Category Archives: Driving Lessons

The Big Learner Relay is coming to Stoke on Trent!

Big Learner Relay
On the 14th November 2014, the Children in Need Big Learner Relay comes to Stoke on Trent. It’s journey began in Northern Ireland on 30th October and is travelling the length and breadth of the country with driving instructors passing a roof top box from one car to the next after taking a learner on a driving lesson. On the 14th November the roof top box will arrive on a driving lesson from Macclesfield, and will meet the Stoke on Trent team at Asda in Tunstall at around 9.45am. After lots of photos and celebrations, Drive Ahead School of Motoring will be leading a convoy of driving lessons from Stoke on Trent to Asda in Stafford where the roof box will be passed on again to continue it’s journey. The Big Learner Relay will come to an end in Birmingham on the evening of 14th November.

How did the learner relay come about?

During the 2013 coverage of Children in Need, Louise Walsh, a driving instructor from the New Forest, was watching with her driving instructor husband. While she was watching she wondered that, surely as an industry, we could all do something to raise funds for Children in Need. This is when the Big Learner Relay was born. Following months and months of planning by Louise and the Learner Relay committee, the Big Learner Relay came to fruition, and the first car left Northern Ireland on the 30th October 2014. Over the duration of the relay, 147 driving instructors will lead a leg of the relay covering over 2,500 miles, and raising thousands of pounds for Children in Need. At the time of writing the relay has already made over £20,000 with 8 days still to go!

How can you get involved?

The Stoke on Trent leg will leave Asda in Tunstall at 10am on Friday 14th November. Cars will be arriving from around 9.30 and we’ll be parked up in a prime position outside the front of the store. Please come along and cheers us on, take photos, and make donations. In the meantime you can donate by texting PASS52 £5 to 70070 (for a different amount just change the £5 to your desired amount) or you can go to our Just Giving page at

Show Me Tell Me Questions

At the start of your driving test you will be asked 2 questions known as Show Me Tell Me Questions. These questions test your knowledge of basic car maintenance, safety checks, and the operation of certain controls inside the car. If you can’t answer a question or get a question wrong you will receive 1 driving fault per incorrect question.

Q1 – Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has enough oil.
A – Identify the dipstick, pull it out and check the oil level against the min/max markings.

Q2 -Show me/explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
A – If the steering becomes heavy the steering may be faulty. Before starting a journey two simple checks can be made. 1) Gentle pressure on the steering wheel, maintained whilst the engine is started, should result in slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate. 2) Turning the steering wheel after just moving off will give an immediate indication that the power assisted steering is functioning correctly.

Q3 – Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check the engine has the correct level.
A – Identify the engine coolant tank and check the min/max markings. If the coolant is below the min mark then more coolant will need to be added. To do this, unscrew the cap and pour in coolant until the max mark is reached.

Q4 – Show me how you would check the parking brake for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.
A – Apply the parking brake firmly. Demonstrate by applying parking brake so that when it is fully applied it secures itself, and is not at the end of the working travel.

Q4 – Show me how you would check that the horn is working (off road only).
A – Press the horn and listen (turn on ignition if necessary).

Q5 – Open the bonnet, identify where the Windscreen Washer reservoir is and tell me how you check the level?
A – Identify reservoir, lift off cap and make a visual check of level as there are no external markings on reservoir.

Q6 – Show me how you would check the parking brake for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.
A – Apply the parking brake firmly. Demonstrate by applying parking brake so that when it is fully applied it secures itself, and is not at the end of the working travel.

Q7 – Open the bonnet, identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and tell me how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.
show me tell me, identify brake fluid.
A – Identify the brake fluid reservoir and check the fluid level against the min/max levels.

Q8 – Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working correctly.
A – Activate the indicators or hazard warning lights and walk around the car to see if all the indicators are working correctly.

Q9 – Show me how you would check that the brake lights are working on this car. (I can assist you, if you need to switch the ignition on, please don’t start the engine).
A – Operate brake pedal, make use of reflections in windows, garage doors, etc, or ask someone to help. (may need to switch ignition on, prompt not to start engine)

Q10 – Tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.
A – As you move off check the brakes. They should not feel spongy and the car should not pull to one side.

Q11 – Tell me how you would check that the headlights and tail lights are working.
A – Turn on lights (turn ignition if necessary), walk around car and check that the lights are on.

Q12 – Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.
A – Information will be found using the car manufacturer’s manual. Check the tyre pressures by using a reliable pressure gauge when the tyres are cold. Don’t forget the spare and remember to refit the valve caps.

Q13 – Tell me how you would check the tyres to show that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.
A – A safe tyre will have no cuts or bulges. The tread depth should be at least 1.6mm across the central 3/4s of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire outer circumference.

Q14 – Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers.
A – Operate control to wash and wipe windscreen (turn ignition on if necessary.

Q15 – Show me how you would set the demister controls to clear all the windows effectively, this should include both front and rear screens.
A – Set all relevant controls including; fan, temperature, air direction / source and heated screen to clear windscreen and windows. Engine does not have to be started for this demonstration.

Q16 – Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it/them. (No need to exit vehicle).
A – Operate switch (turn on dipped headlights and ignition if necessary). Check warning light is on. Explain use.

Q17 – Show me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you would know the main beam is on whilst inside the car.
A – Operate switch (with ignition or engine on if necessary), check with main beam warning light

Q18 – Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash.
A – The head restraint should be adjusted so the rigid part of the head restraint is at least as high as the eye or top of the ears, and as close to the back of the head as is comfortable. N.B. Some restraints might not be adjustable.

Q19 – Tell me how you would know if there was a problem with your anti lock braking system.
A – Warning light should illuminate if there is a fault with the anti lock braking system.

Don’t get caught out when booking driving tests online!

When you’re learning to drive there will come a time when you need to book your theory test and driving test.  In this modern world, most people will choose to do this online.  The official government websites for booking the test are as follows:

To book a theory test –

To book a driving test –

These websites work really well, and the booking system is really easy to follow.  Unfortunately many people don’t use the correct website.  This tends to be down to Google.  Instead of finding the correct website, many people simply search ‘book theory test’ or ‘book driving test’ and the first results that come up are the sponsored adverts.  Within these sponsored adverts appear a number of websites that are not associated with the DVSA (the official government department for driving tests).  These websites offer promises of free retests if you fail your test, even though you will pay a premium for the privilege.

The problem with these websites is not many people read the small print.  The lure of a retest, for what seems quite a reasonable price, draws many people into just booking without giving much though into what they’re actually going to get.  I’ve looked at the small print on several sites, and the terms and conditions on all sites related to theory state that if you don’t pass because you failed the hazard perception section of your test then they will not rebook and you will lose out.  You also have to have failed the multiple choice questions by only 2 marks, if you’ve failed by more than that, then yet again they won’t rebook you test for you and you will lose out.

So, if we look at the possible outcomes of using these sites:

You pass first time – You will lose out as you’ve paid more than correct rate in the first place

You pass the multiple choice section, but fail the hazard perception – You will lose out

You fail the multiple choice section by scoring less than 41 out of 50 – You will lose out

You fail the multiple choice section by scoring either 41 or 42 out of 50 and you pass your hazard perception – You will get your free retest and will have benefited from the offer

So, taking all of these outcomes into consideration, although the initial offer looks good, it’s more than likely you’re going to lose out.  If the offer was as good as it seems then the companies making these websites wouldn’t make any money.

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail

My advice would also be to use the official sites I posted at the top of this blog, and make sure you’re prepared for your test so there’s a limited chance that you’ll fail in the first place.  There’s loads of great resources for you to use, and all of our learners get free access to Theory Test Pro.  For more information just give us a call on 01782 906010

Driving Test Passes – February 2014

Another brilliant month for driving test passes here at Drive Ahead. A massive well done for everyone who has passed their driving test this month after taking driving lesson with us. If you’d like to join our ever-growing list of successful test passes then give us a call today on 01782 906010 or why not book online?

