Subaru Hill Holder System: Solving The Mystery Of Its Engagement On Flat Terrain

If you own a Subaru car, you might have come across the Hill Holder system, which is designed to prevent the car from rolling back on an incline. However, what do you do when the Hill Holder engages on flat terrain, making it difficult to move the car or even jump-start it? In this article, we will take you through what causes the Subaru Hill Holder to engage on a flat surface and what you can do to prevent and troubleshoot the issue.

What is the Hill Holder System?

The Hill Holder system is a safety feature that comes with most Subaru cars. It is designed to keep the car stationary when parked on an incline, preventing it from rolling backward. The system’s primary function is to hold down the brake pedal for a few seconds after the driver releases it, giving them time to switch to the accelerator without the car rolling back.

How Does The Hill Holder System Work?

The Hill Holder system works by using a combination of Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) to prevent the car from rolling back. When the driver releases the brake pedal, the Hill Holder system holds the brakes for a few seconds. At the same time, the system sends a signal to the EBD and VDC to maintain the car’s position, preventing it from rolling back.

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Why and When Does The Hill Holder Engage?

The Hill Holder system engages when the car is on an incline. It is activated when the brake pedal is released, and the car is stationary, facing uphill or downhill. However, sometimes the Hill Holder may engage even on flat terrain.

What Causes The Hill Holder To Engage On Flat Terrain?

The Hill Holder system can engage on flat terrain if there is an issue with the switch or its sensors. The sensor, which is located in the brake pedal assembly, senses the pedal’s position and sends a signal to the Hill Holder control unit. If the sensor is malfunctioning, the Hill Holder system may mistakenly assume that the car is on an incline and engage the brakes, preventing it from moving.

How Can You Prevent The Hill Holder From Activating On Flat Terrain?

To prevent the Hill Holder from activating on flat terrain, it is advisable to disable the system temporarily. Here are the steps you can follow to disable the Hill Holder system:

  1. Turn on the ignition without starting the engine.
  2. Depress the brake pedal.
  3. Locate the Hill Holder switch on the center console.
  4. Press and hold the Hill Holder switch for five seconds until the Hill Holder warning light goes off.
  5. Release the Hill Holder switch and turn off the ignition.

This procedure will disable the Hill Holder temporarily, preventing it from engaging on flat terrain. However, it is important to note that the Hill Holder system is a vital safety feature. Therefore, you should only disable it when necessary.

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How To Troubleshoot The Hill Holder System If It Continues To Engage On Flat Terrain?

If the Hill Holder system continues to engage on flat terrain, it may be due to a faulty sensor or switch. Here are some steps you can take to troubleshoot the system:

  1. Check the brake sensor: The Hill Holder system’s sensor is located in the brake pedal assembly. Check to see if the sensor is functioning by pressing the pedal and verifying that the signal is being sent to the Hill Holder control unit.

  2. Check the Hill Holder switch: The Hill Holder switch can malfunction, causing the system to engage even on flat terrain. Verify that the switch is working correctly by testing it using a multimeter.

  3. Take the car to a Subaru dealer: If the above steps do not solve the problem, take your car to a Subaru dealership to diagnose and repair any issue with the Hill Holder system.


What is the difference between Hill Holder and Hill Descent Control?

Hill Holder is a safety feature that prevents the car from rolling back on an incline, keeping it stationary for a few seconds after the brake pedal is released. On the other hand, Hill Descent Control is a feature that helps the car descend safely on steep or slippery terrain by automatically applying the brakes.

Can Hill Holder be disabled permanently?

No, Hill Holder cannot be disabled permanently. It is a vital safety feature that comes with Subaru cars to prevent accidents and mishaps.


The Hill Holder system is an essential safety feature that comes with most Subaru cars. However, if it engages on flat terrain, it can cause inconvenience and difficulty moving the car. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can prevent and troubleshoot any issues with the Hill Holder system, ensuring your car is safe and reliable. Remember, disabling the Hill Holder system should only be done when necessary, and you should always seek professional help if you have any problem with the system.

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Joseph Weaver

With a background in engineering and a passion for cars, Joseph brings a unique perspective to our blog. He's particularly interested in the technology and innovation behind Subaru's advanced safety features, and his articles on this topic are always insightful and informative. When he's not writing, he enjoys playing video games and spending time with his family.

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