The steering wheel is the most important control element of your car. Therefore it’s absolutely crucial to hold it properly if you want to drive well.

Drive Like a Pro is a series that will show you how to use the skills and knowledge acquired by our rally drivers to drive more safely and effectively on the road.

There are lot of ways to hold a steering wheel. Some of them, like the hand placed on top of the wheel, will give you a cool, relaxed look like the bad guys in the movies. A hand in your lap, with just a few fingers gripping the bottom of the wheel, may be comfortable for long, boring highway drives.

Neither of these positions, though, will give you real control over your car. Surprisingly, nor do most of the other ways people tend to hold the wheel. If you want to be able to react quickly and efficiently in any situation, you need a proper grip. And we will show you how to do it.

9 to 3 Is the Way to Go

For decades, the drivers were taught to drive with their hands at the 10 and 2 position. This made sense when cars had large steering wheels, before power steering was common, but not any more. In a modern car, a better way is to hold the wheel at its sides – or the “9 and 3 position” – instead.

With your hands like this, you have the best sense of the position of your front wheels. You always know exactly how much steering lock you have and in which direction you have applied it. This is especially helpful, not only in extreme situations, like recovering from a skid, but also in tight turns, where it helps you keep track of your wheels’ position.

Keep Your Hands Where They Are

At the same time, holding the wheel at 9 and 3 will give you the best range of steering wheel movement without letting go of your grip. For the aforementioned reasons – keeping track of your wheel’s position – you should ideally drive with your hands on the wheel at all time.

With the 9 and 3 hold, seated in the proper position behind the wheel, you should be able to turn the wheel almost half a turn without ever letting go of it or shuffling your hands around. In a typical car, this is enough to tackle all but the tightest turns or, of course, city corners and parking lots.

Now that you know how to hold the wheel properly, we can get moving. In the next instalment, we will show you where to look while driving.