What is a hillstart?
A hill start is a pesky part of driving which learner drivers often find difficult to get the hang of, as the words ‘hill start’ might suggest, it involves moving your vehicle off from a hill or a gradient instead of a level road with the help of your parking brake. You can expect at least one hill start on your driving test, the instructors at Fineline Driving Academy have noticed a rise of hill starts during driving tests in the last few years, your test examiner will expect you to be able to move off from a hill safely and in full control of the car.
Why do I have to do a ‘hill start’?
You need to know how to correctly carry out a hill start so that when you are driving on your own and you come up with a situation where you have to move off from a hill start, you don’t roll back into the vehicle behind you or roll forwards into the vehicle in front of you. A hill start situation might arise on your test, moving off correctly will show the examiner that your control of the pedals is good and therefore increase your chances of passing.
Cars with ‘hill start assist’
Nowadays, more and more cars are coming with a nifty little feature called ‘hill start assist’ which stops your vehicle from rolling back until you are able to sort out your feet to get going again. All of our current fleet of driving instructor vehicles at Fineline Driving Academy have the hill start assist feature, although we teach the traditional method to all of our pupils so they can control a vehicle without hill start assist on a hill after they pass. Now lets get into how to correctly pull off a hill start!
How to correctly do a hill start
The first step is to identify when you are on a hill, some hills might be obvious but some roads may have a gradient that is hard to notice until your car actually begins to roll back/forward, if your car begins to roll you should apply the footbrake immediately. If you are asked to park on a hill or have to come to a stop whilst driving normally, use the following instructions to move off safely and in full control of your car:
- Apply the handbrake but only after the vehicle has stopped. This will act as a temporary brake for the car so that you can release the brake pedal.
- Select 1st gear and identify the biting point (you can use our moving off & stopping tutorial for more help with this). You will feel your car tug and slightly lift at the front when you have the biting point. The slightly higher than normal biting point is required to stop your car from rolling back when you release the handbrake.
- Apply a bit more gas than you usually would, try to get around the 2000 rpm mark on the rev counter(check out the moving off & stopping tutorial for help with this) on your dashboard.
- With your left foot at the biting point and your right foot maintaining the gas, you should put your handbrake down and slowly release your clutch whilst keeping the gas on. The slower the clutch comes off, the slower the car will move. You can even hold the clutch in the same position as the car begins to move off to keep your car moving nice and slowly and in full control.
- If it is a downwards hill, you wont need the biting point and life will be a lot easier. You can still apply the handbrake but it is not necessary. Remember that if you don’t apply the handbrake and release the foot brake, the car will roll so you’ll need to act fast if you want to keep control of your car. If you need to move off from a stationary position on a downwards slope, select 1st gear and let go of the footbrake but don’t apply the gas. All you need to do is slowly come off the clutch and then apply the gas at a later stage, your car will naturally gain momentum on a downhill slope so you should try and keep in a low gear to keep your vehicle from gaining too much speed.
The following video shows a hill start in motion, use it for guidance purposes when practising yourself. Remember that good control of your pedals is key to a successful hill start, the slower you move the pedals will result in smoother control of your car.
Useful points to remember when doing a hill start
There are a few things to remember when it comes to pulling off a successful hill start, practise really does make perfect for this part of driving so ask your instructor if you can practise your hill starts if you are not confident. Our instructors at Fineline Driving Academy make sure that all of our learners are 100% comfortable with hill starts before their driving test so if you are learning with us you have nothing to worry about! Take note of the following useful points to remember about hill starts:
- Only apply your handbrake after your vehicle stops, if you stop your car with your handbrake then your examiner could deem this a serious fault and result in an unsuccessful result at the end. Many learners rush a hill start, if you take a bit longer and do all of the steps we have explained above, your hill starts will be smooth and worry free.
- If you lift your clutch up too fast after releasing the handbrake, you will probably stall. If you do stall, make sure you apply the footbrake straight away to prevent the car rolling back.
- You’ll need a bit more biting point than usual, this means that you should feel the car tug more than you usually would when getting your clutch to the biting point position (see moving off & stopping for more help with the biting point). This extra bit of biting point will help keep the car from rolling back.
- You’ll also need a bit more gas than usual to give your car that extra bit of power it will need to move off on a hill. Aim for the 2000rpm mark on your rev counter, or just listen out for the engine and make sure it revs more than it usually would when you move off.
- If your car begins to roll because you are on a gradient without realising, firstly stop the car with your brake pedal and then begin the hill start process afterwards.
FINELINES guide to doing a successful hill start
A hill start is another one tricky part of driving that might pop up on your practical exam, it will require a lot of practise and judgement on your part to realise you are on a hill in the first place. Our tutorial should shed some light on how to successfully move off on a hill without rolling backwards, take a look at this end of tutorial guide to performing a driving test standard hill start.
- Upon realising you are on a hill, apply the handbrake (parking brake) and then get the clutch at the biting point. You’ll need a bit more biting point than usual, try to get the front of your car to dip up slightly and listen for your car vibrating at the biting point a bit more than usual.
- Apply some gas because your vehicle will definitely need more power than usual due to you being on a hill (your car should be in 1st gear at this stage). At the point, the biting point is being held still and the gas is applied with the handbrake still on.
- When it is clear for you to continue, put your handbrake down and slowly start bringing up your clutch whilst keeping the gas on. The slower the clutch comes up, the slower the car will move and if you bring your clutch up quickly you can expect your vehicle to stall and your car begin to roll back.