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Driving up a steep hill using a manual

Preface: I grew up in the suburbs where I learned to drive on a stick. However, I went to college and live in New York City (going on 15 years now), so my experience as a driver is rather limited. Now on to the problem.

I am currently on vacation with friends in Costa Rica. We rented a beautiful house in a small beach town. However, the owners did not advertise that the house is built into the side of a hill. The house is only reachable via a VERY, VERY steep driveway (70-80 per cent incline) which contains several sharp switchbacks. The car we rented is a manual Daihatsu Terios. I'm the only one who knows how to drive stick, thus I am tasked with the problem of getting us up this hill alive.

Opon our arrival at the house it took me five attempts to get to the top of the hill. The engine would stall out every time before I even got around the first curve. I finally made it up by picking up enough speed that I was in second gear by the time I hit the driveway and then advanced into third gear.

Since then, however, I have been unable to get the car up the driveway, almost to the point of disaster. Yesterday the car stalled out halfway up the hill and I could not get it to move forward. It took the help of two locals to do it; one of whom, a mechanic, said the problem was two-fold: The car, advertised as a four-wheel drive, was something less than that; second, the A/C was on. He managed to get the car up the hill in first gear. Is that what I should be doing? Can anyone out there give me some advice on how to get up this hill? I'm tempted to just leave the car at the bottom and hoof it.


  • edited December 2010
    Just keep it in as low a gear as you need. I live in Pittsburgh (you don't go very far around here without going up a hill), and I've NEVER seen a hill that any stick shift wouldn't pull in 1st gear. Find a gear (1st gear if necessary) that will allow the engine to run 2500-3500 RPM at a speed that will allow you to comfortably negotiate the driveway. It will not hurt the engine to rev it a bit. It is really hard on the engine to make it work too hard at an RPM that is too low. A low gear will give you more power at the wheels.
  • edited December 2010
    Leave the car in the lowest gear that will get you up the hill...first gear it seems.
    You claim to be able to drive a stick ?
  • edited December 2010
    Thanks to everyone for the advice. I'll respond again later with an update after I've put it into practice.
  • edited December 2010
    Have you considered leaving the car at the bottom of the driveway and walking?

    I would have done it in first gear.
  • edited December 2010
    1. do not shift out of 1st gear. going up the hill in 1st is better than walking.

    2. do not be afraid of a "racing engine" meaning the motor needs to have some rpm's to be in its power zone. If the car has a tach it should be between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm's when you are on the steepest parts of the hill.

    3. on the switch backs to keep the car speed down and the motor speed up you might have to slip the clutch at times. The key is keeping the motor rpms above 2,500 until you crest the hill.
  • edited December 2010
    You should not be driving while reading the manual,even if you are not going up a hill.
  • edited December 2010
    No wheeled vehicle could make it up a "70%-80% incline." The steepest road in the world is in NZ and has a 19 degree or 35% grade. Keep it in first gear (use low ratio if available on a 4X4) and don't stop until you get to the top.
  • edited December 2010
    If 1st gear is what it takes then do that. I'm not familiar with the Terios but it must be an awfully underpowered vehicle.

    When Daihatsus were sold in the U.S. back in the 80s I drove a Charade and it was pretty anemic.
  • edited December 2010
    Yes the air conditioner robs the motor of power. Turn it off. Know the gear you can climb the hill in..get there upon approach and stay there. It seems like you may be able to do it in second but if not its first. Its almost a math thing. MPH..RPM. Rent yourself a 4x4 and you should be able to crawl up it safe n sound
  • edited December 2010
    Maybe that's the net slope of the incline, but the driveway curves from side to side so a car can climb it?
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