Parking: Shift to “P” Or Pull the Handbrake First?

Sign up for our weekly email to stay on top of the latest news and insights!

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – An article from back in 2016 suggested that a car spends about 90 percent of its time parked. Is there any truth to that? Well, even if you did drive 2 hours a day, it would only amount to 8.3 percent of the 24 hours we have in a day. There’s still a good 91.7 percent left.

If you drive an automatic, you need to shift to “P” and engage the parking brake to park the car. There are however, two different types of people in terms of the sequence of action. Some shift to “P” first, and then engage the parking brake, while some engage the parking brake first, and then shift to “P”.

Is there a right and wrong for this sequence?

Well, yes, sort of.

There is no difference when parked on a level surface. However, when parked on a hill, you might notice a rather unpleasant “clunk” when shifting out of “P”.

What is that sound?

That is the sound of your parking pawl trying to move against the transmission output shaft.

Related post:
Hitachi Automotive Intros New Auto Parking Brake

What is a parking pawl?

A parking pawl is a pin/lock on the transmission output.

When you shift, into “P”, the parking pawl engages and locks the output shaft of your transmission. The pawl disengages when you shift out of “P”.

When you shift into “P” first, lift your foot of the footbrake, and then engage the parking brake, the weight of the car rests on that tiny metal bit we call the parking pawl. That’s not great. When you do this, you will hear the unpleasant “clunk” when shifting out of “P” later.

Parking: Shift to “P” Or Pull the Handbrake First?

Is it wrong to let the car’s weight rest in the parking pawl?

Well, parking pawls can break. It might not look like much, but this little broken piece can be nuisance to fix. Sure, it’s a tiny metal bit, but that tiny broken piece can jam up some crucial parts in your transmission.

Sometimes, you might even notice people shifting into “P” at traffic lights. It’s not a great habit.

So how do you avoid the “clunk” sound?

Take the following steps when parked on a hill.

1. Bring the car to a full stop.
2. Keep the foot brake pressed.
3. Shift to “N”.

Now all the weight is on the foot brake.

4. Engage the parking brake.
5. Lift your foot of the foot brake.

Now all the weight is on the parking brake.

6. Press the foot brake. (to prevent reversing)
7. Shift the gear into “P”.
8. Lift your foot of the foot brake.

Now all the weight is on the parking brake while the parking pawl acts as a fail-safe if the parking brake fails.

Source: This article posted on WapCar explains the importance of a parking brake in the overall health of a vehicle with an automatic transmission, especially when parking on a hill.

Subscribe Today!

Sign up for our weekly eNewsletter and get a free copy of BrakeLine, our quarterly digital magazine.

The Brake Report
The Brake Report

The BRAKE Report is an online media platform dedicated to the automotive and commercial vehicle brake segments. Our mission is to provide the global brake community with the latest news & headlines from around the industry.