Handbrakes can be used for more than parking a car and making handbrake turns. A hill start is a handy method for getting a manual transmission (stickshift) car up a steep hill. Hill starts involve use of the handbrake to hold the car in place while the driver modulates the clutch and accelerator to provide traction.

Cars in neutral (i.e. not engaged in gear) or with clutch disengaged will roll on any incline. A car can only be moved forward by "slipping" the clutch; that is, finding the friction (bite) point on the clutch that engages forward movement to overcome the force of gravity. Automatics slip the "clutch" for you through the torque converter. A stickshift driver might choose to continuously slip the clutch on a sharp grade, but this technique can lead to premature clutch wear. Slipping the clutch on steep hills can result in the car rolling downhill and hitting a car behind. Using the handbrake on hills secures the car so the driver can focus on moving the car forward without rolling back.

First, stop on a steep grade. Put the car in neutral while holding the foot brake down. Hold the foot brake while securing the hand brake (pull it all the way up) and lock the brake. When ready to go, slip the car into 1st gear, slipping the clutch to find the right amount of forward momentum. When that's found, release the handbrake in a controlled manner so that the car edges forward as the brake is let down. Try not to "pop" the handbrake while modulating the clutch. Accelerate normally when on your way. This technique requires practice, so make sure you just find a few nice steep hills and go for it. I don't use this technique on all hills. Cars are different with varying amounts of torque (pulling power), so each driver has to make up his/her mind which hills are handbrake hills and which aren't. Some drivers may discourage hill starts. "A true driver can quickly heel and toe their way up any hill." Whatever. Using a handbrake on hills avoids rolling, saves the legs and a clutch job, and makes driving in hill country pleasurable rather than dreadful.

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