Yes, this is the technique taught to learner drivers, but no it is not a waste of time! It would be fair to say that this is one of the two most important methods for normal and performance road driving. Pull-push steering is especially suited to turning at road junctions and during some parking manoeuvres. You will find this method has benefits when navigating roundabouts and when driving around tight corners, where the steering lock is applied fairly slowly. You will be able to retain maximum control of the vehicle with high steering lock angles, since both hands will be able to grip the wheel at all times. In addition, it starts from a ‘ten-to-two’ or ‘quarter-to-three’ grip.
The pictures below show the sequence to turn right with one full turn of the steering wheel. You can halt the process earlier or apply more steering lock to suit the situation. To unwind the lock, reverse the process until the straight ahead position is reached. It is important that you start unwinding the lock early enough to prevent over-correction, and, to retain maximum control, you should never let the wheel slide back through the hands.
A common problem when drivers learn this technique is to apply the steering lock correctly but start unwinding the lock too late, when the car has fully negotiated the turn. At this point, the front wheels are still steered to a high angle and the driver cannot unwind the lock quickly enough. Normally, the driver will end up wandering towards the edge or middle of the road or letting the wheel slide. If you suffer from this on the first few attempts, try starting to unwind the lock a little earlier, before finishing the turn.
Pull-push is often incorrectly referred to as ‘shuffling’ the wheel. Shuffling is an inefficient and incorrect use of the technique where the hands make very small movements each side of the wheel. When using pull-push correctly for large steering angles, the hands will move through large half-turns of movement each side of the wheel rather than little ‘bites’. and will continue to meet at both the top and bottom until enough lock is applied. The thumbs should always be sitting on the rim, since pinching the rim between thumb and forefinger provides the strongest grip (wrapping the thumb around the rim requires more muscular effort to retain control).
Sometimes, learner drivers are taught to move both hands to the top of the wheel ready to start a turn. This is fine to understand the idea, but in practise this creates an instantaneous vulnerability. If the driver needs to make a sudden adjustment, both hands are at the top of the wheel and the driver has reduced their control. For this reason, you should start by moving the ‘pull’ hand to the top and leave the other hand at the original position, following the steps above.