Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

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blauenlanze
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Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by blauenlanze » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:24 am

I haven't posted on here in forever (too much school I guess) but I recently got a 2001 Honda Prelude SH 5-speed (woohoo!) so I'm driving manual for real.

Anyway, I'm having some questions as I get into stick shifting. First (geared toward people with Hondas and Honda-like cars), what's a general good launching RPM for the steady gas method? I usually tried about 1.5K or a little lower, but I noticed the other owner did as high as 2K, which sounded like it was revving the engine up a lot.

2, for hill launches, especially steep hills, it seems like there's not enough torque to go from handbrake up to handbrake down and moving. Maybe I keep thinking that I need to launch faster after i put the handbrake away to avoid rolling back so I rush it and stall more, but other times I end up really revving it out to avoid stalling (that's what I've been doing on hills, but it isn't good for the clutch on launches). How should I keep the revs/power down to a reasonable level? I ask that because of the next story...

Today I was driving in San Francisco up a pretty steep street in stop-and-go before a stop sign (yeah, annoying) and I think I panicked at one point and over-revved a launch badly, because I could smell burning clutch and it felt like it wasn't engaging properly even when I lifted my foot out all the way (car wasn't going up the hill). After the passengers got out and I tried again it was fine but it still seemed to be engaging strangely and the inside smelled pretty bad. Did I do any lasting harm or glaze the clutch or anything? How much of this (ab)use does it usually take before hurting the clutch
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by potownrob » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:54 am

blauenlanze wrote:I haven't posted on here in forever (too much school I guess) but I recently got a 2001 Honda Prelude SH 5-speed (woohoo!) so I'm driving manual for real.
welcome back and nice car!!
Anyway, I'm having some questions as I get into stick shifting. First (geared toward people with Hondas and Honda-like cars), what's a general good launching RPM for the steady gas method? I usually tried about 1.5K or a little lower, but I noticed the other owner did as high as 2K, which sounded like it was revving the engine up a lot.
not sure what exactly steady gas means (i knew how to launch before joining this forum) but i'd imagine somewhere around 1k to 1500 rpms is good. eventually, you should be able to launch at 1k easily unless your car is messed up. 2k is way too much, IMO at least.
2, for hill launches, especially steep hills, it seems like there's not enough torque to go from handbrake up to handbrake down and moving. Maybe I keep thinking that I need to launch faster after i put the handbrake away to avoid rolling back so I rush it and stall more, but how should I avoid revving it out to avoid stalling (that's what I've been doing on hills, but it isn't good for the clutch on launches).
you should be launching while you're letting down the ebrake. you will get all the movements down quicker with more practice. i recommend trying to find some (at least relatively) abandoned area with hills or some sort of incline at least to practice hill launches without being under pressure. after driving manual for a few years, i was able to hill launch with 1k rpms without the ebrake without any drama - it's all about timing and pedal control (IMO) which will take time to get down. my first few years of shifting i wasn't confident enough to launch on hills without getting nervous and adding a lot of gas. it wasn't until i came to the realization (or was told - i forget which it was) that hills aren't much different from flat surfaces - you can usually launch with the same amount of gas and in the same way - but that way just needs to be quick enough to overcome the inertia of rolling down the hill. granted, i've never driven in san francisco or on hills anything like those, but i doubt it's far off and i could probably launch on a hill there on the first try without stalling out at least.
Also today I was driving in San Francisco up a pretty steep street in stop-and-go before a stop sign (yeah, annoying) and I think I panicked at one point and over-revved a launch badly, because I could smell burning clutch and it felt like it wasn't engaging properly even when I lifted my foot out all the way (car wasn't going up the hill). After the passengers got out and I tried again it was fine but it still seemed to be engaging strangely and the inside smelled pretty bad. Did I do any lasting harm or glaze the clutch or anything? How much of this (ab)use does it usually take before hurting the clutch
unless the clutch was worn out to begin with, i doubt you did any real permanent damage to it. most people who come on here saying they think they ruined their clutch come back the next day saying it's back to normal. it would take a lot of abuse or someone purposefully (or very cluelessly) burning the clutch to ruin a clutch quickly.
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by theholycow » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:06 am

Have you tried NOT using the handbrake? It sounds like you have the problem with handbrake launches that I had when I was starting out, where the handbrake was just one more variable to consider, one more movement to coordinate, and essentially a distraction. You could heel-toe, or you could just let the clutch hold the car for a moment while you change from brake to accelerator...it's the same clutch wear as letting the clutch hold the car while you release the handbrake anyway.
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by Shadow » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:04 am

blauenlanze wrote:
Anyway, I'm having some questions as I get into stick shifting. First (geared toward people with Hondas and Honda-like cars), what's a general good launching RPM for the steady gas method? I usually tried about 1.5K or a little lower, but I noticed the other owner did as high as 2K, which sounded like it was revving the engine up a lot.
Are you talking about regular everyday driving here? I'm asking because sometimes people refer to "launching" as a way to get maximum acceleration out of the car (like when racing, for example) instead of a normal street driving. If you are talking about regular driving, you should be able to launch without revving the engine to any kind of "steady" RPM. In other words, launch from idle RPM and just modulate the accelerator as needed depending upon the circumstances. There's no set and fast rule here because it depends upon a lot of variables. For example, the speed that you release the clutch pedal can have a direct effect on the way you modulate the accelerator pedal. Also, if you're launching on level ground, your accelerator modulation will be different than if you're launching uphill or downhill.

