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Clutch and brake pedals in manual-transmission rental cars

My wife and I are considering a side trip to the Isle of Mull when we are in Edinburgh this spring. We would train to Oban, then rent a car. I have never driven on the left before, but think this would not be a problem in the light traffic we would be likely to encounter. My question is this: Are the clutch and brake pedals in manual-transmission cars in the UK arranged the same as they are in the US? I think it might be too much for me if they were reversed.

Thank you.

Posted by
1437 posts

They are, but your wrong hand wants to reach for the gear shift (it's on the other side).

Although I drive a manual at home, I rented an automatic when I went to Ireland last year. It made it so much easier to adjust quickly.

Posted by
9110 posts

Disagreeing with Diane for the first time ever: nope, nope, nope, and hell nope.

Shifting is muscle memory. You can brush you teeth or pick your nose with either hand. You can shift with either hand. The shift pattern is the same - - first is top left, etc. You never notice it. Reverse can be anywhere as well as its release.

Posted by
2426 posts

Gear shift pattern will be the same also. The carmakers build these mechanicals in only one version, no matter which side the driver is seated. It's also gas pedal on right - brake on left for the auto tranny cars.
We've driven nothing but manuals since 1979. Other than using the left hand on the shift, we don't think sitting on the right would cause us any concern with the gears and pedals. The visuals, the mirrors, where traffic is coming from, where bikes are allowed to be - now that's a whole other story! And not restricted to gear-shift cars. Even though i bike 8,000 miles a year around the Philly suburbs, after spending 2 weeks in London last summer I am pretty certain I would be unable to bike with everything in the wrong place. Just remembering to turn my head to look over my right shoulder would be hard to train myself to do.

Posted by
1437 posts

Hey Ed, tell that to my right hand... the one that keeps trying to paw the door... LOL!

Posted by
9110 posts

'we don't . . . would be hard to train myself to do.'

Right there's the problem: THINKING.

Sixty or seventy nations contain more than a quarter of the world's population drive on the left. In any year I drive in a chunk of them.

If you hop in and go without thinking about it you don't even notice. Thinking takes longer than reacting. Very few people who've done it sat they'd never do it again. Lots of people don't try anything new.

Posted by
9110 posts

Wimmin's are wired differently apparently.

Maybe not. My wife drives in all the places I do.

Which dictates an investigation of Ottawaian wiring.

Posted by
8691 posts

Ed, when you do something with the frequency that you do, it becomes natural. Joel has never done it. I'm with Diane on this one. When we rented in Ireland I went for the automatic. It was one less thing to worry about while driving on the opposite side of what I'm used to. I will do the same this year in England. If some day, after more experience driving on the opposite side, it feels as natural as what I've been doing at home, I will go for the manual.

Posted by
2081 posts

Joel,

what you will find is that your habits in the USA will peek out in the right hand cars overthere.

some people forget what its like to be new to something. i can bet that if youre switching cars every so often, it will become 2nd nature, but for a first timer, you will be doing things like trying to open the door with the wrong hand.

I havent rented/driven over there in a long time, but the car i had on the the driver steering wheel stalk, the windshield wipers and turn signals were swapped. So i kept on turn on the windshield wipers when i wanted the turn signals.

you will have fun on driving over there and using the roundabouts.

happy trails.

Posted by
667 posts

Thanks, everyone.
I'm sure driving on the left will be a challenge, and after reading more about Oban/Tobermorey/Iona it looks like traffic might not be negligible, as I had thought. But my wife and I are going ahead with this plan; a Scottish friend recommended Mull and Iona, which we had never even thought about visiting, and now we are bowled over by the photos we've been viewing.
Best, Joel

Posted by
2426 posts

Ed -There is something in your post that I really can't understand. You said: "You can shift with either hand. The shift pattern is the same - - first is top left, etc. " What are you saying -that in a British/Aussie car the gear shift is on the right of the driver, that is squeezed between the seat and the door? Or are you suggesting that the driver reach across his/her body with his right hand in order to use the gear shift on his left?
If you are saying it doesn't matter which hand, all I am going to say is that for anyone who is not just right-handed but incredibly dominant on the right side, shifting, or doing anything involving finer motor control than one is used to with the left arm/hand is not an automatic action.

Posted by
9110 posts

Nope, the shifter is in the middle. You work it with your left hand.

There's a difference between fine motor skills and gross ones as far as muscle memory goes.

