Driving uphill in your own vehicle is one thing, but driving uphill in a vehicle that you are not used to is another. Vans, whether your own or a rental, can be daunting to drive due to their increased size and lack of a rear view, not to mention the heavy load you are likely to be transporting. This can even be the case on flat surfaces. Feeling the fear when it comes to driving uphill in your van, no matter how steep, is an emotion shared by many drivers. To help you navigate hills with ease, we have put together a how-to guide, as well as providing answers to two of the most asked questions – and possibly the most feared scenarios.
How to drive up a hill
There are three simple steps that, if put together, will allow you to navigate hills calmly and correctly, no matter the incline.
Step 1: Accelerate in your approach. The more speed you begin the incline with, the more power your van will have. Remember to stay within the speed limit.
Step 2: Stay in a low gear once on the incline. Low gears give you more control and force. Listen to your car – it will tell you if you are in the wrong gear and you should adjust accordingly. (If you change gears, be gentle on the clutch.)
Step 3: Keep your distance. Driving too closely to any cars in front of you could impact the way in which you drive. If quick decisions need to be made, such as navigating a bend or a pothole, following the driver in front too closely could make them feel pressured, possibly resulting in an accident.
Q: How do you do a hill start?
A: If you are pulling away from parked position or pulling away in traffic, the same techniques would apply for a hill start, as your handbrake should be on firmly.
- Firstly, it is important to remain calm. A calm mind will lead to calm actions, allowing you to achieve your hill start with success and ease.
- Press down on the clutch and shift into first gear.
- With your handbrake still on, find your biting point. Do this by pressing down on your accelerator whilst lifting off of the clutch until you feel your car jolt slightly, as though it is ready to move.
- Use your mirrors to check your surrounds are clear, and when you are ready to, slowly lower the handbrake whilst lifting up on the clutch slowly until the van pulls away.
- Continue to lift up on the clutch and press down on the accelerator slowly as you drive to ensure you don’t stall. Once the clutch is released, navigate the hill in the same way as the steps above.
Q: What do I do if I break down on a hill?
A: A common fear when driving on a hill is the risk of stalling, breaking down, or rolling back. A breakdown isn’t something that you ever want to experience, especially not when driving up a hill. However, if you do find yourself in this position, there are steps that you should take.
- Come to a complete stop – you will need to activate your handbrake.
- Once the handbrake is on, press the clutch down and shift into first gear.
- Release the clutch and switch on your hazard lights.
- Observe your surroundings. You will want to check that they are clear so that you can exit the car.
- If possible, locate two heavy items, such as rocks or planks of wood, to place behind your back wheels. Your car shouldn’t roll back when in first gear but on a hill it is important to take extra precautions if possible.
- Place your warning triangle behind your vehicle. On a flat road, we would recommend placing it around 60 paces away from your vehicle, allowing cars enough time to slow down and stop if needed. However, on a hill, you may not have this much space, and as cars won’t need as much time to slow down due to the incline, you should place the triangle a sensible distance away from your car.
- Stand away from your vehicle and the road in a safe location and contact your breakdown service.