How to Stop a Car From Stalling
In this article
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 by 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 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 its 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 power is transferred.
The vehicles’ engine and gearbox can only be connected when they rotate at the same revolutions per minute, or RPM. The rate at which the gearbox rotates is determined by the gear you are in. Higher gears lead 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.
Common driver faults that lead to stalling
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 that 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.
When moving off a 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 gear. Doing so will prevent your vehicle from stalling or the engine struggling.
Releasing the clutch pedal when your vehicle is stationary but in gear
Your 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 a 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 to 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 that allows you to push the clutch pedal down completely.
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.
Note: 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.
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 happen and your vehicle stalls, follow the process outline below
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.
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.