Braking is one of the most difficult things you must master when learning to drive. Surely you just press the brake, right? If only it was that simple!

There are two main ways you can brake and understanding when to use each one can make you a much safer driver.

The video below will demonstrate these points in great detail and show you lots of examples.


Brake then clutch or clutch then brake?

The key thing to understand about braking is whether you should press the brake or clutch first. When you learnt to move off we’ll have looked at the diagram showing how the engine connects to the wheels. That will help you understand the difference between the two methods

To put it simply, the clutch should be pressed down when the engine is quiet. Let’s go into more detail though.

Brake then clutch

When you lift your foot off the gas pedal to press the clutch, the engine will slow down. When your clutch is up the engine is still connected to the as your engine is slowing down, your wheels slow down. This is called engine braking because you’re using the engine to help slow you down.

As soon as you press the clutch pedal down you will take the engine away from the wheels so it’s just the brakes on their own slowing the car down.

You use the brake first and then the clutch if you need more braking power such as when:

  • Driving at high speed
  • Going down a hill
  • Doing an emergency stop

When you say brake then clutch, some pupils leave it far too late to press the clutch down. The clutch does come after the brake but sometimes only by a few seconds or less.

The clutch needs to be pushed down when the engine gets quiet and/or the rev counter reads below around one and a half.

If you leave the clutch up too long then you’ll get too much braking power and end up stalling. That’s because the engine is still trying to turn the wheels as you’re clamping them still with the brakes.


Clutch then brake

If you don’t need as much braking power then it’s fine to press your clutch down before the brake pedal.

This could be in situations such as:

  • Moving at low speed in traffic
  • Going up a hill which will slow you down
  • Creeping at low speed when parking

If the engine is already quiet then there’s no need to use engine braking as described above. That could give you far more braking power than you need and you’ll get a very abrupt stop.


Clutch and brake together

If you use the brake and clutch together then we class that the same as doing clutch then brake. The clutch is going down straight away so it’s the same thing. You can use this at the same times you’d use then clutch then brake method.