Pulling away off-road

When driving off-road, pulling away on the flat and on slopes without rolling backwards is an essential skill to master. This should become second nature if you’re planning on becoming an accomplished off-road driver as it increases safety and makes success more likely.

Rules of thumb

  • Avoid the handbrake where practical
  • Use the foot brake to secure the vehicle
  • Avoid rolling backwards or coasting

Pulling away in a manual transmission vehicle

  1. Hold the vehicle on the foot brake – this acts on all four wheels and usually has power assistance (unlike the handbrake which tends to operate on the rear wheels only without assistance). If you’re trying to hold the car still on a slippery hill, you’ll need all four wheels secured to reduce the risk of sliding.
  2. Select a suitable gear – higher gears increase traction but you’re more likely to stall the engine.
  3. Release the clutch until the point of bite and hold it – you will notice the revs drop and the gear lever may move slightly.
  4. Gently release the brakes
  5. If the vehicle starts to roll backwards, reapply the brakes
  6. Release the clutch a few additional millimeters
  7. Release the brake gently – if done correctly the vehicle should be held stationery using the clutch alone
  8. If necessary, increase the throttle
  9. Release the clutch progressively and pull away

Please note, this technique will increase wear on the clutch – but this should be expected when driving off-road to increase safety.

Pulling away in an automatic transmission vehicle

  1. Hold the vehicle on the foot brake
  2. Select a suitable gear – higher gears increase traction but you’re more likely to stall the engine.
  3. While holding the brake, increase the throttle slightly. Don’t fight the brakes for too long as this can sometimes lead to overheating of the torque converter.
  4. Gently release the brakes
  5. If the vehicle starts to roll backwards, reapply the brakes
  6. Increase the throttle slightly
  7. Release the brake gently and pull away using sufficient throttle