(Scroll down for automatic)

The easy way to remember which pedal is which is to read ABC from right to left: Accelerator, Brake and Clutch.

Furthest to the right is the accelerator. Increasing pressure on this pedal feeds more fuel to the engine, so the engine turns faster. This provides more power (though not necessarily more speed). The quick way to refer to the accelerator is to call it the gas.

In the middle is the brake. Increasing pressure on the brake pedal applies increased friction to the wheels, which causes the car to slow down. Applying the break pedal, even very softly, causes the brake lights at the back of the car to come on.

The pedal furthest to the left is the clutch pedal. Pushing the clutch pedal to the floor disconnects the engine from the wheels. When a gear is selected (i.e. the car is not in neutral), lifting the clutch pedal connects the engine with the wheels and, if the engine is turning, causes the wheels to turn.

The accelerator and brake should only be operated with the right foot and the clutch pedal should only be operated with the left foot.

Use gentle pressure for the accelerator and brake, easing gradually on and off as necessary.

The clutch pedal can be pushed straight to the floor when it is necessary to disconnect the engine (usually when stopping or changing gear). However, when lifting the clutch up it can be necessary to move your left foot very gently or the engine may stall. As a general rule, the lower your gear, the more gentle you need to be with the clutch.


Automatic transmission requires only two pedals as there is no need for a clutch. The accelerator is on the right and the brake is on the left. Press the accelerator to go and the brake to slow.

When in Drive (see gears) the car will usually try to creep forward, even when no pedals are pressed. Holding the brake pedal firmly down will prevent this.

The accelerator and the brake should both be operated with the right foot. The one exception to this is when it is necessary to gently use one foot on each pedal for tight manoeuvring.

Many automatic cars have something called kick-down. Kick-down enables rapid acceleration by dropping down a gear on demand. This was originally achieved by pushing the accelerator to the floor. Modern cars often use computer processing to deliver a more nuanced kick-down experience.

Get animated examples with the interactive Controls app for iPad