2, for hill launches, especially steep hills, it seems like there's not enough torque to go from handbrake up to handbrake down and moving. Maybe I keep thinking that I need to launch faster after i put the handbrake away to avoid rolling back so I rush it and stall more, but other times I end up really revving it out to avoid stalling (that's what I've been doing on hills, but it isn't good for the clutch on launches). How should I keep the revs/power down to a reasonable level? I ask that because of the next story...
I always suggest that people learn how to start off on a hill without using the handbrake. It's not really difficult and when you get good at it, there will be very little reason to use the handbrake. But if you're at a point where you want to use the handbrake, keep in mind that you can keep the handbrake applied until the car is working against it. In other words, when you do release the handbrake, you can make the car surge forward instead of rolling back. It sounds to me like your timing is just slightly off and you're releasing the handbrake a bit too early. To get a better feel for this, you can always practice in a parking lot of level ground. Just apply the handbrake, put the car in first, and begin to launch the car until you feel the resistance of the handbrake. That will give you a good feel for what I'm talking about, but you still have to keep in mind that the feeling will be slightly different when you're doing this on a steep hill because gravity will be trying to pull the car backwards down the hill. Still though, the concept is the same and you'll see exactly what I mean after you do it a few times.

Today I was driving in San Francisco up a pretty steep street in stop-and-go before a stop sign (yeah, annoying) and I think I panicked at one point and over-revved a launch badly, because I could smell burning clutch and it felt like it wasn't engaging properly even when I lifted my foot out all the way (car wasn't going up the hill). After the passengers got out and I tried again it was fine but it still seemed to be engaging strangely and the inside smelled pretty bad. Did I do any lasting harm or glaze the clutch or anything? How much of this (ab)use does it usually take before hurting the clutch
You probably didn't cause any kind of damage, maybe just a little "extra" wear. You'd be surprised how much abuse a clutch can take.
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by scionkid » Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:10 pm

First off, sweet car. I wish Honda still make cars like this. As for to how Hondas needed to be launched, when I test drove a Fit, it was entirely comfortable with getting moving right off idle. In fact, it felt less likely to stall then my xB, a car that I was completely used to. Don't believe the myth of needing to rev up a Honda to get it rolling.

I agree with Shadow on regularly starts. When launching, you just ease into the gas as much as appropriate for the situation, such as regular smooth launch, fast launch from a green, going uphill, without thinking about what rpm the engine gets to. You decide what rpm that the engine revs to by how you release the clutch. And the goal for most situation, as Shadow stated, is to get the car rolling with the engine at or slightly above idle.

This is why we suggest new drivers to practice finding the friction point without gas first. It is not to teach you to launch the car without gas all the time; that's only for parking lot driving. It is to have you get used to finding it consistently. As soon as your engine revs slightly and suppose that you have the clutch at the friction point already, you are in a position to ease up the clutch, smoothly but immediately, to keep your rev reasonably low and get more torque going to the wheels. If you rev with the clutch foot on the floor, not only are you reving up the engine more than it needs, you're also not going anywhere with your clutch foot on the floor.

And this launch method applies even in San Francisco. If you just give it gas, which doesn't take a lot to rev up the engine, then release the clutch, you can rev the engine way too high and still not having used enough gas to for the launch. Get to the friction point first, then into the gas smoothly as you modulate the clutch to keep the rev low, just as you would on flat ground (and practice that before you conquer hills in San Francisco). Do that until you feel the car working against the handbrake. Then hold your pedals in place and immediately drop the handbrake. Wait until the car gets some speed and you're done. If necessary, you can let the engine rev up above idle, because sometimes it simply needs to get more air and fuel thru the engine. Just don't go too crazy with the rev. Even for the steepest hill there, I could start my xB, with a 1.5L engine, using about 1.5k rpm.

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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by RITmusic2k » Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:41 pm

blauenlanze wrote:I haven't posted on here in forever (too much school I guess) but I recently got a 2001 Honda Prelude SH 5-speed (woohoo!) so I'm driving manual for real.
Hey man, welcome back! All the good advice has already been given, so I'll just congratulate you on the car (love those early '90s Preludes). Don't be a stranger!

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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by AHTOXA » Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:35 pm

My post will be even less useful. What he said. ^
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by blauenlanze » Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:10 am

Thanks for the advice and welcomebacks everyone!

Shadow, when I mentioned 'launching', I meant to say just regular starts. The way I'd been trying to do it before is rev to about 1500/2000rpm then keep my foot at the same level on the gas and then let out the clutch. This worked OK but I think was too mechanical, so I didn't learn to control the clutch or gas pedals that well. Then when I started launching on hills, I'd just forget and give excessive gas to avoid stalling.