Pete – 3rd February 2014 – A great start to the month when Pete passed his driving test in Newcastle under Lyme with our driving instructor Mark Lawton.
Pete passed in Newcastle

6th February 2014 – Charlotte Walker – Charlotte came to Drive Ahead after her friend had passed with us a couple of years ago. Charlotte took her driving lessons with our instructor Dave and passed in Stoke on Trent.
Charlotte passed in Stoke on Trent

7th February 2014 – Zara Azam-Rajabian – Zara took lessons with Drive Ahead after her brother passed his driving test with us. Zara started to learn whilst at university in Leicester but came to Drive Ahead when she moved back home to Stoke on Trent.
Zara passed with our driving instructor Dave

18th February 2014 – Jessica – Jessica took her driving lessons in Stoke on Trent with our driving instructor Sarah, before passing her test at the Cobridge test centre
Jessica passed her driving test

20th February 2014 – Katrina – Katrina passed her driving test in Newcastle under Lyme with our driving instructor Sarah Alcock
Another pass in Newcastle under Lyme

21st February 2014 – Rhiannon Bedford – Rhiannon passed her driving test 1st time with our driving instructor John. Rhiannon took her driving lessons in Stoke on Trent before passing at the Cobridge driving test centre
Rhiannon Bedford passed in Stoke on Trent

25th February 2014 – CharlotteCharlotte passed her driving test 1st time with just 1 minor fault! Charlotte completed a great month of passes for our driving instructor Sarah. Well done Charlotte
Charlotte passed in Newcastle

26th February 2014 – Kayleigh Duffield – Kayleigh was our final pass of the month in February. She took her lessons with our driving instructor John Johnson before passing her driving test at the Newcastle driving test centre
Kayleigh's driving lessons in Newcastle

Driving Lesson in Stoke on Trent – What to expect on your first driving lesson?

When you start learning to drive it’s hard to know what to expect.  This blog post will tell you everything that will happen during your first driving lesson in Stoke with Drive Ahead School of Motoring so you know what to expect and there’ll be no surprises.

Your driving instructor will pick you up from a prearranged location (usually work, home or college).  You’ll need to make sure you bring your driving license along with you, you should bring both parts, the plastic photo card and paper counterpart.  Your driving instructor will then ask you to read a number plate (currently this is from 20 metres, but is shortly to changed to 17.5 metres) in good daylight.  If you normally wear glassed or contacts then you should wear them for your driving lessons, as failure to read the number plate would be mean the lesson cannot go ahead.

Your driving instructor will then normally drive you to a quite location where there are few distractions and not too much traffic, making the learning process easier.  You will then swap round to the drivers seat, but don’t worry, you won’t be expected to start driving immediately.

The first thing to learn on your driving lessons is the cockpit drill.  This is a process of 5 checks that ensure that the car is secure, you are sitting in the right position and can reach all of the controls properly, and see everything you need to see.  Its not the catchiest thing to remember, but the acronym we use DSSSM:

D – Doors

S – Seat

S – Steering

S – Seatbelt

M – Mirrors

I’ll go into the details of each of these checks in a later blog.

Following this your driving instructor will talk you through each of the controls of the car, how to operate them, and what they all do.  These will include feet controls, handbrake, gears, handbrake, steering and indicators.

Once you’ve done this, it’s nearly time to drive!

You will learn all about Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre (MSM) which is the building blocks for everything we do.  Your driving instructor will talk you through preparing the car to move, performing the relevant safety checks, before getting the car moving along the road then coming to stop a short time later.  The first few times you try this, your driving instructor will talk you through absolutely everything to help you get going.  As he feels you gaining in confidence, he will start to ask you questions to check you understand what you have learnt throughout your driving lesson, and will then gradually reduce the amount of instruction he gives depending on your ability.

You may do slightly more or less than this, depending on the length of your driving lessons, or your own ability.  At the end of your first driving lesson your driving instructor will recap everything you’ve done and will then book your next driving lesson with you.

Good luck with you learning, and have fun – from all at Drive Ahead School of Motoring

Driving Lessons in Stoke – How do I prepare?

Driving Lessons in Stoke on Trent

So then, you’ve decided that you want to learn to drive, but you’re not sure what you need to do to get ready for your driving lessons.  This blog post gives you a guide about what documents you will need and how to get them, as well as what to expect on your first driving lesson, along with useful website and contact details.

How old must I be to learn to drive?

You can drive from your 17th birthday.  However, you can apply for your provisional driving licence up to 3 months before your 17th birthday.  If you’d like a driving lesson on your 17th birthday then I’d advise you to start applying for your licence at the earliest opportunity.

