How to Prevent Stalling When Learning to Drive

Stalling your engine is a rite of passage when learning to drive, but it can be a bit embarrassing if you struggle to get the hang of it. We’re going to take a closer look at the reasons why you’re stalling your engine, the mechanics behind a stall, and how you can make sure you never stall your car again. 

Reasons Why You Stall Your Car

When you’re learning to drive, mastering the clutch is one of the mountains you must climb before you can hit the road on your own. In any manual car, you must get to know your clutch pedal and find where the biting point is before stalls become a thing of the past. 

The clutch is what connects your engine to the transmission, and you need to disengage it momentarily when you pull away, pull up, or change gear. If you’re not disengaging your clutch properly, the engine spins too slowly and stops. 

The main reasons behind stalling out are lack of practice, jangling nerves, and not being familiar enough with your car. Finding and holding the clutch pedal on the “biting point” won’t feel right until you’ve done it enough times so that it feels natural.

controlling the clutch pedal

The Mechanics of Your Clutch

It’ll probably help you get to grips with your clutch if you think about how it works inside your car. The engine provides the power you need to go down the road, but it’s the transmission that transmits this power to your wheels.

The clutch is where your engine and transmission come together, and you control the friction between them with your foot on the clutch pedal

Simply put, when you push your clutch pedal in, the engine spins but your wheels don’t. When you let the pedal out the clutch plates meet and off you go. 

You control just how much friction there is with your left foot, so if you keep in mind that it’s two spinning plates meeting together, you should be able to control it better.

How clutch works


How to Never Stall Your Car Again

This might sound like a bold claim, but there are a few tricks and techniques you can learn to make stalling your car a distant memory. We mentioned practice already, but unless you’re doing the basics right, it won’t get any easier. 

Proper Footwear

It might not seem important but being able to feel your clutch pedal through your shoes is important. If you try to drive a manual car wearing heavy boots with thick soles or six-inch-high heels, you’re not going to feel the pedal or get the right angle on it to avoid stalling. 

The best shoes to wear when for driving are comfortable, flat shoes or trainers with a thin sole and a good bit of grip. You should be able to feel the pedals under your foot but still be able to put sufficient pressure on them when necessary. 

Good ankle mobility is key to proper clutch action as well, especially if you use a “heel down” technique. Our best advice is to keep a pair of driving shoes in the car so you can avoid driving in winter boots or flip flops in the summer.

Pay Attention

This should already be a no-brainer when you’re driving. Being aware of the road ahead and preparing for your next move is a key skill if you want to avoid stalling out. 

Is the traffic stopping ahead of you? 

Have those traffic lights in the distance turned red? 

What exit are you taking at the roundabout?

These are all questions that will come up in the blink of an eye when you’re a new driver and are all common stalling scenarios. The best way to deal with these awkward driving situations is to slow down. Give yourself more time to think about the road ahead and what you need to do to drive safely. A slow car is always going to be faster than a stalled one, after all. 

Anticipate the potential problems ahead and be ready to press in the clutch or find your biting point when you need it. 

Find Your Biting Point

Finding and holding the biting point takes a bit of juggling with your feet to get right. You need to balance your clutch and accelerator pedals until you feel the clutch plates start to grip and pull your car forward. 

  • Press in your clutch all the way and select first gear
  • Put your foot on the accelerator pedal and give it some light pressure (about 1500 rpm)
  • Keep your accelerator pedal steady and start to lift your foot from the clutch pedal slowly
  • You’ll feel the clutch start to engage and the car will start to move forward
  • Keep both feet steady and let the engine do its thing

Keep practising this until it feels natural. Hill starts are the same principle but will need more accelerator before your car will move away. 

Why Does A Car Stall When It’s Stationary?

A car can stall out when you’ve not even touched the pedals. If this happens, it’s a rather good indication that you have one or more issues with your car. Let’s try to diagnose the problem:

It might not be a problem at all!

A lot of modern cars have an auto stop/start system that works to reduce your emissions and save you fuel, especially when you’re stuck in traffic. If your car feels like it stalls out when you stop at a red light, check your dashboard for an on/off symbol. If you really don’t like the feel of this system, you should be able to turn it off.

engine start stop button

Your car is idling roughly and stalls out

A rough idle is when your RPM counter bounces around when your feet aren’t touching the accelerator. A blocked EGR valve can lead to the wrong fuel/air mixture and stalling on idle, or it could be a defective or clogged up fuel pump that is starving your engine of petrol.

Your car is losing power and stalls on idle

If you notice your car has been losing power and has a rough idle, then stalls out, it could well be the fuel filter. If you haven’t changed it in a while or it has been clogged up because of bad fuel, it can lead to stalling.

A sensor is on the blink

If your check engine light goes on and off intermittently and your car stalls on idle, it could be a problem with one or more of your sensors. If the sensors that control the idle air control valve or mass air flow go wrong, for example, it will stall out. Check your car for fault codes either with a fault code reader or take it to a trusted garage for diagnostic checks.

check engine light

Your engine struggles to start and stalls out

If you find you’re cranking your starter motor a lot before your car starts, and then it stalls after idling, it could be your positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve. Luckily, it’s usually an easy fix and can be swapped out for a new one quickly. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of stalling issues, but they’re some of the most common we’ve found. Armed with this knowledge you can try to fix it yourself or at least point your mechanic in the right direction.

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