Driving on a flat surface does not put excess stress on your vehicle’s engine, but, traveling up steep inclines can lead to an overworked engine. However, there are a few techniques you can follow to lessen the stress on your engine and climb inclines smoothly while maintaining relatively low Revolutions Per Minute (RPMs).

Whether your vehicle has a manual or automatic transmission, it is best that you keep the following driving tips and methods in mind when trying to tackle inclines and hills.

Method 1 of 3: Drive an automatic transmission vehicle on a hill

In comparison to vehicles with a manual transmission, vehicles that contain an automatic transmission have an easier time of tackling hills. The transmission in an automatic vehicle naturally switches to a lower gear with lower RPMs once you reach a certain low speed. Additionally, you can take certain measures to make driving up hills easier on your car's engine and transmission.

Step 1: Use the right drive gears. While going uphill, use the D1, D2, or D3 gears to maintain higher RPMs and give your vehicle more climbing power and speed.

  • Note: Most automatic vehicles have at least a D1 and D2 gear, while some models also have a D3 gear.

Method 2 of 3: Drive a manual transmission vehicle on a hill

Driving a vehicle with a manual transmission up an incline is a little different from driving a car with an automatic transmission up an incline. Unlike an automatic transmission, you can shift a manual transmission into a lower gear for higher RPMs, if needed.

Step 1: Gather speed as you approach the incline. Try to have enough forward momentum to get part way, or even all the way, up the hill before downshifting into a lower gear to maintain that power.

Ideally, you should approach the incline in fourth or fifth gear, while accelerating the car at about 80 percent power.

  • Warning: Use caution when climbing a hill and ensure that you do not gather too much speed. Keep in mind any sharp turns in the road and reduce the amount of acceleration you give the vehicle as you approach. This is especially important if you are unfamiliar with the road you are driving.

Step 2: Downshift if necessary. If you notice that your engine is struggling to stay at its current speed, shift into a lower gear.

This should increase the RPMs as the engine cycles through the lower gear, adding power to your momentum.

On really steep hills, you might need to downshift through consecutively lower gears until you find one where the vehicle maintains the necessary momentum to crest the hill.

Step 3: Upshift to save on gas. If you notice your car gaining momentum on its uphill climb, shift to a higher gear for better fuel economy.

You may need to do this on hills that flatten out before climbing again.

Step 4: Downshift in tight turns. You can also downshift if you come upon any sharp turns while climbing an incline.

This allows you to maintain power and momentum as you make your way through the turn.

Method 3 of 3: Start and stop a manual transmission vehicle on a hill

Climbing an incline usually does not present a problem unless you have to stop at some point in your ascent.While driving uphill in a vehicle with a manual transmission, it takes some skill to start and stop your car on an incline.

You can use some different options when stopping or starting on an incline, including using the handbrake, the heel-toe method or by switching from holding down the clutch to accelerating once the clutch grabs hold.

Step 1: Starting on a hill. When you are parked on a hill and need to get going again, follow these steps to start your vehicle and continue driving.

With the handbrake on, press in the clutch pedal and shift into first gear. Give the vehicle some gas until it is at 1500 RPMs and let off the clutch pedal slightly until it begins to go into gear.

Check to make sure the way is clear, using a signal if necessary, and slowly release the handbrake, while giving the vehicle more gas and letting off of the clutch pedal completely.

Keep in mind that the amount of gas you need to give the car depends in large part on the incline of the hill, with steeper inclines generally requiring you to give the vehicle more gas.

  • Note: Make sure to set the handbrake in your vehicle when parking on a hill.

  • Tip: Turn your front wheel away from the curb when parked pointing uphill and turned toward the curb if facing downhill. In this way, the car should roll get stopped by the curb if your handbrake disengages.

Knowing how to negotiate hills in your vehicle can keep you safe and also prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle's engine and transmission. If you have problems with your vehicle's transmission or clutch, you can ask one of the certified mechanics at YourMechanic to fix your vehicle for you.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Drive Uphill and was authored by Cheryl Knight.


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