Why Do Pupils Stall?

Pupil’s stalling is something that almost every pupil does at some point, regardless of how experienced they are or how naturally good they are. In fact if we are all honest we all stall from time to time even if we’ve been driving for many years. I remember pulling away from a pupil’s driveway and stalling as he walked away from the car at the end of a lesson some years ago, to which he turned around and asked in hysterical laughter “Did you stall?” Some pupils will stall much more than others and for some it does become a perpetual problem.

Firstly to dispel a popular myth, stalling is not an automatic fail, which is something that a lot of pupils believe. In fact generally speaking it will result in only a minor mark. If you stall on a number of occasions during the test then it could lead to a fail. However by the time a pupil goes to test you’ll find that they have mastered the skill of moving off.

There are a number of reasons why pupils stall:

  • Lack of gas while moving off
  • Rushing the clutch pedal up to the top
  • Moving off under pressure, usually at busy junctions
  • Or a combination of all three

So let’s look at each one in turn:

Lack of gas – I find that many pupils are scared of the gas pedal. The reving noise makes them feel that they are going to shoot off too fast and out of control. Gas is essential to moving away briskly. It also makes bring the clutch up more forgiving. In other words when you move off make sure you have some gas before you get the biting point, that way even if you rush the clutch slightly you are less likely to stall. What’s more at busy junctions it can make it safer to accelerate faster. At some busy junctions you may only have a small window of opportunity in which to pull out and if you lack gas you will only pull out slowly which in itself can put you in danger.

Rushing the clutch – I normally find that pupils who rush the clutch coming up from the biting point to the top do so because they lack gas. Without gas the car will only pull away very slowly. As a result pupils feel compelled to bring the clutch up faster in the belief that they will move off faster, which usually means that pupils will stall. It’s the combination of gas and smoothly bringing the clutch up that will move the car away briskly and smoothly.

Moving off under pressure – At busy junctions like roundabouts where you may have to wait for a while for your gap, traffic may build up behind you. When the gap finally comes pupils feel under immense pressure to move off fast. As a result they rush the clutch more than normal which results in them stalling. In fact even pupils who are good at moving off can stall in such situations. I find that it’s best to master the skill of moving off quickly on a quiet road first before the pupil has to experience the pressure of a busy roundabout. I usually give pupils a demonstration of how to move off quickly. I get them to watch my feet, listen to the sound of the engine and see how quickly I move off. I then let them try for themselves a few times until they get the hang of it.

So practice moving off and remember that practice makes perfect. Don’t forget too that the driver behind you was a learner once. Most drivers are very patient with learners and very forgiving. If they start to rant and rave then more fool them.

Peter Skelton Driving School provide driving lessons in Newbury and the surrounding areas.