I did what theholycow said and went to practice some hill starts without the handbrake at all, at some stop signs closer to the south of SF (wasn't much traffic when I went). I was actually pretty successful, but I did roll back a bunch. I think it helped me a lot to feel exactly how much I was moving the car with a certain amount of clutch/gas, but with the handbrake, I didn't get as much feedback. (Before this I relied on the handbrake since I really didn't want to roll back/panic.) I'll definitely try this practice when I get some emptier space.

I also noticed a few quirks with the Prelude:
- The clutch engages very high, or it feels like I need to let go almost halfway before I start moving. When holding down the brake I feel I can let it out even more than that (2/3rds?) and not stall (just struggle to move). Is this a sign of excess wear or just something left over from my burning the clutch before? Supposed it was changed 37k miles ago.

- There is a faint vibrating noise that feels like a door creaking at low speed near idle in 1st/2nd, is this the clutch chattering or just normal?

Also, I feel like when I'm using the handbrake and the car starts struggling, if I let go on flat ground or small incline I'll be fine, but on a steeper hill I'll roll back still, which is when I stall and/or hit the gas. Is this because I'm not letting out the clutch far enough before I drop the handbrake (i.e. not sending enough power through)? By 'steep' I don't mean Russian Hill in SF super steep, but what you'd find in most parts of the city, like 10-15%.
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by theholycow » Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:45 am

High clutch engagement is normal (unfortunately, IMO).

You might want to practice no-gas launches in a level, empty parking lot. They will help train your clutch foot for normal launches. My sig includes a link to my "meta-sig", which has further advice for practicing no-gas launching and other exercises that will help train your feet for normal launching.

I'm not sure about the vibrating noise, but clutch chatter is very obvious and is easily felt in the whole car shaking...I guess unless it's very mild.
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by Fit4Fun » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:31 pm

Another great thread. Congrats on the car, blauenlanze! As a newbie to the MT I found what theholycow said to be true:
It sounds like you have the problem with handbrake launches that I had when I was starting out, where the handbrake was just one more variable to consider, one more movement to coordinate, and essentially a distraction.
At first I was using the handbrake on steeper hills, but then started to lose my timing and mess up my launches. I just do it without the HB for now and accept the rollback...but then I have the luxury of managing to never stop on a hill with someone behind me, so far. Also I have found than even without the dedicated hill practice I was doing a lot of at first, I have improved on hills just from getting better on the MT in general...it has been a month now. We have some pretty steep hills here, but you have real monsters in SF....I feel for you, blauenlanze! Sounds like you are doing great though. :)
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by Shadow » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:43 pm

Fit4Fun wrote:
At first I was using the handbrake on steeper hills, but then started to lose my timing and mess up my launches. I just do it without the HB for now and accept the rollback...but then I have the luxury of managing to never stop on a hill with someone behind me, so far. Also I have found than even without the dedicated hill practice I was doing a lot of at first, I have improved on hills just from getting better on the MT in general...it has been a month now. We have some pretty steep hills here, but you have real monsters in SF....I feel for you, blauenlanze! Sounds like you are doing great though. :)

Keep in mind that when you roll back on a hill, it usually feels like you're rolling back a lot further than you actually are rolling back. That's important to realize because I've seen people panic when they are worried about rolling back into the car behind them while on a steep hill. In reality, most people don't pull up anywhere near close enough for you to roll back into them. And if you roll back too far, you'd end up stalling the car anyway, probably before you'd ever actually make contact with the car behind you.

Another trick you can try (if you don't want to use the handbrake) is to leave your right foot on the brake pedal while you start to release the clutch pedal. Try not to take your foot off the brake until you start to feel the clutch engage. Then you can just move your right foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator pedal. Done correctly, you should experience little or no rollback, even on the steepest of hills.
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by Fit4Fun » Sat Jan 14, 2012 4:22 pm

Thank you Shadow. Yeah, it definitely feels like I am rolling back quite a bit. I am still very shaky confidence-wise with hills. I have tried the technique you describe of getting near the engagement point before releasing the brake and have had some success with it, but nowhere near perfect. Still have a long way to go--working on it. At least I am not freaked out anymore and having more fun! :P
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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by Nermin///M3 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:33 am

Welcome back! :)

I am not sure on Hondas but on my m3, i tend to rev up to around 1200 to 1500RPM for launch. If you are on incline i normally am in the 1500RPM range. Listen to the engine sound that will give you a clue if you over doing it. I also think if you are reving 2000 RPM to launch its a little high. Nothing wrong with it, but you just burning more gas that's all.

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Re: Hill starts, launch RPM, and basic shifts

Post by tankinbeans » Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:05 pm

I still hate hills, but I've come to a grudging live and let live agreement with them. I especially hate being on a hill and trying to turn right when there are cars coming and you never know when they're going to speed up and take away any slack. For some reason turning right and hills don't mesh for me yet. Luckily, Minnesota is fairly flat and boring so we don't have huge annoying hills.
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