Tag Archives: hills

Hill Start Assist, Part Deux

It's half past four and I'm shifting gear.

It’s half past four and I’m shifting gear.

I wrote a post a while ago about hill start assist. I still stand by the fact that it’s nice, but not really all that useful for an automatic transmission. I now have a car with hill start assist, but it’s a stick-shift, and I have mixed feelings about it.

The hill start assist function is engaged if the car’s computer detects that it is on a hill and the brake pedal is pressed. As soon as I lift my foot off the brake, the computer will hold the brakes for up to two seconds or until I press on the accelerator. It is basically an electronic version of the old hold-the-handbrake-on-a-hill crutch.

I appreciate the feature on steep hills, but it is the most frustrating when parallel parking on a hill. Not that it happens often, but it is bothersome when it happens. Parallel parking requires slow speeds, which is only possible by slipping the clutch slowly without gas. With hill start assist, it makes you either wait until it disengages or you tap the gas with your foot off the brake. In both cases you have to be quick with the clutch to make sure it’s not going to roll into the car parked extremely close to you (because you have to have your foot off the brake to disengage the feature). You also have to make sure you don’t stall and cause it to roll into the other car. Applying the brake just engages the hill start assist again so you’re back at square one. ARGH!!!

It would be nice to have a button to enable hill start assist with the feature off by default. If I was to teach someone to drive stick I would figure out how to turn off the feature or get a different car without hill start assist to teach driving stick.

Hill Start Assist

It’s a fkn automatic transmission; hill start assist is utterly useless unless you have one leg. If it was a manual transmission I could see this being useful, but not in an automatic transmission. The reason being a manual transmission requires skill to manipulate three pedals with two feet in tandem. You must press in the clutch with your left foot, take your right foot off the brake, and move your right foot to the gas. In the time you move your foot off the brake to the gas you must also release the clutch to get the car moving. With your foot off the brake and the clutch disengaged, the car will roll back. Thus a hill-assist mechanism is useful for one inexperienced with a manual transmission*.

For an automatic, there are two pedals: a brake and gas. The number of pedals matches the number of legs a normal person has. If this person has half a brain, then this person doesn’t need hill start assist. You come to a complete stop at the top of the hill and apply the brakes with right foot. Then use left foot to hold the brake pedal while stopped and waiting. When it is time to go, apply gas slightly with right foot and gently release left foot off the brake pedal. Simple and effective. Like we need more electronic nannies in our cars for something as trivial as coming off a stop at the top of a hill. Learn to use a car people!

* There are ways to get around hill starts on a manual without hill-assist. One involves using the handbrake (if you’re not driving a car with foot-pedal parking brake): set the handbrake at the top of the hill and when it’s time to go slowly release the handbrake and manipulate the pedals like a normal start. The other method involves a trickier pedal manipulation where you slowly release the clutch to its friction point before releasing the brake and moving to the gas pedal.