Parking Your Car In the Proper Gear – Standard and Automatic Vehicles

(Last Updated On: January 16, 2017)

Parking Your Car

  • Always leave your car in a gear (if standard) or in ‘P’ (Park if automatic).
  • This will hold  the vehicle in place where it is and keep it from rolling away should the emergency or parking brake fail; which can happen sometimes.

 

Automatic Cars

  • Leave them in park with the parking brake applied every time you park.
  • The best way to park your automatic car is to actually First put the vehicle into Neutral and then apply the parking brake.
  • Then, slowly ease off the brake pedal until your foot is completely off the pedal.
  • Then you know 100% that the parking brake is holding the car in place. This is like a little test to make sure.
  • If you slowly remove your foot from the pedal while the parking brake is applied, and the vehicle begins to move or roll slightly, then this tells you the parking brake is not actually doing anything useful, even though it may be applied. (What’s the point of using it if it’s actually not doing anything?)
  • If this happens, you must either press the foot parking brake harder or pull the hand brake up higher until you’re sure the brake is actually holding the vehicle in place
  • Parking brakes are not often just ‘on’ or ‘off’ and there are varying degrees to which they can be applied.
  • On the opposite end of the scale, you do not want to apply it with too much pressure as this can also stretch the parking brake cable, which may then eventually need to be serviced…
  • Keep in mind parking brakes are supposed to be doing a job though
  • When you’re satisfied the car is not moving while in neutral with the parking brake applied, put your foot back onto the brake pedal and place the transmission into Park.
  • This way, you know that the parking brake is 100% the first thing keeping the car from moving and then IF the parking brake fails, the transmission or Parking gear will keep the vehicle from moving; as a kind of a back-up plan.
  • You can see for yourself by simply removing the parking brake after this procedure and feel the vehicle move a bit before the gear holds it in place.
  • It is much better to ensure the vehicle is behind held in place by the parking brake, since that is the purpose of the parking brake (as well as being used as an emergency brake if the service brakes were to fail).
  • If you simply put the car in Park without the parking brake, yes this will hold the car in place most likely, but this can cause wear and wear on the pin on the transmission and it may need mechanical repairs/servicing over time.
  • If it were to fail and your emergency/parking brake was not applied, then your car would simply be free to roll away freely until it runs into something, according to gravity.
  • You will be able to feel a clunk when you move from Park into Drive if your vehicle has been parked especially on a hill without the parking brake.
  • I’m not a mechanic but it seems better if you can avoid any clunking of your transmission components.

 

Standard Cars

 

 

  • Always leave your (standard) car in a gear when parked.
  • If the parking brake were to fail, the gear would hold the car in place as a backup.
  • If you simply park with the parking brake on and the transmission in neutral, and the parking brake were to fail – which does happen from time to time – the car may end up simply rolling down the road as per gravity and may and run into something.
  • Same idea if something were to hit your car when it was parked.

 

Procedure

 

  • First, set the wheels if parking on a hill.
  • The reason to do this step first is so that you can avoid dry steering (Steering when the car is not moving).
  • Basically, if you’re parking facing down a hill on the right side of the road, turn wheels to the right all the way.
  • If you’re parking on an uphill with a curb, turn the wheel left all the way.
  • If you’re parking on an uphill without a curb, turn wheels to the right all the way. 
  • Second, apply the parking brake and, in neutral, slowly remove your foot from the brake pedal to ensure the parking brake is actually holding the car in place.
  • What’s the point in using it if you don’t know it’s actually going to do its job?
  • Some people may not apply the brake enough, making it essentially useless
  • Third, turn off the car.

 

Parking Down a Hill

 

  • If you’re parked on a downhill, leave it in reverse gear (Against gravity)

 

Parking Up a Hill

 

  • If you’re parking on an uphill, leave it in 1st gear. (Against gravity).

 

Parking on a Flat Surface

 

  • I would usually recommend leaving it in 1st gear; not sure it matters although leaving it in any gear is better than leaving it not in any gear (in neutral).
  • To see what I mean, you could then remove the parking brake and feel how the car is being held in place by the gear.
  • Preferably the parking brake is the thing holding the car in place.
  • The parking brake is usually a brake cable connected to the rear tires, designed for such a thing
  • The gear is a backup plan
  • (transmissions were really built to change gears, not to hold thousands of pounds in place on a hill)
  • The pin on the transmission holding the gear into place could potentially fail after time goes by, and if this happens, it may likely slip into neutral
  • The car may roll away if the parking brake has not been applied and checked for proper function).
  • Using these techniques will ensure your vehicle never “rolls away without you.”
  • Cars do not start rolling away often, but it does happen from time to time and it is much better to be safe than sorry.
  • Legally drivers are required to turn the wheels appropriately when parked on a hill.

 

BMW Rolls away on it’s own, Twice

 

  • Ok, maybe in the BMW case the vehicle was defective and subject to a recall.
  • But keep in mind all vehicles are mechanical things, which could fail; especially with time.

 

CHECK IT OUT.

 

Gear for turning corners

 

  • For turning a 90 degree typical corner (if you’re simply turning without stopping), generally you should use 2nd gear.
  • 3rd is a bit high and may lug the engine and/or lack torque/power.
  • 1st gear is rarely used for turning
  • But may be appropriate if you’ve stopped completely or are traveling very slowly before being able to proceed.

 

Many moons ago, Carmen became an ICBC-approved driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, and has spent many years working with new and experienced drivers around the lower mainland. She can be found reading the Motor Vehicle Act for fun while receiving strange looks from others. May the quest for great driving continue!