How to Do a Hill Start in a Car

Updated on January 8, 2017

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.

So, I’m going to explain 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.

It takes practice, but if you follow this example, you will pull off a perfect hill start! Remember a few extra points:

• 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 that 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

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Questions & Answers

    © 2009 Anti-Valentine


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      • profile image

        Dee 23 months ago

        thank u for the helpful tips, will definitely use it in my test.

      • profile image

        mlu 3 years ago

        My problem iwant drive straight when I'm rev car to alloy dock

      • profile image

        teddy 4 years ago

        I will try by all means dat I pass.this site is helpful

      • profile image

        walt 4 years ago

        Good article

      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 4 years ago from My lair

        I'm glad it was helpful to you!

      • profile image

        Zany 4 years ago


        I just passed my SA driver's license first time - thanks largely to your blog :-) Totally recommending it to everyone now!

      • profile image

        Lovey 4 years ago

        How can i get rid of nervousness when i reverse the car i tend to go faster unintentionally. I would like to master my alley docking how do i know when to lock my steering when there are no poles to mark angle when i am entering a residential place do i mark with my side mirror

      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 4 years ago from My lair

        That's great Cindy! Well done.

      • profile image

        Cindy 4 years ago

        I passed my driver's licence test.thanks a lot for your help.

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        Kaka 5 years ago

        Thank you so much, I will chat more about this to my instructor.

      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 5 years ago from My lair

        I see what you mean. On a level road or downhill with a blind corner, you would release the clutch slowly, and creep forward, maybe with a little bit of acceleration, ready to tap the break pedal if a car happened to be coming. On a hill, if I were to choose, I would say don't use the clutch. Don't alter how much clutch slip you have otherwise the car will stall or jerk, or possibly even roll. If you do feel the car going backwards, clutch in, brake, handbrake -- quickly.

        Use the accelerator -- this is what most people I've watched do when creeping on a hill. You must of course come to a full stop initially behind the line with handbrake on first. This is the legal way. Some people stop on an incline and have one foot on the clutch and one on the brake, and will switch to using the accelerator. But this isn't the right way. There's more chance of rolling back.

      • profile image

        Kaka 5 years ago


        Thanks for this info.

        I had an incident today where I stopped at a stop sign on a junction on a hill. Having brought the car to the biting point and released the handbrake I started to creep forward to see into the junction but did not know how to control the car to 'creep and peep' into the junction. I wasn't sure if I had to use the brake to help control the car or do it all on the clutch?


      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 5 years ago from My lair

        That's great! You're very welcome. :)

      • profile image

        JoyToTheWorld07 5 years ago

        My work place is on a hill, yesterday evening my instructor picked me up at work and knowing I have this issue with inclines, she put me to the test (not knowing that I've been on your hub all day), I did as you instructed and I'm soo chuffed! No jerking, no rolling, my instructor was even more impressed, because she was "waiting for me to roll". I got this one down!!! Thank you soooooooo much for your easy to read, methodical, logical and most helpful tips:)

      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 5 years ago from My lair

        You should have your pedals level, after you release the handbrake, and as you go up the incline. Keep your foot on the clutch and the foot on the accelerator. If you're over-revving, you're putting too much acceleration on. Keep the pedals level and don't push the clutch back in, as the car probably will roll but not stall, or take it out any further otherwise the car will jerk about or stall. Same as you shouldn't drastically change how much acceleration you've got. You shouldn't roll back using this method. The only real way that could happen is if you release the handbrake too early.

      • profile image

        JoyToTheWorld07 5 years ago

        At the point of pulling off, do I keep my foot on the clutch and accelerator level? What I tend to do here is over rev the engine, because I'm afriad of rolling back. So at which point do i balance out my clutch & accelerator?

      • profile image

        lindiwe 6 years ago

        this has really opened my eyes on some minor mistakes i had,hope i pass on friday i will stick to what they have tought me at driving school and the more information i got on this site,but the routine on parallel parking and alley dockey are slightly different but the all result in one and the same thing i guesse it depends on what the instucter feels works for him/her.but thank you very much it is quite informative.

      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 6 years ago from My lair

        You release the clutch slowly until it bites or takes, but you can release the handbrake at any speed you wish - but this MUST be done after you feel the car sink down. Don't release too early. Just make sure that the car doesn't roll back when you do. Keep the clutch and accelerator peddles balanced and just go up the hill at that pace.

        Don't try to do it quickly because the car will probably jerk or stall if you drastically alter how much clutch slippage or acceleration you have going.

      • profile image

        mimi 6 years ago

        after the car "bite or take",do we have to release the handbreak quickly?or can we observe the road first then release the handbreak.Thanxx,it helps a lot btw!

      • profile image

        Yayo 6 years ago

        This is too helpful, tnx for the thought.

      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 8 years ago from My lair

        @Chris: A minor? What's that? You must be in the States. ;)

        In South Africa, if you roll back even a little bit, you fail.

      • profile image

        chris 8 years ago

        you dont fail if you roll back slightly, you get a minor

      • Anti-Valentine profile image

        Anti-Valentine 8 years ago from My lair

        No problem. I'm glad you found it helpful.

      • profile image

        jordanisjordan 8 years ago

        thanku helped heeps


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