For gross ones do it once and you've got it. The brain is pretty neat; it knows what to do if you let it - - start thinking and the world turns to worms. Shifting is done with gross muscle memory.

For fine ones, it takes a little practice, but it can still be done. Think of a combat aircraft - - an indiscernible hand movement of a fraction of an inch can pop your eyes out. All machines are built for righties, including the shape of the stick grip, radio and armament release switches, etc. Lefties are just as good as anybody else. And for a rightie flying leftie, trust me, when it's time for coffee you can sure as heck fly with the other hand.

Anecdotally, it might be a moot question anyway. Being cheap, I order up manuals, but several times this year in the UK I've been given an automatic at the same price. One trip the gal asked me if an automatic was okay. When I made a crack that it'd cost me a fractional amount extra for gas, she dropped the price even further. It wasn't a lot, maybe the cost of a beer a day, but apparently there are more and more around - - which doesn't make much sense when you think about the resale market. Who knows?

Posted by
2426 posts

Two comments, Ed.
I for one would find it very awkward for quite some time using my left hand to shift. I am not comfortable on my bike controlling my bike with my left hand in order to raise my right arm to point for a turn, and thus signal my right turns with the left arm raised upright, like folks did with heir cars before turn signals were invented (no, I am not that old). It's a matter of the dominance of my right side and weakness of my left, how my body works.
Second, your comment about the gas you lost using an automatic. Funny thing there, but the car manufacturers are somehow getting equal or slightly better EPA MPG results with automatics in the same vehicle as their manuals. Part of this is due to their using longer (i.e. lower) final gears in the automatic so they run at lower rpm at highway speed, and I think part of this is they can game the system with incredibly fine control of the test with the automatic. Personally I refuse to believe that an automatic can out-mileage a manual transmission where the operator knows what he is doing and how to shift most efficiently. BTW, our kids -26, 22, 22 - take it as huge pride that they can drive sticks.

Posted by
9110 posts

To continue the insanity:

As stated, it was a crack about the mileage. I don't know which is better. I got some free beer. The anecdote was to illustrate that apparently there are a lot of automatics out there now.

Drive a car. Count how many times you change steering hands as you adjust something or just because one arm is tired. You don't think about it but it works out fine. If you were older you'd remember driving with your arm around a hottie and having to reach cross body and around the wheel to shift. Youngsters!

JOEL, back to you, buddy.

If you're flying into Turnhouse, all the cash machines on the arrivals level are those AmExp buggers. Walk to the other end of the terminal and up the escalator/elevator. Circle around the wall in which the elevator is located and there's bank ATMs you'll see at about the same time you spot the Nero coffee place.

For what it's worth, the three hour drive out to Oban goes through some spectacular areas. You might want to think about driving instead of paying for a train and car on the same day. Also, getting a car out at Turnhouse gives you a lot of time to get used to driving on the other side ( if you're concerned about it) instead of starting off in a city.

Posted by
3696 posts

OK... I just may have to take the challenge... and trust Ed. I drive a manual at home, in Europe and have always rented an automatic in UK because I tried to envision the shifting with my left hand and working the clutch and driving on the other side or the road... and thought I was just too right brained to manage it all... however, I do remember a few years ago when I fell off a ladder and broke my wrist how quickly I figured out how to eat, sign my name, put on makeup, etc..with my left hand. So, I will be a guinea pig. I have no problem telling people how easy it is to drive on the opposite side of the road and within no time it becomes second nature, so I'll have to try the shifting thing. Guess I need to plan a trip to UK for this experiment. Maybe I could do a comedy/documentary :))

s

Posted by
5668 posts

I have to agree with Ed, that shifting with your left hand is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It takes a little bit to get used to it, but it doesn't take days and days. I got so used to using my left hand that when I came back to the US after my first UK driving trip I slammed my left hand into the door the first time I drove. :) Clearly, I was fine though after I had a good laugh.

The more important part for me was staying focused on left hand drive when pulling out of parking lots and other places where there were not clearly defined lanes. I was also a bit frustrated by the fact that in Britain they park willy nilly on any side of the street facing any direction that they want. So, you're happily driving along on the left and all of sudden see a car parked on the left with its headlights staring at you. It's unnerving until you get used to it.

My advice is that if you are accustomed to driving stick then don't fear it in the UK. If you are not accustomed to driving stick then you might want to opt for an automatic.

