How to Stop a Car From Stalling

If you’re just starting our learning to drive, your car stalling unexpectedly, can be quite a frightening experience. Many learner drivers dread their initial driving lessons because of this, however it is a very common phenomenon.

Everyone who has learnt to drive in a manual vehicle, has at one point stalled the car. It is part and parcel of learning to drive and although it can be embarrassing and frustrating, stalling a car is nothing to be worried about. There are clear and easy remedies to the issue and the driving tips in this article, should help prevent you stalling your car in the future

Quick Navigation: How to Stop a Car From Stalling

The clutch pedal
Why do cars stall
What should you do if your car stalls
How to stop stalling the car

Why do cars stall?

The first step to preventing your car from stalling, is to understand why cars stall in the first place. Broadly speaking, there are two sets of reasons why a car might stall. The first is due to mistakes made be the driver, these are also known as driver faults. The second is due to mechanical issues with the vehicle itself.

The clutch pedal

To understand how driver faults can lead to the vehicle stalling, you need to understand how the clutch works in a manual car. The clutch is a mechanism in the car that connects the vehicle’s engine to it’s gearbox and wheels. The mechanism connects the engine to the gearbox through two clutch plates. When the clutch pedal is up, the plates are engaged – i.e the plates come together – and power can be transferred from the engine to the vehicles’ wheels. When the clutch pedal is pushed down, the plates disengage – i.e the plates separate – and no powers is transferred.

Image: Image of clutch pedal engaged and disengaged

Callout: Everything you need to know about the clutch pedal

The vehicles’ engine and gearbox can only be connected when they rotate as the same revolutions per minute, or RPM. The rate at which the gearbox rotates, is determined by the gear you are in. Higher gears leads to a higher RPM. In most cases, your vehicle will stall if you engage the clutch pedal, when the vehicles’ engine speed and gearbox speed do not match. Simply put, you need to be travelling at the correct speed, for your choice of gear.

Driver Faults That Can Cause a Car to Stall

Moving off in the wrong gear

A common scenario that leads to a vehicle stalling is moving off in the wrong gear. If you try to move off in a gear other than first gear, there is a high chance that your car will stall. The reason for this is that the gearbox and engine are not rotating at the same speed. In this example, the gearbox is rotating faster than the engine, as you have selected a gear which does not match your current speed. The gearbox and engine need to rotate at the same speed, for the clutch plates to engage, which allows for the transfer of power and the vehicle to move.

Shaded Box Callout: When moving off downhill slope, it is perfectly acceptable to move off in second gear. When moving off downhill, gravity will help you pick up speed faster than you otherwise would.

Choosing the wrong gear for your current speed

When driving and changing up in gears, it is important to select a gear that matches the speed your vehicle is travelling at. If you select a gear that does not match your current speed, your vehicle could stall. If you are travelling at 15 mph for example and you select fourth gear, your vehicle could stall as the gearbox and engine are not rotating at the same speed. When in fourth gear, the gearbox rotates faster than the engine does when the vehicle travels at 15 mph.

You can avoid stalling when changing up in gears, by increasing your speed before you select the higher gear. When you intend to select a higher gear, accelerate to the top speed for the gear you are currently in, before selecting the higher gea. Doing so will prevent your vehicle from stalling or the engine struggling.

Callout: Read This Article to Learn When to Change Gears

Releasing the clutch pedal when your vehicle is stationary but in gear

You vehicle will stall if you raise the clutch pedal up when the vehicle is stationary and in gear. This tends to happen when waiting at traffic lights, while travelling in slow moving traffic and when idle on the side of the road.

You can prevent this from happening by selecting neutral and applying the handbrake, when stationary with the engine running.

Stopping without pushing the clutch pedal down

A common question asked by learner drivers is, why does car stall when slowing down? There is a simple answer to this and again it is to do with the clutch pedal. To avoid stalling when slowing down, push the clutch pedal down completely, just before your vehicle becomes stationary. Failure to do so will result in the car stalling. Learner drivers during their initial driving lessons often forget to push the clutch pedal down when coming a stop and this leads to the engine cutting out..

When travelling under 10 mph, push the clutch pedal down first, before pressing the brake pedal to bring the car to a stop. When travelling above 10 mph, gently press the brake pedal to slow the vehicle down first, before pushing the clutch pedal down and braking to come to a stop.

