Teaching Your Kids To Drive (Without Wrecking Your Car)
Whether you've got a spanking new sports car or a beloved family runaround, teaching your children to drive your car is a nerve-wracking journey. Here's how to make sure they – and your vehicle – stay safe...
In association with Adrian Flux
From explaining the lights on the dashboard to perfecting parallel parking, teaching your child to drive can be a pretty daunting experience. Suddenly your teenager is behind the wheel of one of the most expensive things you own, and you want to keep both child and vehicle from harm: no pressure! Once they have their provisional licence and appropriate insurance has been arranged, it’s time to get used to driving around all your local car parks and along quiet roads – again, and again, and again.
You may well have bad driving habits of your own, but it is possible to avoid passing them on to your own kids when teaching them how to drive. Here are a few mistakes learners often make that could damage your vehicle, as well as a few pointers for making the whole process runs as smoothly as possible.
Common bad habits to keep at bay
1. Hard starts and stops
It almost goes without saying, but slamming on the brakes causes your brake pads and rotors to wear out faster than gradual stopping. You’ll need to practise emergency stops at some point, but when it comes to teaching standard braking, it’s worth emphasising the importance of slowing gradually. Make sure your learner has plenty of time and space to come to a stop, rather than doing something near an emergency stop every time they need to slow down.
While slamming on the accelerator doesn’t usually do this kind of damage, it does use significantly more fuel than gradual acceleration, so it’s best avoided if you want to keep your fuel costs down. Revving hard on an engine that hasn’t warmed up yet can also be damaging – and brings us to the next point...
2. Revving a cold engine
Revving an engine when it’s still cold causes sudden temperature changes, which can really damage components you won’t be able to fix yourself. This is why you should make sure your teenager allows the car’s engine to idle for a few minutes before setting off, giving it time to warm up and allowing the oil time to circulate.
3. Riding the clutch
Cars that come with electronic parking brakes are less likely to fall foul of this, but older models and classic cars are often damaged by drivers holding the clutch at traffic lights while waiting for the light to go green. You shouldn’t do it, and you shouldn’t let your teenager do it either.
While they’re waiting with their foot down, the pressure plate, release bearing and release arm are all suffering. Surfaces are being grazed against each other and worn down, which increases the risk of sudden clutch failure at another point. If waiting for more than a few seconds, be sure the car is stopped with the clutch released and the gear stick in neutral.
4. Dragging the brakes downhill
New and experienced drivers are all guilty of this one – resting a foot on the brake while driving down a steep hill. It’s often used as a method of speed control so that the car can be stopped at short notice. Leaning on the brake like this for an extended period causes heat to build up in the brake system, putting brake pads and rotors under unnecessary strain.
When you’re passing on your best driving tips and advice, be sure to teach the importance of switching into a lower gear when driving downhill. Doing so will instigate engine braking, slowing your car through natural drivetrain compression, and is just as effective as ordinary braking when it comes to maintaining a steady downhill speed.
Tips for a manageable driving session
1. Remember to plan ahead
It’s going to be tempting to just hop in the car without doing any kind of advance preparation, because you already know how to drive – so how hard can teaching it be? But knowing the route you’re going to take that day and what skills you’re going to focus on is important both for your own sanity and for making sure that your child feels confident.
Clear and thoughtful communication is also helpful for a learner driver. Think about what questions you can ask to remind him or her of certain things they need to know, without using direct commands such as ‘do this’ or ‘do that’. Phrases like ‘what’s the speed limit here?’ serves as a reminder to keep an eye on the speed, as does asking ‘what does that sign mean?’ rather than stating the answer.
Sudden braking can be avoided by reminding your learner driver to be fully aware of the surroundings at all times, and by giving plenty of notice for turning. If you’ve planned your route, you’re less likely to throw the learner driver off or cause a mishap by giving a sudden direction at the last minute.
2. Keep things manageable
The key to teaching someone how to drive a car is to break it down into stages. From learning about the vehicle itself and basic skills like making turns, to interacting with other drivers on the road and take on manoeuvres like parallel parking.
The calmer and more confident your driver is, the more focus they’ll be able to give to the driving itself. You’ll need a lot of patience, but with it there’s no reason for your vehicle to suffer – even if you feel like you are!