How to Drive a Minivanby Jodie Toohey
In many ways, driving a minivan is substantially the same as any other vehicle. However, a minivan does have a unique size and shape, including a shorter engine space, or "nose," which affects spacing while driving and parking. Additionally, all of the driver's controls are generally installed exclusively on the steering wheel column, as opposed to between the driver and front passenger seat, as they can be in other types of vehicles. Keeping these unique features of the minivan in mind will help drivers operate the vehicle safely.
Use the buttons or levers as applicable to adjust the seat so you can see over the dashboard, fully depress the brake pedal and avoid hitting your knee on the underside of the steering wheel. Because of the height of the minivan versus a car, you may find you have greater visibility from the driver's seat, as compared to a car. However, the longer length of the minivan will create unique blind spots so make a mental note of areas around the van which may be obstructed from your view.
Use the automatic buttons or physically adjust the rearview mirror so the entire back windshield is visible. If any items in the back of your van obstruct your view, move them as necessary. Adjust the driver's side mirror so you can see the greatest area as possible behind the van. Adjust the passenger's side mirror so you can see the greatest area as possible on the passenger's side of the van.
Locate the turn signal and windshield-wiper levers or buttons and practice operating them before starting the van.
Pull the seat belt from behind your left shoulder, latch it, then tug it gently to ensure it is secure. Insert your key into the ignition on the steering wheel or dashboard, as applicable, and turn two clicks until you hear the engine start. As soon as you hear the engine start, let go of the key.
Depress the brake pedal fully then pull the gear selector toward you and slightly down until it hits "R" for "Reverse," should you need to back out of the location where the van is parked. After you have backed out of the van's parking space or if backing out is not necessary, depress the brake pedal, pull the gear selector toward you then down until the indicator registers on "D" or "Drive".
Release the brake pedal, then push the gas pedal--to the right of the brake pedal--to accelerate the van up to the posted speed limit.
Glance in each of your mirrors (rear- and side view) every few seconds to be aware of all traffic driving around you and any potential hazards. Follow traffic rules, eliminate distractions as much as possible and, being mindful of the size of the van compared to cars and sport-utility vehicles, including the relatively short "nose" of the van, keep a safe distance between the van and the vehicles traveling in front of you. Because a minivan is heavier than most passenger cars, start braking sooner than you would if you were in a car when stopping at a stop sign or light or following other vehicles until you have a good feel for the additional time and distance it will take to stop your minivan.
Activate your turn signal to advise other drivers of your intentions when turning by pushing the turn signal lever down when turning left and pulling it up when turning right.
Apply the brake when you reach your destination until your van comes to a complete stop. While keeping the brake pedal fully depressed, pull the gear selector toward you out of Drive, and then lift it up until the indicator shows the engine is in the "P," or "Park," mode. Lift your foot from the brake pedal, turn the ignition key toward you two positions to turn off the engine, then pull the key out of the ignition.
- A minivan is approximately six feet tall; it should still fit into parking garages but double-check the height clearance of any parking garage ceiling or garage door opening to ensure you have ample space to enter and also exit the vehicle.
- Some manufacturers install openable windows on the sliding doors, but most vans have only openable driver and front-passenger windows. There are tilt-out back windows to help provide airflow through the minivan.
- The minivan's sliding side doors should help your back passengers avoid inadvertently dinging the vehicles parked next to you so you need only be concerned about yourself and your front passenger's doors.
- If your minivan is equipped with automatic sliding side doors, remember the vehicle must usually be in Park to operate them. Therefore, make sure the doors are fully closed before putting the minivan in Reverse or Drive.
- white van image by goce risteski from Fotolia.com