Driving Lessons from 17

How to get your provisional driving licence

Before you even think about getting in a car to drive you must have a provisional driving licence.   There are 2 ways to obtain your driving licence. Firstly you can pick up an application form from the Post Office, fill it in, then post it off to the DVLA.  Secondly, you can apply online at, this is much easier and quicker, and once you’ve completed your application you’ll normally receive your driving licence within 1 week.  The cost of the driving licence is currently £50 and you must also provide passport photos (although if you have a passport already and apply online then they will use the same photo that was used for your passport).

When you receive your driving licence your photo card will be attached to a paper counterpart.  It is important to keep both parts of your driving licence safe, you will need to show them to your driving instructor on your first driving lesson, and they need to be taken with you when you take your driving test.

If at any time your driving licence is lost or damaged then you can apply for a replacement.  The easiest way to do this is online at  This currently costs £20.

You’ve got you licence, you’re now ready to book your driving lessons?

As long as you have your licence and either it’s approaching your 17th Birthday or your 17 or older already you can now go ahead and book your driving lessons.  At present Drive Ahead School of Motoring offer driving lessons in Stoke on Trent, Newcastle under Lyme, and all surrounding areas.  When booking your driving lessons you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to learn in a manual or automatic car.  To book a driving lesson call us today on 01782 906010

Manual or Automatic – What’s the difference?

The majority of cars have a manual gearbox, although there is growing number of automatic cars around due to the increase in hybrid and electric cars being used.  If you decide to learn in a manual car this means that you’ll need to change the gears, and use the clutch to control the car.  In an automatic car you don’t need to change through the gears, the car ‘automatically’ does it for you.  If you pass your test in a manual car then you are also permitted to drive an automatic, however if you pass in an automatic car and later decide you’d like to drive a manual car, you will need to retake your driving test in a manual car.

You’ve booked your driving lesson, what can you expect?

Your driving instructor will arrive at the location you arranged when booking your driving lessons.  This might be your home, college, a place of work or any other prearranged location.  You will be required to bring your driving licence with you on your first lesson.  Also, if you’ve been told you require glasses for driving then you must bring them with you to all of your driving lessons.  By law you are required to read a new style car number plate from 20 metres away.  You will be asked to do this before you drive on your first lesson.  If you cannot read the number plate, or you don’t bring your glasses with you, then you will not be permitted to drive.


When you are picked up for your first lesson, your driving instructor will normally drive you to a suitable location to start your learning.  When taking driving lessons in Stoke there’s loads of great places to get you started.  This will normally be a quiet housing or industrial estate where the amount of hazards are minimal, and the roads are suitable for you to start your learning.  You will normally start off by learning about the cockpit drill.  The cockpit drill is 5 checks that make sure you are sitting in the correct position, can reach all of the controls properly and can see everything you need to see.  The instructor will find your knowledge of the  controls of the car and how they work, but don’t worry, if there’s anything you don’t know or are not sure off then your instructor will help out.

Once you’ve got a basic understanding of the car and it’s controls you will then look at how to get the car moving, travel a short distance, then bring the car to a stop in a safe location.   Your instructor will always make sure you are safe and if needed can help you out by using their dual controls.  If you’ve taken a 1 hour lesson then your first lesson will probably end at this point.  The driving instructor may drive you home dependant on the progress made.

We always recommend a 2 hour lesson for your first driving lesson to give you the most benefit when starting out.  This means that you may move on to dealing with basic junctions, looking at how to make left and right turns.

It’s important to remember that every person learns at a different rate, and what one person does in one hour, may take another several hours.  Your driving instructor will guide you throughout the learning process, but if at any point you feel you don’t understand the subject and would like the instructor to slow things down a bit then just tell them.  Also, if you feel you should be making more progress then also speak to your instructor, they’ll be more than happy to discuss it with you.

At the end of the lesson your instructor will give you a debrief about the learning that you’ve done, as well as setting an agenda for the next lesson with you.

If you’ve got any further questions or would like to book a driving lesson in Stoke then call us today on 01782 906010

Female Driving Instructor in Newcastle under Lyme

Female Driving Instructor in Newcastle Under Lyme

Female Driving Instructor in Newcastle under Lyme

We’re pleased to welcome Sarah Alcock as Drive Ahead’s first female driving instructor.  Sarah has around 7 years of driving instructor experience, and has passed the BTEC level 4 Professional Award in Coaching For Driver Development making her one of the most qualified driving instructors in the area.   Sarah will primarily cover the Newcastle under Lyme area, but will also cover certain areas around Stoke on Trent. Continue reading