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How to Drive Downhill

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How to Drive Downhill

Driving up and down hills requires some adjustments to your driving technique in order to execute safely and without any problems. A lot of people relax their driving skills a little which can create some serious issues, so here is a guide on the correct way to drive downhill.

Drive the Car

A rural highway running over some hills through a forest

A lot of people see the hill as a way of powering the car, but this reduces the driver’s control of the vehicle and can put both the driver and any vulnerable people at risk. Stay in gear, and select a lower gear to ensure that you continue to drive the car and maintain control, however don’t select a gear that is too low, so much so that the engine is over-revving. Even in an automatic car, it is sometimes good to select a lower gear for driving downhill. 

Changing Gears

A close up of a manual gear shift

You may find you have to change up a gear or so while driving the car. If this is the case, make sure to bring up the clutch quickly so that you are not rolling for too long without control of the car. As the car should already have a good forward momentum, you should find it difficult to stall while changing gears and you don’t have to focus so much on ‘the bite’ as you would when you are driving uphill. 

Don't Rush

An illuminated highway winding down a hill

As you have more forward momentum due to the gradient of the hill, it will take a greater distance for you to stop your vehicle, and you should ensure that you are well aware of everything happening around you and every potential hazard, and feel in control enough to perform an emergency stop, should you have to do it. 

Braking

A black and white photo of a Porsche producing lots of brake smoke

It is a good idea to use your engine to brake when driving downhill instead of your brakes, although in some residential areas, depending on your vehicle, this can be restricted due to excessive noise. This works as in lower gears the car naturally drives slower, and this increases the life of your brakes for potentially a few extra months as there is less wear and tear and this also reduces the risk of overheating them, although you should always be ready to use your actual brakes, especially at the end of the hill.

Parking

Some cars parked on a steep hill in San Francisco

If you have to park your car on a steep hill, ensure that both the parking brake is on and that you leave the car in gear to stop it from rolling down the hill. Be sure to push the clutch pedal when you turn on the car to stop it from jumping forwards and creating more problems. 

Take a little bit of extra care when tackling steep gradients, and it is general practice to give priority to those who are coming uphill as they have a lot more work to do to maintain control of their vehicle. As long as you maintain control of your car, you should have no problems driving downhill. 

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