Steep Driveway

I’m hoping that someone can resolve an argument that my husband and I are having. Our house has an exceptionally steep driveway – so steep that we couldn’t get our Toyota Avalon up it without bottoming out at the bottom. We recently traded in our Avalon for a Honda Fit. Because the Fit is so short, it does’t bottom out at the bottom of the driveway and can make it all the way up so it can be parked in the garage. However, it’s got a small engine, and it really struggles, even though we only drive it up in 1st gear. If there are more than two people in the car, the car actually stalls partway up. I think this can’t possibly be good for the engine, and we should just give up and park in the street. My husband thinks it doesn’t hurt the engine, and it’s worth it to keep the car garaged. Any ideas / suggestions?

Stalling indicates to me that it is a situation that is beyond the specification for the car. It’s bad for the whole drivetrain, not just the engine.

I’ll bet that with some practice, you will be able to haul multiple people up the driveway without stalling. Of course, stopping once you reach the garage might be a problem…

So, what could be the impacts to the drivetrain?

Wow. What is the inclination on that driveway? 70 degrees? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a car not being able to make it up an engineered driveway before. Got a pic?

The car makes it up unless there are 3 people or more in the car. In a vehicle as small as the Fit, I guess an extra 100 pounds makes a big difference!

I’ll try to take a picture of the driveway later this week. It truly is the world’s worst driveway.

Is the Fit a manual or an automatic?
Don’t be afraid to give the car more gas to get up the hill.

If you are just letting the car idle its way up the hill, then yes, you are putting an unneeded amount of strain on the drive train of the car. Use the throttle in order to get up the hill in one shot.


It’s a manual, and we’re giving it all the gas it’s got. It’s literally pedal to the floor to get it up the driveway, which makes me nervous about what might happen when we get to the (flat) garage!

Unless your driveway is essentially a cliff, something is wrong. Cars can take steep mountain roads at nearly 2 miles up without having to be floored in first gear. Either something is wrong with your car, or your driveway needs to be re-engineered.

The driveway definitely should be re-engineered, but that’s not going to happen while we’re living in the house. The car does fine on steep mountain roads, although it doesn’t like to go 70 mph up them.

Oh, Boy.


As others have said, this must be one incredibly steep driveway for a production car not to be able to make it up. There are some steep driveways in my neighborhood, actually, but I’ve never heard of a problem like that. Can you measure and post the actual inclination here, please?

In the meantime, the solution is simple. Everyone but the driver should get out and walk up the driveway, as they’d have to do anyway if you parked in the street. Then the car can still end up in the garage.

By the way, I was going to suggest trying to go up the hill in reverse, as for some cars that’s the lowest gear, but it appears that for your car reverse and first have the same gear ratio.

I’m assuming you don’t want to install a winch in the garage or install a turbo or a nitrous system in your car!

You may have your foot on the floor, but stalling indicates you don’t have the rev’s (rpm on the tach) up high enough. The motor has peak power around 3,000 rpm and below 2,000 rpm it can get bogged down and stall.

If you can get some momentum prior to the big hill do so. A little momentum goes a long way. Otherwise you need to use the clutch and watch the tach and find a way to keep the motor rpm’s between 2,500 and 3,000 until you know you have enough speed to make it into the garage.

I don’t think this car is a good “fit” for your situation. It simply doesn’t have a big enough motor with enough torque to move the weight up such a big hill. You are going to need a clutch job sooner than the average motorist and might just have more issues with the trans, and CV joints too.

You might do better with a CRV. You need an SUV that has a “low” range you can shift into which would go up the drive with much less strain. This is also not a good sitation for a manual trans. The Avalon did better because is had a larger motor with an auto trans.

How steep is it? Put a stone on the driveway and walk downhill until the object is at eye level. Put another stone at your feet. Measure the distance from your eyes to the driveway and the distance between the two stones. Post the measurements here and we’ll tell you what the incline is. You can do this in more than one place if the incline varies.

I think the bottoming-out issue is going to preclude getting any momentum. I bet the OP needs to go pretty slowly where the street meets the driveway. (My driveway is the same way.)

Very likely, if there is no momentum then there is going to be a lot of clutch slipping to make it up the drive.

Back it up the driveway. Reverse is a lower gear than 1st, and it won’t stall as quickly in reverse.

You must have a REALLY steep driveway. It is anything like this?

Good grief! I hope that’s in the sun belt somewhere.


Buy An Old “Beater” Jeep Wrangler. You Don’t Even Have To License It. It Will Be A “Tug” To Pull The Fit Up The Hill.

True story: A former boss (and friend), Chico, had a Jeep Scrambler and his wife drove a litle “clown car” that had trouble getting out of its own way.

They had a flat, but loooong driveway and lived where I do in major snow country. Almost every morning during winter when Chico arrived at our place of employment, he had already hooked up a chain and dragged his wife’s car and wife to the road. It took just seconds.

A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.