Mastering the Cockpit Drill in Just 5 Steps: What I Wish I Knew Sooner




Affiliate Links
Driving Test Experts posts contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. Thanks.

The Cockpit Drill is the first thing that every single new learner will be taught when starting to learn to drive. It includes all the basic equipment that is inside the car, such as mirrors, seats, gear stick, pedals, and how to change them. It is an essential routine to ensure your safety and comfort while driving. The Cockpit Drill is car-specific, meaning each car has different controls, you do not need any driving experience to begin learning this.

Learning the Cockpit Drill can take anywhere from 20 mins to an hour, depending on your driving instructor.

Cockpit Drill

What is the Cockpit Drill?

The beauty with learning the cockpit drill is it doesn’t require any driving experience. If you learn it now you won’t need to spend as long learning it in the car which means you can spend more time driving. Once you repeat the cock pit drill a few times it will only take a few minutes to do each time you get in the car.

 The cockpit drill is very car specific, each and every car is going to be slightly different in how you need to control it. For example one car may require you to use a dial to turn on the lights but a different car may the flick of a stick.  

So, how long does it take ? Learning the cockpit drill can take anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour depending on your driving instructor.  During this time you are going to get used to all the safety features and controls inside the car and basically just get used to sitting inside a car. This can take a large portion of your lesson but most good driving instructors will make sure that you get to drive the car before the lesson finishes, after a all that is why you are here.

Check out our video on the cockpit drill here:

What is the Easiest Way to Remember the Cockpit Drill?

Acronym DSSSM

The easiest way to remember the Cockpit Drill is an acronym DSSSM.

D – doors

S – seat

S – steering 

S – seat belt 

M – mirrors


It is critical that the car doors are closed before driving. Not only is it dangerous it is also a legal requirement to have your doors properly closed.

During a driving test your examiner will most likely check to see if all the car doors are closed. Most modern cars have a warning light or sound or sometimes both to let you know if a door is not correctly shut. If this happens while driving pull over safely and secure the door in question before continuing.

Most essential when opening a door is to make sure you double check your mirror and blind spot to check for passing pedestrians or other vehicles. It is very important to double check for bicycles and motorbikes.

Cockpit Drill stage 1: Adjusting the driving seat

How to adjust seat

Adjusting the seat is normally done by a bar or lever beneath the front of the seat. The aim here is to be able to press the clutch down all the way without stretching your leg and without your leg digging into your seat. If you find your leg is digging into the seat and you are required to stretch to press the clutch all the way down you need to move your seat back. Make sure you have a slight bend in your knee. If you find your knees are knocking into the steering wheel you need to move your seat back or adjust the steering wheel.

Cockpit Drill stage 2: How to adjust the steering wheel

Steering Wheel

When adjusting the steering wheel make sure you can see the dashboard above. If you are unable to see the dashboard you will need to adjust the steering wheel. This can be done by a lever underneath the steering wheel that will allow you to move it up or down and in or out. Do this to make sure the steering wheel is in the correct position.

You may also be required to adjust the height of the seat if the steering wheel is in an uncomfortable position. This is usually done with a lever on the right side of the driver’s seat but every car is different. Some modern cars have electronic controllers to move the seat for you.

You should have a slight bend in the elbow. If your arms are straight and stretching it is too far.

Cockpit Drill stage 3: How to adjust your head restraint

Adjusting head restraint

Make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted to support your head! This is critical incase of an accident. If an accident does occur your head will be whipped back very quickly and can cause serious damage to yourself.

To avoid this make sure your head is positioned in the middle of your head restraint. To adjust your head restraint to the best position make sure the middle of it is the same level as the top of your ears or eye level.

Cockpit Drill stage 4: How To Adjust Your Seat Belt

Having your seatbelt on is a legal requirement while the car is on! As the driver of the car you are responsible to make sure all passengers 14 years of age or younger are wearing their seat belts.

Cockpit Drill stage 5: How To Adjust The Car Mirrors 

Adjusting side mirror

We always have to make sure our mirrors are correctly adjusted to give us the best possible view around the car. I’ll explain how you do this

Rear View mirror

Central Mirror

 To adjust the central view mirror you have to make sure that you can see the entire rim of the back window like a picture frame.   The best way to adjust the mirror is using your left hand, grabbing the mirror and moving it around while sitting in a normal seated position. You have to make sure you are seated normally and not stretching forward otherwise when you sit back again the mirror will be set in the wrong position.

Side Mirrors

When moving the side mirrors you want to make sure that you only see a thin strip of the car.  For my car I normally suggest seeing the front door handle in the bottom closest corner of the mirror as it gives you the best view. Again this is different in each car.  The idea of the side mirrors and adjusting them is to give us as little of a blind spot as possible. If you are not sure what the blind spot is, ask your driving instructor to show you.

Should I Use Blindspot Mirrors?

I can’t tell you how much blindspot mirrors will help in your driving. They are a must-have when it comes to any reversing maneuver and will genuinely make your life so much easier. They are cheap and they just stick onto the corners of your sid mirrors allowing you to see the white lines without having t adjust the side mirrors.


Overall, learning the Cockpit Drill is important to ensure that you are comfortable and safe when driving, and to make sure that you know how to use all the controls in your car.

This can all be learnt before your first lesson. Just ask permission of the owner of the car you practice in first. This could save you time and money during your first lessons and help pass your driving test faster.

Ever wondered what the first thing you are ever going to learn during a driving lesson is? Get everything you need to know about the cockpit drill below in preparation for your learning to drive journey.

The first thing you will ever learn when beginning to learn to drive will be the cockpit drill. This includes all the basic equipment you have inside the car such as mirrors, seat, gear stick, pedals and how to change them.


1. Do I Dave to Wear a Seat Belt whilst Reversing?

Here is a bit of trivia for you, it is not a legal requirement to have your seat belt on while reversing. You do however need to make sure you put your seat belt back on when driving forward.  If you’re wondering why this is, it’s because some people may have neck or back problems. Whilst reversing you are supposed to be looking behind you by actually turning your body which for some people with a seat belt on can be painful and extremely difficult.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts