How to avoid stalling a car

Lesson Type
Last updated: 12 Nov 2019

Learning to drive can be a tricky business. As if you didn’t have enough to worry about with trying to master reverse parking; you’ve also just experienced the joys of stalling in front of a queue of traffic. Don’t worry though, getting to grips with a manual transmission is something many learner drivers have to contend with, and it does get easier!

Why do cars stall?

Manual cars stall when the clutch is lifted too quickly, and the clutch plates slam together causing the engine to cut out. Instead, you should bring the clutch up slowly to the biting point, allowing the plates to join together smoothly before you pull away. You can also stall if you try to pull away in the wrong gear.

How to make sure you don’t stall

Clutch control is one of the first things you’ll learn in your driving lessons, but it can be tough to get the hang of. Make sure the vehicle is secured with the handbrake, before selecting first gear. Bring the clutch up slowly to the biting point. You will be able to feel the car dip as you reach the biting point, and will be able to see the bonnet dip slightly too.

Once you’ve reached the biting point, apply a small amount of pressure on the accelerator, before releasing the handbrake. As you begin to move off, slowly release the clutch, and apply more pressure on the accelerator.

If you’re trying to move off on a hill, you’ll have to apply more pressure on the accelerator than you normally would. You’ll also have to master finding the biting point on a hill start to make sure you don’t roll back. Questions surrounding hill starts and rolling back may crop up on your driving theory test.

If you do stall

Most people will experience stalling a car at least once (but probably more) during their driving lessons. Yes, it can be embarrassing if you’re holding up a queue of traffic, but do you really think the people waiting behind you have never stalled their car before?

The most important thing to do is to stay calm. Don’t panic and try to quickly pull away again as you’ll only end up stalling again. Make sure you secure your vehicle before moving off again, doing so safely.

"But people are beeping at me"

Let them beep and gesture at you as much as they want. The best way to deal with these kind of drivers is to ignore them. They can’t go anywhere until you’ve moved off, no matter how much they beep at you.

Getting the hang of clutch control and knowing how not to stall will soon become second nature, although it might not feel like it now. Remember, everyone on the road has been a learner driver once too, and that it’s not just learners who stall either!

Will I fail my driving test if I stall?

Stalling doesn’t result in an automatic fail in your driving test – it depends on how many times you stall, where you stall and how you recover from it. If, for example, you stall when moving off but secure your vehicle and set off safely afterwards, you’re unlikely to fail because of it. If, on the other hand, you stall in a dangerous place or panic after stalling, causing you set off dangerously, it could be marked as a serious or dangerous fault.

If you do stall in your driving test, keep calm. Think about the correct procedure for setting off and give yourself enough time to do it safely and properly. The driving examiner will be looking for you to be able to demonstrate an ability to deal with the situation safely, so don’t automatically assume your test is doomed!