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How to Do a Hill Start in a Car

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The hill start is a difficult manoeuvre for some to pull off. For me, it was the first one that I had to do on the day of my driver’s licence exam, and if you mess it up, you fail instantly. If you roll back even a little bit, you’ll fail. If you over-rev the engine, you’ll fail. There are actually quite a few things that can go wrong with it.

How to Execute the Perfect Hill Start in a Car

  • By this stage, depending on where you take the test, you would have all ready completed the external and internal pre-trip inspection, and hopefully passed.
  • You’ll be in the car with the examiner, and you’ll start the engine.
  • There will most likely be an incline with a stop street- a white line and a stop sign.
  • You have to drive up onto the incline and stop behind the line.
  • Decrease speed, push in the foot brake and the clutch pedals and come to a full stop.
  • Activate the handbrake.
  • Change from first gear into neutral (middle position, no gear).
  • Take your feet off of the brake and clutch pedals.
  • You may have to do a full observation routine before taking off, perhaps do it anyway.
  • Push in the clutch, and put the car into first gear.
  • Hold the clutch, and give a little bit of acceleration.
  • Check mirror, blindspot right, mirror, blindspot left, mirror again—this is the full observation.
  • Put more acceleration on, and release the clutch slowly, until you feel the car ‘take’ or ‘bite’. This is when it bears down, and you will feel the back of the car sink down.
  • Put a little more acceleration on and release the handbrake.
  • Keep the clutch and the accelerator at that position until you reach the top of the hill and you are on level ground.

A Few More Helpful Tips For Executing the Perfect Hill Start

  • Stay in first gear when moving throughout the whole test. It’s less difficult to stall at slow speeds in first gear.
  • Don’t roll back at any point on the hill start, otherwise you’ll fail instantly.
  • Don’t release the handbrake too soon, i.e. before the car has ‘taken’ and you feel the rear sink down.
  • Don’t release too much clutch too soon, or you’ll stall. You get points subtracted for this, but as long as you don’t roll backwards, you will stay in the test.
  • Don’t put too little acceleration on; otherwise the car won’t have enough power to move forward, and will likely roll back.
  • Don’t over-rev the engine, as the examiners generally don’t like this.
  • After you’ve released the handbrake and you are moving up the hill, don’t drastically change the amount of acceleration or clutch that you have, or the car will jerk and possibly stall. Hold the accelerator and clutch.
  • Don’t try to balance the clutch, brake, and accelerator, as this is not allowed in the test, and you’ll most likely roll back anyway. Use the handbrake.

Note: You only have one attempt to get the hill start right during the driving test.

"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead."

— Mac McCleary

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Anti-Valentine