Going up through the box, I often skip gears to save fuel. Often called ‘block changing’, it’s when you drop down from say fourth to second in a single leap.
If you know ahead of time that second is the gear you ultimately want, then it can be convenient to skip third by leaving your down-change later than if you went through each gear.
There’s no hard and fast rule on this, but I personally prefer to be in the right gear at all times during braking, with control over the engine and the ability to react to any situation. In traffic, a squirt of acceleration can often prevent an accident just as much as a hard brake.
Changing down the gears keeps the engine jogging along as you slow down and the internal resistance complements the braking effort. Going through all the gears means that you always have the power and stability to manoeuvre if you need to.
As you slow down with your right foot on the brake, it falls on your left foot to work the clutch in order to make smooth transitions from the longer gears to the short-legged ones as you switch from fourth down to third and so on. Smooth clutch work allows the engine revolutions to gradually adjust to the road speed in each new gear.
Most people never operate the clutch pedal at the same time as the brake. They automatically take their foot off the brake whenever they release the clutch pedal.
The trick is to start thinking of your right and left feet independently of each other, so you can modulate brake pressure with one while easing the clutch in and out with the other. Then you’ll be equally ready to drive a Fiat or a Ferrari.
Braking and changing down simultaneously utilizes engine braking, so your brake pads will last longer. More importantly it keeps the weight consistently on the front tyres during the deceleration phase. That’s not only smoother, it also creates additional grip in the front tyres just when you want it for turning or stopping.
Modern gearboxes have a ‘synchromesh’, a synchronizer that helps the internal gear cogs get up to speed with each other. This only takes a fraction of a second, but if you try to slam the gear lever home it will resist.
Dumping the clutch by releasing the pedal too quickly causes the engine to engage suddenly and sends a jarring force to the driven wheels, so don’t do it.