How to hill start a car with manual or automatic transmission

In this article, we will talk about hill starting a car, exactly how it is done. But let’s take it easy with the beginning. Sometimes climbing the hill or leaving the hill can be difficult even in very good conditions, when the road is dry and the grip is high.

This article is intended for beginner drivers without experience. If you have been driving for a long time it may seem like a simple task for you, but you can still learn new things. First of all, you have to know, at least theoretically, what is or what involves a hill start.

What is a hill start?

As the title suggests, is the process of moving or starting your car when you are on a hill or an inclined road. Because of the gravity, moving the car on a hill requires a little bit more attention, because the car can move backward if the starting is not done properly, and it can be bad if we have a car behind.

How to hill start a manual car?

For starting a manual car on a hill we have 2 possible cases:

1. The first case is to hill start with the help of the handbrake. Here you have to lift the foot of the clutch pedal as slowly as possible and feel the car as if it wants to start moving (in reality the car will not leave with a handbrake on). Then you let go of the handbrake and notice that the car is still in place, and does not go backward.

If you have come this far, everything is perfect, now comes the easy part, you just have to gradually raise the clutch pedal and accelerate slightly until the car starts to leave. If the car has a diesel engine, the vibration felt is higher than petrol engines, at that time you know you have to accelerate.

If the hill has a higher inclination, then you will need to accelerate a bit more when you feel the car wants to start moving. For petrol engines, you have to accelerate somewhere at about 1500 rpm, because petrol engines have the ideal torque at a higher RPM.

2. The second case is the hill start by pressing the brake pedal. Here you have to raise the clutch pedal as much until you reach the moment of balance (when you take the foot off the brake and the car does not go forward or backward).

When you reach the moment of balance you can take your foot off the brake pedal and accelerate slightly as you gradually release the clutch pedal. 

Try to focus when you want to start the car from a hill, do not try to make the above move suddenly, because you will not concentrate enough and you will be more likely to make mistakes. You have to be focused and do these movements calmly.

How to hill start an automatic car?

Just like in the manual car examples, here are two methods as well. 

1. The first method is the traditional way. Just push the brake pedal and hold it with your left foot, accelerate with your right foot until you feel that the car wants to move and then release the brake pedal. On automatic transmission is simpler because you have no clutch pedal to worry about.

1. The second method is where the car has a “hill assist” system that we will talk about a little later. Well, in this case, it is quite simple, take your foot off the brake pedal and the car will start moving on its own, or depending on inclination will not move but still support the car.

If you are on a slope then things are a little different. You need to have your left foot on the brake pedal and with the right one to accelerate slightly until you feel that the car tends to go forward after that, you release the brake. Or, if you have the necessary experience, you can release the brake quickly and help the engine by accelerating fast.

What is the car hill assist system?

Let’s talk about the “hill assist” system, it can also be called “the car holder on a hill”, the idea of the operation is the same.

What is this system and how can it help us? The hill assist system or “hill start assist” prevents the car from moving backward when it is on a hill, thus helping to move from the ground with inclination conditions of over 3%. Basically, the system simulates a car movement with the handbrake on, preventing the car from going back when it is stationary on a hill.

This system uses brakes until the clutch reaches the coupling point, and it is controlled by the ABS / ESP hydraulic unit, more precisely when the driver presses the brake to stop the car, the system automatically maintains the braking force on all 4 wheels after the driver lifts the foot off the brake pedal.

Usually, the system stays “engaged” for a few seconds after you lift the foot off the pedals, and on the cars with electronic handbrake, the handbrake is automatically engaged, until the car moves forward by pressing acceleration pedal.

Auto hold vs hill assist

In the more advanced versions “auto hold” is the same system only for the automatic transmissions, so that the car does not start moving at the traffic light and the driver does not have to stand with his foot on the brake permanently or change the gear in idle position.

How can we hill start easy?

How do we practice leaving the hill? It would be best to look for a place with low traffic in which there is an inclined road so as not to confuse or disturb other traffic participants.

  • After stopping on a hill, engage the gear in the first position, gently lift the left foot off the clutch until you feel the car start to shake slightly and release the brake by moving your right foot on the acceleration pedal.
  • If the car is stationary on the hill, lift the foot off the clutch pedal (about 1-2 mm above the point where it “engaged”) until you feel it begins to move. After the car starts moving, press the clutch pedal again so the car stops and moves easily backward, at this time without braking, only from the clutch, try to stop and stabilize the car. Repeat this operation several times until you get used to it.
  • Try to do this operation, which after a while will seem simple to you, without keeping the engine at high RPM, working smoothly with the clutch pedal to stop the engine and the most important thing is to perform this exercise only if you do not have another car in the back.
  • It is preferable to repeat in a very low traffic area or if a car is present, do not panic, press the foot brake, signal properly and wait for that car to pass you, after which you can continue the exercise. Patience is everything. 🙂

Remember! These movements are done because, in this situation, gravity plays an important role in starting the car. The maneuvers themselves are not hard, just that they require a little attention and training until you get used to them. On a manual car, you just have to find that balance between clutch and brake, that balance is when the car stays still, otherwise, it is a simple departure.


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