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I usually brake with my left foot when driving a car with automatic transmission. I find it easy to switch between right-foot and left-foot braking if needed (for example, if I need to drive a car with manual transmission), but generally left-foot braking feels more natural and comfortable to me.

Recently I've been told that the practice of left-foot braking can harm the gearbox in case one accidentally steps on both pedals at the same time, and thus that I should always only use my right foot for both pedals.

Since nothing like that has ever happened to me, I am wondering -- is it an actual concern? How likely is it to step on both pedals by accident, and is the harm to the gearbox in this case really significant?

EDIT: To clarify - I am not asking about the pros and cons of left-foot braking, or about harm to various mechanical parts under wrong use (I have learned advanced driving, and I think I am aware of them). I am specifically interested in the situation I asked about in the question.

  • I think the damage will depend on - A . how strong your brakes are B how strong your engine and transmission is and C. how strongly you press them together. – chilljeet Jul 14 '15 at 12:21
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The only reason it feels more natural to you is because that is the way you do it. It was beat into me from Driver's Education never use your left foot to brake. To me it feels natural to not brake with my left foot.

There is a great article I just read about using your left foot to brake from a driving instructor. In the article he basically says things I was thinking. There are a couple of points he makes in the article I want to point out. This is directly related to when he was instructing his students to use their right foot to brake.

We do emergency braking in a controlled environment at Young Drivers of Canada so I had the student apply the brakes with their left foot when I suddenly commanded “STOP!” at a specific speed and location. I measured their stopping distance and then had them try it again with their right foot applying the brakes. Their stopping distance was hugely improved. I never had to remind them again about only using their right foot on the pedals.

While this is doesn't have very much empirical data in it, it rings true for the following reason (as he goes on to say):

The main difference for an improved stopping distance was their left foot was able to counter balance their weight transfer so they had more pressure to apply into their braking. If your left foot is placed up against the firewall of the vehicle, it can allow you to push yourself back in your seat. That will then allow you to press harder against the brake pedal in an emergency. Sit in your vehicle while parked and try this. You will automatically feel the difference in leg strength when you apply the brake this way.

Another thing you probably don't think about is a lot of people who use their left foot to brake actually keep their foot on the brake pedal. If you do this and think you are not causing issues, you are sadly mistaken. When you keep your foot on the pedal, you are riding the brake. This does the following:

  • Wears out your brakes faster
  • Causes you to have worse gas mileage
  • Causes undue wear and tear on your drivetrain

Even if you don't believe you're putting any pressure on the pedal by resting it there, you are utterly wrong. The reason I know you are wrong is because not a person in the world is going to be able to keep their foot in the air (off the floor) for any long length of time without fatigue. When fatigue sets in, you rest your foot on the pedal. I have fairly long feet and know I could not rest my foot on the floor and have it in a position to brake at the same time.

  • great point on using one's left foot for stability and control. – chilljeet Jul 14 '15 at 4:58
  • Regarding the first point, I used to drive a manual for 5 years (right-foot braking), then an automatic for 3 years (right-foot braking). I switched to left-foot braking recently after having started karting. Secondly, I don't keep my left foot on the pedal but above it, and I brake in short strong pushes instead of keeping it on the pedal long when cruising downhill, specifically because that wear. – Pandora Jul 14 '15 at 7:27
  • Oh, about fatigue - I don't keep my foot above the pedal all the time, just as I wouldn't keep my right foot there if I were using it to brake. – Pandora Jul 14 '15 at 7:29
  • (I edited the question -- Sorry, it didn't occur to me that the question in the title was misleading as it was different from that in the body of the post.) – Pandora Jul 14 '15 at 7:39
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    Also, if you ride the brakes it could cause confusion for people behind you as your brake lights are on all the time! – George Jul 21 '15 at 20:55
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I used to do the same thing until I heard that most people (99%+) when encountering a panic situation will press both feet to the floor, resulting in full throttle and full brakes. This will, of course, decrease the effectiveness of the brakes and cause considerable stress on the transmission. I switched.

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It's a variation of line loading and you are slowly damaging your drivetrain. Eventually, your drivetrain will develop a random 'kick' when you start to accelerate from a stop. Feels like someone rear-ended your car. This will be random at first but become more pronounced as you continue go drive using this method.

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    This assertion is based on what objective measure? I don't think the engine/trans of a car knows or cares where resistance to movement comes from (weight, strong wind, steep hills, imperfect driving surface, foot on the brake, etc) There is nothing unique to the resistance generated by a foot on the brake vs driving up a steep incline as far as engine/transmission is concerned, in my opinion. – Tim Nevins Oct 27 '17 at 16:03

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