Pam

Posted by
3336 posts

I've driven in England, Thailand and Anguilla many times and you really do get used to a right-hand manual quite quickly. Just spend a few minutes at the curb and familiarize yourself with the shifter pattern and how it feels and where all the levers are, as you would in a new car you just bought at home.
The hard part is traffic patterns and getting used to driving on the other side of the road. The first time I get into a car when I go to England or another right-hand drive country, I try to do it either very early in the morning, when there isn't too much traffic yet so that I can get my bearings or, better yet, on a Sunday morning early when almost no one is out. Another strategy I have used is to hire a taxi to drive me around, pay attention to the rules of the road, ask questions, and get the feel of it before I try to drive it. I have used this in many countries around the world and it has been really instructive and builds my confidence before I get behind the wheel.

Posted by
1341 posts

My tuppence or what ever it is worth. I have only ever driven two hire cars with automatic transmission. Both in countries that drive on the correct side of the road. I liked neither. When I have to drive on the right, let alone the left, I ask for a manual as that is what I am used to, both by hands and feet. If you are more comfortable with an auto, hire one. You will have a better time not having to to think what your hands are doing .

Posted by
667 posts

Thanks, everyone. MC, I am going to be adventurous and go with a manual, not only because I have good experience with shifting (just not lately), but as a left-handed person the shifting motions should not be all that hard to learn, knock on wood.

And I'll just throw this out, I've been watching youtube videos taken from inside cars that are driving on the left. Not only is there a lot of interesting scenery involved, I actually think I'm getting some sense of what driving on the other side feels like.

Posted by
5668 posts

If you've driven stick a lot then you will be fine. I don't get to even drive very much these days let alone drive on a road in Scotland. Sounds heavenly. Here's a nice page on single track roads that you may find helpful. Always remember that you stay on your side of the road when approaching a passing place. if the little space is off to the right, you stop on the left and the oncoming traffic passes you on your right. Whoever gets to the passing place first waits for the oncoming traffic.

Everyone is friendly so don't forget the friendly lift of your hand off the steering wheel!

Pam

Posted by
667 posts

Pam, thank you, that's quite helpful.

Posted by
1341 posts

Joel, all the best on the holiday and enjoy the drive. To add to Pam's comment, there will be instances where you may have to reverse to the passing place if the nearest is behind, so worth noting them as you pass. If a vehicle has pulled in to allow you to pass this might be accompanied by a flash of the headlights to indicate they've given way. In the UK this means 'go ahead' in alot of other places it means 'I am coming through' so judge it on the actions, a waive as you pass to thank is always appreciated. One final bit about the single track roads is the National Speed Limit for non-urban non-divided roads applies. This is 60 mph for cars, and some people do drive them at that speed.

I have done them at that speed, but usually take them at 45 to 50.

Posted by
5668 posts

wow, MC, 60 MPH? I may have approached 50 MPH, but fast driver that i am , I don't think I've ever gotten to 60. (Despite anything my dad may have said in the past! :) )

Pam

Posted by
667 posts

MC, I will take to waving fine, as I go back and forth between overbuilt south Florida and a tiny town in Maine where many drivers wave, though there the practice is not necessarily related to giving way on single-lane roads. As for going 60 on those roads, or even 50, I don't think so. Besides being more cautious than that, I'm a birdwatcher, and will be looking out for birds (and animals and scenery generally) to the extent I can without being one of those people who backs up traffic. BTW, too bad you can't park in those passing areas, but there it is.

Posted by
1341 posts

Pamela, yup! 60 mph. Back in the days when I was young and immortal and had not yet crashed my first car! Now on single tracks I tend to do 45 to 50. Makes decent progress, in the words of the driving test, and does not scare the passengers too much.

Posted by
34 posts

For simplicity, we have always rented automatic whether in the UK or on the Continent. It's one less thing to think about. BTW, I was born in England and came to the US in 1969, and I drive a lot of miles.

I think you are wise renting a car in Oban, it's much easier driving the back roads at first. Just remember to stay on your own side when the road is empty, and don't try a u-turn on a narrow road. The locals will drive faster than the tourists, there was a bad accident on the road out of Inverness recently, killing one and injuring the passenger, with an accident like that. That story came from my brother, who lives on Moray Firth.

It's always interest going to the car rental as we never know what kind of car we will get, most of the time it's an upgrade and we don't get charged any more!

