Post by Vir Campestris Post by Tim+
Every car with an electric handbrake that I’ve driven in the last 10 years
has known. Mind you, these all had an “auto-hold” feature. I guess your
car predates this technology.
I stopped on a hill in Tenerife in a rental with an electric handbrake.
The car rolled a bit, and it wound the brake on hard. So far so good.
The lights went green, and I started. Except the brake was on so hard I
stalled the engine, and dipped the clutch.
_Then_ it released the handbrake...
I would never trust an electric handbrake or a hill-start assist manual
handbrake. I like a brake that I can apply and release instantaneously at
the same point as I apply enough power and let the clutch start to bite.
Hill starts are one of those three-limbed control issues which is hard to
describe to a learner, but once learned it's instinctive. I learned on my
mum's Renault 6 which had the handbrake as an umbrella handle under the
dashboard, and in warm weather then cable stretched a bit and the lever
reached the upper limit of its end-stop before the cable was tight enough.
On most gradients it was not a problem, but there was one steep uphill at
traffic lights where it may not be strong enough to hold the car so I became
adept at holding the car with enough engine and with the clutch rubbing just
enough to counteract the car's tendency to roll backwards. But I suggested
that she got the garage to tighten the cable a bit so the handbrake actually
worked in all weathers and on all gradients. I still leave the car in gear
(first if facing uphill, reverse if facing downhill) in case the handbrake
creeps. The direction is important: you don't want the starter motor to
propel the car *down* the hill if you forget to press the clutch when you
start the engine; uphill is harder so there's less chance of hitting the car
in front or behind. Mind you, I got into the habit of always waggling the
gear lever before starting the engine or before letting the clutch up after
stopping, to prove to myself that it's in neutral.
Your story about stalling at lights reminds me of a very embarrassing
experience I once had. I was lead car, stopped at lights on an uphill
gradient. Handbrake on. Into neutral. Lights went red+amber so I put the car
in gear and started to let the clutch up. Suddenly the car lurched forwards
and stalled - in gear. The clutch actuator mechanism had failed, letting the
clutch in very quickly. And the weight of the car, acting through the wheels
and gearbox, prevented me putting the car into neutral - the lever wouldn't
shift. Several guys got out and tried to push my car uphill enough to
release the tension on the selector mechanism, but the gradient was too
steep. And at a quick test, the starter motor wasn't strong enough to propel
the car clear of the lights.
No-one could get past. I felt very unpopular. Luckily, after working the
pedal up and down, eventually the mechanism engaged with the clutch and
released it. Finally I could put the car in neutral and roll back to the
side of the road - once the cars behind had reversed a bit. There was a long
queue of cars behind me by then :-(