Ten Driving Techniques That Will Turn You Into A Master

Ten Driving Techniques That Will Turn You Into A Master

Original article by Máté Petrány published on Jalopnik.com July 2019

Driving is relatively easy, but if you put a little extra effort into it, your daily routes can become adventures. Here are ten techniques that will turn you into a pro.

Most people don't even get the basics right. They don't use their indicators, don't know how to shift a stick or even when to brake. Learn the following ten techniques and you'll leave their beigemobiles in the dust.

10.) Hypermiling

Going fast is great, but trust me, hypermiling can give you great satisfaction. POD also think it's the business: It takes a lot of relatively simple techniques, but uses them with a cap ton of sustained focus, and we, as human beings, are just not very good at sustained focus. Combine that with the need for high levels of pro-active driving and reading traffic flow effectively to get the best results, and you’ve got a technique that is relatively hard to master.

9.) Shifting efficiently in manual mode with an automatic

Automatic transmissions are designed to be as smooth and efficient as possible in normal mode. Can you do the same after putting it into manual?

8.) Properly using all-wheel drive

Be that a classic Land Rover with all its gear levers, or a racing Audi Quattro as themanwithsauce points out: 

Driving an AWD car effectively. I'm definitely biased here but based on the responses I see whenever an audi is talked about, all I get is that everyone assumes you just understeer and can't turn. Even then, I've seen plenty of people suck at getting an Evo around an autocross course...I wish I could explain that. But really the older AWD cars were handfuls. Especially in racing trim.

7.) Doing handbrake turns

When I told you that the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTD is a very good fast hatchback, I forgot the mention an important issue with it: the lack of a proper handbrake. There's a button instead, and you can't turn quickly by pressing a button, therefore, the GTD is pretty much useless as a hot hatch. Sorry about that. DasStig agrees:

Hand brake turns are hard. Especially if you are doing it for the first time on a given day / surface because you don't know how much grip is there. Of course, if you have a lot of experience, then you can do minor corrections to overcome any grip issue. What is really hard is to use hand brake turn to park the car (unless you're Elwood).

6.) Trail braking

ejp hates automatic transmissions tells you why it's difficult...

On my level, trail braking in certain cars has been pretty difficult for me to get right. Mid corner course-corrections using throttle steer has always pretty easy, but mastering oversteer on turn-in has proven to be difficult and awkward. Some cars can do this naturally (old 911's seem to be amenable to this), and other cars just want to squirm and swap ends.

If trail braking and rotation upon entry wasn't difficult enough - taking the balance concepts of trail braking to the next level is (at the moment) beyond me. A consistent proper execution of the Scandinavian Flick (aka pendulum turns) may be the hardest technique to master in driving. Doing this right involves mastery of balance and control over every aspect of driving like no other task. Someday, I will have the time and money to take a rally driving course, and have a chance to learn this...but it may just be over my head.

...and why it's good for you:

With regard to trail braking, there are two primary advantages, and a driver will actually use the technique to achieve the desired line in a corner (outside-inside-outside), using all of the track. The primary reasons for trail-braking are:

1. Allowing a driver to begin braking just a little bit later, shedding some of the residual speed on corner entry rather than entirely in a straight line. On a long straight before a sharp corner (for example), this gives a driver more time to use the straight at 100 MPH before having to brake down to 40 MPH. In a racing situation, this may be one way that a driver can protect their position from a pass...or more importantly, executes a pass against another driver.

2. Trail braking will inherently unbalance the rear of the car, increasing the yaw-angle on turn in (e.g. getting the car to rotate). This allows the driver to battle the natural understeer tenancies of their car. For example, many people are surprised to learn that old 911's tend to understeer pretty severely on turn-in, just like a FWD car can. The oversteer fun (or terror, for some) in 911's really tends to happen during an abrupt mid-corner lift-off of the throttle where weight is transferred from the rear, and all of the weight behind the rear wheels wants to keep going straight while the front of the car turns. Vic Elford (former Porsche factory rally and endurance racer) once wrote about a trail-braking technique where you imagine that a string is tied between your big toe and the steering wheel. As the wheel turns, the imaginary string pulls up on the big toe, which progressively releases pressure from the brake pedal until the car is pointed at the desired apex. At this point, you transition to throttle.

There are other situations and reasons where trail-braking is advantageous, and still others where it will slow you down (or worse, cause a loss of control). Depending on the car, some corners can be trail-braked every time. Others will call for a more traditional line. The Skip Barber racing manual, Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving details when to use this technique and why. A great book to read to really understand race driving. *Disclaimer* - the book is sort of an academic exercise; there is no substitute for seat time.

Read the next 5 techniques on Jalopnik .com.

Dale Adams
Dale Adams