also be able to scroll through to see your mileage, which is quoted by miles per gallon in the US.
Not all cars have this though, so it’s best to consult the manual to figure out how to tinker around with the odometer.
The RPM gauge or tachometer tells drivers how many revolutions per minute their engine is spinning.
The tachometer is more suited to manual vehicles, where knowing the revolutions per minute can help you prevent a stall.
It also gives you an idea of when to shift gears, to avoid the RPMs getting too high.
Sticking to lower RPMs in each gear, while preventing a stall is the best way to maximize fuel efficiency.
Many automatic vehicles have ditched it completely though, so don’t be worried if your car doesn’t have one.
Certain vehicles may keep you informed of your tire pressure through your dashboard.
This can help you ensure you’ve got consistent tire pressure, and help you deal with any inconsistencies quickly.
Low tire pressure in any tire can result in increased drag, which does a number on your fuel efficiency.
It also changes the optimal responsiveness of your vehicle, which can be dangerous if left unchecked.
Sudden drops in tire pressure are also indicative of a puncture, that is causing the air to seep out.
The rearview mirror is a noticeable one, visible at all times to those in the driver’s seat.
Proper mirror placement can’t be stressed enough, being vital to ensure you remain safe on the road.
Too often drivers are caught off-guard by traffic because their mirrors aren’t properly configured.
The best way to go about doing this would be to sit in a neutral position, with correct body posture, and align the mirror.
You should be able to have an unobstructed view of the back, without having to move your head around.
At night though, the rearview mirror can be a potent source of glare, as a result of headlights shining in.
Many cars have auto-dimming as standard, where your rearview mirror will automatically adjust itself to prevent this annoying occurrence.
Even if you don’t have this feature, all cars come with a manual lever right under the rearview mirror, which will flick your mirror down.
Car Cigarette Lighter
The car cigarette lighter is another relic from the past when lighting up in the car wasn’t seen as a health hazard!
Most modern cars have ditched this entirely, and instead offer more useful sockets such as USB charging slots and wireless charging pads.
However, if your car still has one of these, then they’re more than just glorified lighters.
Many attachments such as car chargers and music devices can be plugged into this socket, allowing you to get a quick charge or listen to some tunes on the go.
This is the large screen that is usually located on the center console.
Here depending on your vehicle you’ll be able to use GPS, connect your phone to your speakers, listen to calls, and use rearview parking cameras.
Some modern cars integrate the AC control unit here too, allowing you to control all the airflow options from the touchscreen.
These are also usually operable from buttons on your steering, allowing you to quickly change tracks, or accept calls.
Older cars may not have these though, but after-market radios are available, that’ll give you all these modern conveniences for a fraction of the price.
Or you could just buy a phone holder and an AUX!
So there you have it.
A complete guide to everything you need to know about the equipment and gadgets of your car’s interior.
While many of these are easy to get, having a better grasp of all the features you have, gives you an easier time focusing on the road, and staying safe.
Depending on your vehicle and make, these can vary widely, with newer cars getting many of the bells and whistles associated with tech.
Nevertheless, old is still gold, so don’t fret too much if you’ve got a simpler ride to work with.