Posted by
5668 posts

Well, MC if you want to drive those high speeds again, come to the US and the far west. Out there on the interstate where the road just keeps going for miles, you can easily find yourself pushing 80. :) Glad to hear you were doing it the immortal years. No heads lost in the transition I hope. :) (Can't resist a Highlander reference.)

Posted by
1341 posts

Pamela, loved the Highlander reference! One day I do want to visit the American west, NM, the NE and the bits where on TV the landscape looks painted. Currently my need for speed is satisfied on the motorway in the UK where most people cruise 70 - 80 mph, or on the Autobahn - cross the border and down goes the foot.

My immortal era came to an end when I managed to skid into a crash barrier on the side of a road, and I was not speeding just hit a patch of wet leaves!

rsheltn has a point, in rural areas across Europe people tend to drive faster than in urban areas or tourists. I know I do it having grown up in one. Partly because of the distances and partly the roads are relatively emptier. Even then it is a bit strange doing 55 to be overtaken by a granny in a (ancient) Ford Fiesta on a road wide enough for two vehicles, but not wide enough for lines.

Posted by
667 posts

rsheltn, somehow that sensible idea of renting in Oban has mutated into picking up the rental at Edinburgh airport, which promises to be a bit of a white-knuckle adventure. It's a long story, but a big part of the new plan is wanting to have a car as we visit around Stirling. Thanks for the advice.

MC, another place you can drive 80 is south Florida; in fact doing 80 in the fast lane you will often pick up a tailgater.

Posted by
518 posts

Hi Joel,
If I were you, I would rent a manual transmission car if you are familiar with driving one here. They are cheaper to rent, and you can get a small car. With an automatic, they try to push off a big station wagon or something on you that is a pain to park and deal with in general. I rented an automatic a few times then decided to go for the manual. I didn't even have to think about what I was doing. As several have stated, all the actions are the same, you are just shifting with your left hand. It was all quite natural for me. However, if a person has never driven a manual at all, I think learning here would be advisable.

For the speed limit part of this thread.... There is a new section of tollroad south of Austin, Texas, (can't recall the road number) that the speed limit is 85 miles per hour!! And Austin is in the heart of the most populated part of Texas, not out in the desert West Texas. And of course, since the speed limit is 85, many are driving 95. I prefer the 75 that all the other Texas roads have now. So Texas is not only big, it is also fast.

Posted by
518 posts

Hello again Joel,
I just read your post about picking up your car at the Edinburgh airport. We turned our car in there, and it was extremely easy.

Posted by
5668 posts

Hi Joel, you'll do fine. This will let you stop off and visit Bannockburn. Also, I stopped by Cambuskenneth Abbey and loved the views of the castle from there. You can park at the Castle. I would drive up there and park. I also stopped off at the Wallace Monument. It's a little unnerving at the top as there weren't any railings. But, you can see the strategic importance of the area. You can start to grasp why the battle of Stirling Bridge was so key. I love the way the geography of Scotland is so key to the history of the country.

And if you're then heading toward Oban, think about stopping off at Doune Castle. This is the castle that was featured in Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail, so you'll want your coconuts. But, it's now the location for the filming of the Outlander series.

Posted by
1341 posts

Pamela, yes the coconuts. The hire of them is free, the attendent's face lights up when you ask for them and the look on the face of the other visitors is worth it. Historic Scotland used to host a Monty Python festival in Doune Castle, but haven't for a couple of years.

Posted by
667 posts

Thanks again everyone. Thomas, part of the reason for renting a manual is to be able to have a very small car; besides the parking, I want to be able to pull far over to the side of a single-lane road if necessary. I do this in Maine now, cresting blind hills where young men in their Immortal phase sometimes take their half out of the middle.

Pam, it is great to know about Doune Castle; besides that the castle itself is a wonderful ruin, I love Monty Python. We will in fact be driving by there, and will be sure to stop. Thinking of MP has lightened up many boring meetings for me :-)

Another castle we'll be seeing (from a distance, as there is no tour on the day we'll drive by) is Castle Stalker, what a location. Apparently there is a cafe there with excellent views of the castle. And for a contemporary sight, thanks to another RS Scotland thread I now know of the amazing Falkirk Wheel. I normally don't go out of the way for technological marvels, but this one is very tempting, and more or less on the way from Edinburgh to Stirling.

Posted by
1341 posts

Joel, if you do like Monty Python and are going to visit Doune, along with the coconut shells at the office/shop Historic Scotland has an ordinary audio guide on its website to the castle. And a Monty Python one.