How To Master Hill Starts

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

The dreaded hill start has been the bane of many learner driver’s lives for many years and while they are a key aspect to being able to drive safely, they’re not as bad as you probably expect them to be.

Given how tough it can be when you’re just starting our learning to drive, it’s no surprise that many learners find the prospect of a hill start particularly unpleasant.

Thankfully, help is at hand.

A hill start can be perfected fairly quickly if you practice enough and also take the time to study exactly what happens during a hill start.

Essentially, there are a few key skills that you will need to be comfortable with if you are to master a hill start.

You’re taking the skills learned when you mastered finding the bite and applying them to a scenario where you’re located on an incline.

Therefore, you will need to be on top of your game in the following areas:

Clutch Control:

When you’re performing a hill start, clutch control is arguably the single most important element of it.

Timing:

Timing is crucial and it’s going to be needed in three specific areas.

Clutch control, acceleration and releasing the hand the brake.

Awareness:

With so much going on with the pedals and hand brake, it’s easy to take your attention away from elsewhere, however, with a hill start as much as anything else, being aware of your surrounding is key.

You’ll need to know what’s around you when you use your mirrors prior to pulling off but you will also need to be aware of what may be behind you (e.g. pedestrians crossing behind the car) for when you begin the hill start.

While there may be exceptions, the vast majority of driving tests are likely to feature a hill start, although it’s obviously dependant on the location of your test centre.

Therefore, it’s worth taking the time to practice your hill starts so that you can confidently approach them whenever they arise.

What You Will Learn

This guide is going to take you in to detail about how to master a hill start.

We will break it down so that it’s easy to follow and you will know what to do, what to look for and any other tips and hints which re going to benefit you in learning this skill.

More specifically, you will learn:

How To Perform A Hill Start:

From the very basics to getting the order of actions correct, our step-by-step guide will give you clear and concise direction as to how to master hill starts.

What To Look Out For:

More than with any other manoeuvre, you need to be on your guard and fully observant of your surroundings.

We will tell you why and what to look out for specifically.

What To Do When It’s Not Going Well:

If your hill start does happen to get off to a bad start, we will tell you what to do next.

Our guide will take you through each of the usual sections that you expect to see.

They are:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

  • Park up on the left side of a road with an incline. Apply your hand brake and put the gear stick to neutral.
  • With the clutch pressed down, put the car in to first gear.
  • Next, with the clutch still pressed down, begin to apply the accelerator gradually. Begin building the revs – for a hill start, usually in the region of 2000rpm will be needed.
  • With the revs still building, begin to slowly release the clutch until you find the bite, or biting point.
  • Once you have it, hold it there. Check your mirrors, both sides and reverse. If your car begins rolling back during the hill start, any pedestrian or object behind you may be in danger, so you have to check what is behind you and if there are any pedestrians in your blind spot to your left that may walk out.
  • Signal by turning your right indicator on.
  • Once you’re satisfied it is safe to do so, release your hand brake.
  • Start to build revs further by pressing the accelerator as you slowly remove your foot from the clutch – you will probably need to do this slower than you usually would due to the incline. This should allow you to pull away safely. If your car begins to roll back, apply the hand brake immediately. See ‘Hints and Tips’ below.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

Once you’ve successfully performed a few hill starts, you will become much more confident in doing them.

That said, it’s always good to have some hints and tips.

Two important tips for you are as follows:

If Your Car Begins To Roll Back:

A failed hill start can be very dangerous.

If, when you release the hand brake or the clutch, your car begins to roll back, you should immediately re-apply the hand brake.

This will prevent your car from rolling further.

The moment your examiner feels as though you’re not in control, you will be in trouble.

There is no harm in taking your time and starting the process again.

Practice Finding The Biting Point:

Finding the bite is a core skill of learning to drive and there is nothing to stop you practicing this with the car stationery at home.

So, practice as much as possible, even if it’s on a flat road or surface because the more familiar you are with finding the bite, the easier it will be to master the hill start.

Useful Information

One of the most important aspects of a hill start is the process that you go through in the car when you’re performing it.

The well-known process of ‘Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre’ (also known as the ‘MSM’ technique) is perfect for a hill start.

The mirrors allow you to fully survey the area around the car, at both sides and behind.

You should also check blind spots on both sides of the car.

As we’ve discussed already, you’re awareness is key here – it doesn’t matter how good your hill start is, if you hit something, or somebody, or pull out in to traffic, you’re examiner will fail you.

Signal does exactly what it says – it gives other road users and pedestrians the signal that you’re going to pull away from the side of the road and join the traffic, if there is any.

Finally, perform the manoeuvre.

If you follow the MSM technique, that’s going to stand you in good stead.

Final Thoughts

The key to becoming a master of the hill start is, unsurprisingly, practice.

It’s probably the one manoeuvre that you’re dreading and many drivers will leave it until later in to their driving lessons before they attempt it, however, getting in there early and getting it done is going to give you a huge amount of confidence.

It can also help you if you come across small inclines on junctions during driving lessons.

So, shake off the nerves and get going.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an accomplished driver.

Further Resources