Question Topic: Safety margins
On a steep hill, your vehicle will have a tendency to speed up. If you stay in the highest gear the car will also be able to go faster and you won’t benefit from engine braking. The combination of going faster and not engine braking means it will be both harder to stop and more stressful on your vehicle’s brakes. You should use a lower gear in combination with careful use of your brakes to ensure you stay at a safe speed.
Why do you need to choose a low gear?
Lower gears will slow you down quicker and allow you to benefit from engine braking. Without revs, your engine will be resistant to turn. The lower the gear, the more resistance will be created by the engine. When going down hill, this can be beneficial for your brake pads as it reduces the strain they are put under to keep your speed under control on a steep hill. The car will likely jolt if you move down too quickly through the gears. Be sure to use the benefits of engine braking gradually so that you stay in control.
Theory Test Question
Have you tried answering the theory test question: You’re about to go down a steep hill. What should you do to control the speed of your vehicle? Let’s look at each of the potential answers:
Select a low gear and use the brakes carefully
Correct! Using engine braking and your brakes carefully will ensure you keep your speed under control and protect your brakes. This is best practice when it comes to going down a steep hill.
Select a low gear and avoid using the brakes
Wrong! Whilst a lower gear can help to slow you down, it is still important to use the brakes to control your speed. On a steep hill, engine braking alone will be insufficient to keep your speed under control.
Select a high gear and use the brakes carefully
Wrong! This will cause undue strain on your brakes and it will be more difficult to control your speed.
Select a high gear and use the brakes firmly
Wrong! A high gear will allow you to pick up more speed and firm brake use will cause you to stop suddenly. This will be damaging to your brakes, dangerous for other road users, and could cause you to skid.
In section 5 of the official DVSA guide to driving, it states:
When descending a steep hill a lower gear gives more engine braking and control, particularly on a bend.
Section 7 states:
Rule 160 of the Highway Code states: