A hallmark of a skilful driver is the ability to change gear silkily smoothly and sympathetically. The key to achieving this consistently is to match engine and driven-wheel speeds on each change. Doing so minimises clutch drag and thus wear, as the clutch plates reengage at a synchronised speed.
Particularly during rapid acceleration, try easing off the accelerator slightly just before declutching to change up; unload the drive-shafts and gearbox and you’ll enjoy a sweeter change. So that the engine speed falls sufficiently, you’ll then need to further relax pressure on the accelerator pedal as the clutch pedal goes down. With a free-revving sports car’s engine that has a light flywheel, it’s necessary to maintain some pressure on the pedal so that the engine revs don’t drop too far during an unhurried change.
A down-change requires similar skill. You’ll be aware that if your road speed doesn’t change, then the engine speed will rise on engaging a lower gear. To have the clutch-plates clamp back together at a synchronised speed, you’ll need to lift the engine speed prior to engaging the clutch in a lower gear. That’ll mean either sustaining pressure on the accelerator pedal (so that the engine revs rise as the load on the engine reduces as it’s disconnected from the gearbox and wheels), or, in order to lift the revs high enough for a down-change into a low gear at higher road speeds, squeeze or ‘blip’ the accelerator when the clutch pedal is down. You’ll know when you get it right – you won’t feel the gear-change, although you may hear it.
The benefits of a sympathetic gear-change aren’t just limited to smoothness, however. The clutch-plates transfer the engine’s torque to the gearbox and driven wheels by sticking together. Changing gear as described will reduce wear caused by the plates dragging together. So too will changing gear selectively.
Selective, “block gear-changing” entails a single gear-change prior to entering individual hazards. Over the years I’ve noticed that most drivers often change gear more than once on the approach to hazards. Some change gear sequentially, taking each gear in turn, despite their car not having a sequential gearbox as fitted to some racing cars and a few performance road cars. I suggest they resist changing gear until they know that they can enter the hazard, and then change once, into a responsive gear that matches their speed. Gone are the days when a car’s ineffective brakes had to be assisted by a clutch-drag gear-change utilising engine braking.
In addition to reducing wear and tear, block gear-changing also reduces driver workload. Perhaps most importantly it also means that both hands remain on the steering wheel for more of the time. Therefore, you’re likely to be able to take successful collision avoidance action during an emergency when compared to those drivers who appear to enjoy a gear-knob fettish!
Masterful gear-changing techniques are but a small part of our popular advanced driving courses. For an advanced or high performance driving course tailored especially for you, email us or call us on 01905 388099.
Founder, Bespoke Driver Training