Learning how to drive up and downhill isn’t the same as driving on flat ground. Understanding the differences is important if you want to make sure you don’t get pushed or pulled into unsafe positions.

Where should you practise this?

Start on a quiet street with a gentle slope. When you get more confident, move on to a steeper hill for more practice.

Driving uphill

  • You’ll need to use more accelerator to keep at a constant speed than you would when driving on the flat.

Driving downhill

  • You’ll need to brake sooner and harder than you would on the flat when you want to come to a stop.
  • On really steep hills you may need to use a lower gear (‘L’, ‘1’ or ‘2’ on older automatic gear shifts).

Parking on hills

  • Angle your front wheels towards the kerb. Facing downhill this means turning the steering wheel to the left, or facing uphill to the right.

Doing a hill start facing uphill

Follow these steps when starting uphill:

  1. Make sure that your car is in Drive.
  2. Pull the handbrake up a bit and press the release button.
  3. Hold the handbrake up so it is still engaged.
  4. Push down on the accelerator a little. You should feel the car pulling a bit.
  5. Gently release the handbrake. If you start to roll back, pull up the handbrake again and use the foot pedals to find the right level of control.
  6. When you’ve got that steady control, indicate, check your mirrors and look over your shoulder.
  7. Is it clear? If it is, smoothly push down on the accelerator and pull away.

A couple of extra tips: 

  • On many automatics the car will hold position while you move your foot from the brake to the accelerator.
  • If your indicator is on the left side of the steering wheel, indicate before you use the handbrake. This leaves your left hand free to control the handbrake as you take off.
  • Some modern automatic cars have a button or foot-operated parking brake instead of a handbrake. If you’re driving one of these cars you don’t have to worry about using the handbrake. Just move your foot straight from the footbrake to the accelerator.

Doing a hill start facing downhill

Hill starts are easier when facing downhill than uphill, as gravity is working with you. It’s still a hill start however, and there are some specific steps to follow:

  1. Press down on the footbrake.
  2. Make sure the car is in Drive.
  3. Gently release the handbrake or parking brake.
  4. Indicate right (if you’re pulling out from the kerb), check your mirrors and look over your shoulder.
  5. Is it clear? If it is, use as much or as little accelerator as you need to move at a safe speed. It will depend on the steepness of the hill and your car.

Are you test ready?


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