As they say, you learn something new every day, and the same can be said about driving, too. Now if you take driving seriously, then, basics aside, there are certain techniques that you should learn. Not only will mastering the techniques help you become a better driver, these will ensure that you enjoy your time behind the wheel. And doing this before getting hitched will ensure that the missus doesn’t fume when you try crazy antics in the car.
An everyday task, parallel parking, is vital for those living in crowded cities, where parking spaces are limited, and more often than not, you find yourself looking for one. Back in 2014, Road&Track published a simple guide to parallel parking:
1. Once you’ve assessed that the parking space left by the cars ahead and behind you is sufficient (it needs practice, and don’t forget which of your cars you’re driving, just in case!), follow the following steps:
2. Drive parallel alongside car ahead, in such a way that your car’s rear axle is aligned with the car in front’s bumper. Stop and fully rotate (full lock) the steering wheel towards the car.
3. Reverse until your car’s rear inside (towards the kerb/pavement) wheel’s centre is in the same line as the car in front’s outside edge. Once that happens, return the steering to its central position (so the front tyres are straightened) and continue to reverse.
4. Keep going in reverse until the centre of the outside rear wheel of your car is aligned with the car in front’s outer edge (same edge in the above point). While doing so, ensure that there’s enough distance between your car and the one behind you. Once the outside wheel aligns, turn the steering the other way, to finally position the car.
Wise use of power and torque
This sounds very basic, but adapting your driving to the way your car’s engine delivers power can be hugely rewarding. For instance, diesel engines start making torque early in their rev range while petrols (naturally aspirated ones) feel gutless at low revs. Once you know when and how the power’s delivered, you can make great progress without making a lot of effort.
Short-shifting in diesels won’t hurt because you can use the torque, while maintaining a certain minimum rpm will ensure that you’re in the powerband always. It’s slightly tricky in case of petrol engines, but keeping in mind when the power starts to develop properly (most petrols are linear in that manner), you can follow the same ‘mantra’ there too.
Heel and Toe
The technique works great if you have shoes with rounded heel section, which doesn’t hinder your feet while switching from one pedal to another. Anyway, the technique lets you blip the throttle to match the engine’s revs while downshifting. This has two major advantages: it ensures smoother downshifts so that your passengers won’t notice that you shift gears a lot, and you won’t bog your car down when you shift from a high gear to a lower one.
Heel and Toe is used by racing drivers to match the revs, so that no power goes waste while shifting to a lower gear. It needs a lot of practice, and since most cars come with assisted brakes, it’s best put to use only when you’ve mastered the art.
Left Foot braking
Another technique best practised on empty roads and the race-track is left foot braking. No matter how good a driver you are, just don’t go overconfident on this one. Left Foot Braking, as the name suggests, requires you to apply brakes using your left foot. With the brake pedal partially depressed, it helps in achieving a tighter line for cornering.
Modulating the pressure on the brake pedal is important here, because if you depress the pedal more than what’s required, then you’ll inadvertently start slowing down the car. Also, modern cars have pretty sensitive brake controls, so before venturing out on public roads, adapt your left foot properly.
It’s almost the pinnacle of most driving enthusiasts’ desires. And going sideways doesn’t always require a rear wheel drive car. What’s good here is that with the knowledge of how one could control the car at the limit, you tend to become more alert on the road. Of course, going sideways on public roads is foolish and should never be done.
Controlled environment and racetracks are two places where you can do it, but elsewhere, no. Handbrake turns are easy and a good place to start. Beyond this, there’s flicking the steering – the art’s called Scandinavian Flick – wherein the driver would unsettle the car to enter a corner sideways. And of course, there’s the good old RWD powerslide.
Depending on your choice of car, you can learn and hone the tricks of weight shifting and going sideways. Because there’s nothing that looks as glorious!