Tips for driving uphill 

Driving uphill can be a little daunting if you’ve not spent a lot of time on the roads or are in an unfamiliar vehicle. There are lots of little things that you can do to make driving up steep roads a doddle. 

Use a low gear 

Keeping your car in a low gear is a must when driving uphill. It will reduce your speed but give you more power to achieve the climb. Listen to what the car is telling you, as it will be reasonably clear if you’re in the wrong gear for the road. If it feels and sounds like it is struggling, drop it down another gear. 

Accelerate as you approach 

You can usually see a steep incline coming on the road. Steadily increase your speed as you approach, but don’t tip over the legal limit for the road you’re on! 

Having a bit of a speed boost on your side will help you get up the hill as you’re changing down through the gears. Make sure it’s a smooth increase though, as a hard jab on the accelerator could cause you to skid on slippery road surfaces. 

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road for driving uphill to a mountain top

Drop your gears in you start to lose speed

If you notice a real drop off in your speed, lower your gears again. Third gear is usually alright for a moderate hill, but you’ll be able to hear the car start to whine if the incline gets steeper. To protect against stalling or overheating, drop down into second if the engine noise increases. 

If your speed drops below 10mph on the hill, you’ll want to drop into first gear until you’ve picked up a bit of speed again. 

Gentle on the clutch 

As your changing gears, be really gentle with your feet. Ease off the clutch as you squeeze down on the accelerator again. You’ll need to balance your revs with your road speed and don’t want to put your car under any more strain than necessary. 

Shift down for tight corners 

Hilly roads often come with lots of tight corners too. Give your car the easiest possible ride and shift down as you come into a tight bend to maintain your power and keep travelling smoothly through the turn. 

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mountain road at sunset with lots of sharp turns

Leave plenty of space

You’ll want to leave lots of space between you and the car in front. Allow a distance of about 5 seconds between your vehicles on moderate hills, and ramp that up to 10 seconds distance on steep inclines. 

Leaving this distance is really helpful if you need to react to changes in circumstances on the road. The vehicle in front may stall or slow right down and you need to allow yourself the time to break or get out of the way. 

Upshift whenever possible 

If you are gaining speed on the incline, shift into a higher gear as it will give you better fuel economy. Generally, you won’t be continually climbing on a hilly road, they often flatten out at intervals so you can pick up a little more speed and take a higher gear.

Keep the air con off 

Keeping the air conditioning off can help you keep the engine cool and prevent overheating. Driving uphill is a lot of effort for your engine, so anything you can do to reduce the pressure on it is a good thing on a hill. 

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man driving uphill and using his gears carefully

Lower your speed at the top 

Once you reach the top of the hill, lower your speed. As you begin your descent, the vehicle will naturally pick up speed and you don’t want to accidentally tip over the legal limit for the road.
It can also be hard to see over the crest of a hill, so easing off a little will give you more time to react to any hazards. There might be a hidden vehicle or cyclist just over the peak that you haven’t been able to see on your ascent. 

Driving uphill in the snow

Driving uphill in the snow can be very daunting for drivers no matter how experienced they are. If you find yourself having to climb a hill in snowy conditions, keep calm and stay focused. When approaching the hill, try to gather a bit of speed so you're not having to accelerate so much as you climb. When you're ascending, maintain a steady speed as much as possible to give your tyres the best possible grip.

If you do have to break or accelerate when driving uphill in the snow, make sure you do it steadily to avoid a skid. Make sure there's always lots of room between you and the vehicle on the road in front to give you plenty of time to react. If you do find yourself in a skid, steer into it and don't be tempted to stomp on the break. 

Take a look at our other winter driving tips here

We hope these tips have given you a little more confidence when driving uphill. If you’re planning a journey and want to have the perfect car to support a trickier terrain than you’re used to, please get in touch. Our experts can match you with the most suitable vehicle for your trip. 

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