Releasing the clutch pedal too quickly when moving off

Driving is all about timing and to get your vehicle to react in the manner you desire, you need to do things at the right time. To move off smoothly from a stationary position and avoid stalling, you need to release the clutch pedal at just the right time. If you bring the clutch pedal up too quickly, your car will ‘bunny hop’ or stall’, as there won’t be enough power to match the selected gear.

How to stop a car from stalling when moving off

Moving off smoothly and without stalling, is a challenge for many new learner drivers. Coordinating your hands and feet to move the car takes practice and during the first few attempts,you are very likely to stall the vehicle. You can prevent your vehicle from stalling or bunny hopping when you move off, by following the step by step instructions below;

Step 1: Push the clutch pedal down completely

A common reason why your vehicle might stall when you move off is the initial position of the clutch pedal. If the clutch pedal is too high, you run the risk of it being fully engaged, before enough power has been transferred from the engine to the gearbox and wheels. To avoid this, ensure your seat is positioned in a way which allows you to push the clutch pedal down completely.

Image: Show clutch pedal pushed down completely

Callout: Bonus Tip: Keeping your heel on the floor will improve your control of the clutch pedal. A significant amount of stalls are caused by the clutch pedal rising too quickly and you can prevent this from happening, by adjusting the position of your foot on the pedal.To do so, keep the base of your heel on the floor and operate the pedal with the top half of your foot.

Step 2: Set the gas

Once the clutch pedal is pushed down completely, gently press the gas pedal till the rev counter rises between 1000 and 2000 RPM. Revving the engine in this way is known as setting the gas. Setting the gas ensures the gearbox and engine are rotating at the same speed, which helps the vehicle move off smoothly without stalling.

Image: Show rev counter between 1000 and 2000 RPM

Callout: Did you know: If you are driving a newer diesel engined vehicle, you do not have to set the gas before moving off. In new diesel powered vehicles, raising the clutch pedal slowly when moving off will suffice. Using the same technique on an older petrol powered vehicle however, will often lead to the car stalling.

Step 3: Find the vehicle’s biting point

Once you have set the gas, the next step in the process is to find your vehicle’s biting point. The biting point is the point at which the clutch engages and a connection is established between the drive wheels and the engine. At this point, power is transferred between the two and the vehicle is ready to move.

Step 4: Release the Handbrake

With the vehicle ready to move, look all around your vehicle to ensure it is safe, before releasing the handbrake. Once the handbrake is down, keep both your feet still without varying the degree of pressure on either the gas or clutch pedal. Once the vehicle is at walking pace, gradually release the clutch pedal and apply more gas as necessary. Keeping your feet stead will help prevent the car from stalling or bunny hopping as you move off.

Image: Show movement of handbrake being released

What Should You do if Your Cars Stalls

Even the very best drivers have stalled their vehicle at some point in time. It is a normal part of learning to drive and is not something to worry about, even if you find your car stalling quite often. If the unfortunate does happens and your vehicle stalls, follow the process outline below

Don’t Panic: Easier said than done we know, we’ve stalled in the past, but it is important not to panic if your vehicle does stop unexpectedly. Try not to focus on the reaction or behaviour of other road users around you, as this can increase your anxiety and lead to further mistakes.

Secure the vehicle: It is important to secure the vehicle before restarting the engine. Irrespective of the time of day, location or road situation, securing the vehicle is vitally important. Restarting the engine while the vehicle is in gear is dangerous, as the vehicle could lurch forward, endangering other vehicles or pedestrians in the immediate area.
To secure the vehicle, clutch down, select neutral and apply the handbrake. Once the vehicle is secure, you can safely restart the engine.

Observe: Before moving off, ensure you observe all around your vehicle, looking in each mirror and checking both blind spots. You must make sure it is safe to proceed before you move off again. If you get flustered, panic and move off without making sure it is safe, you could end up causing an accident or collision.

Depending on the location and road situation, if you respond in the correct manner, stalling in itself is generally not a major issue. Your reaction to the fact is probably more important. It can be quite a nerve wracking situation for Inexperienced drivers, however if you remember the steps outlined above, it should be something that is easy to fix.