A footwell is a compartment in the front of a car which is designed to accommodate the feet and outstretched legs of the driver or passenger. Typically, a passenger car has two footwells, one for the driver and one for the passenger, separated by the vehicle's control panels and console. In vehicles where all of the controls are mounted on the dash or steering column, the footwell may consist of a single large recess in the front of the car.
The obvious purpose of the footwell is to provide a space for feet so that people can sit comfortably. On the driver's side, the pedals for the accelerator, brake, and clutch are usually located in the footwell, while the passenger side simply makes an area for the passenger to stretch out. Typically the bottom of the footwell is covered in a floor mat which collects dust and detritus from shoes, making it easier to clean the car.
The amount of room available can be adjusted by moving the seat forward or backward. For drivers, these adjustments are quite critical, as it is necessary to be able to reach the pedals comfortably. Short drivers may in fact have difficulty reaching the pedals in certain types of cars, in which case it may be necessary to add blocks to extend the pedals. Tall drivers have the opposite problem when they attempt to fit their legs into the short footwells of small or awkwardly-designed cars.
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Many footwells include heating and cooling vents which can be used to circulate air throughout the vehicle and keep the feet and legs comfortable. Some also have lighting, for decoration, function, or safety. Footwell lighting can be useful for people who like to store things on the passenger side footwell in their cars. People can also modify their footwells with various additions, such as new carpeting or upholstery, extra lights, and other features.
On the side of the driver, it is important to keep the space clear so that nothing obstructs the pedals which are used to control the vehicle. Many driver's side floormats are designed to lock to the floor, for example, so that they cannot bunch up under the pedals, and drivers are discouraged from keeping things such as purses or accessories in the footwell. Any time someone gets into a car they don't usually drive, or returns to a regular car after someone has borrowed it, it is a good idea to check the footwell for detritus, and to adjust the driver's seat if necessary to get it in the right position.
If part of the footwell is damaged, as for example when car upholstery becomes moldy as a result of spills or leaks, it is possible to order replacement parts, from the plastic panels which usually line the sides to the carpeting which covers the floor. Junkyards may also be good sources of parts for drivers who don't necessarily need something brand new from the manufacturer.