Automatic cars are the norm now, with a gearbox completely different from a manual, and proper steps have to be taken when putting your car into Park so as to not damage the gearbox, so here is how it works and the proper way to put it in Park.

Automatic gearboxes

An automatic transmission is made up of a set of gears and a torque converter, which is connected to the engine, and when the engine is running, putting the car into gear engages or disengages the gears, thus moving the car.

There are 4 main gears (from the top to bottom of a gear column): Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive. Some cars are able to select lower gears under Drive, or have the ability to manually choose the gears you want to be in while in Drive, but that isn’t the main topic here.

When in Park

Park is quite similar to Neutral, where the gearbox is disengaged from the engine, but the difference is that while Neutral allows the gearbox to move freely, in Park there’s something called a Parking Pawl, which is a pin that locks the output shaft and thus prevents your car from moving. Although the use is similar to that of a parking brake, it is not designed to be a replacement but rather a supplement to keep your car stationary.

How to Park

Because of how the parking pawl locks the output shaft, any movement after locking it puts unwanted stress on the pin and the shaft, risking the chance of damaging it. So the proper procedure for putting in Park after stopping should be as follows:

  1. While stepping on the foot brake, put the gear into Neutral
  2. Pull the hand brake
  3. Release your foot brake (here you can feel the car move as it releases the brake’s tension),
  4. Press the foot brake again to put it into Park.

What people mostly do wrong is that they will put the gear into Park without first releasing the brake’s tension in Neutral, thus when they release the foot brake, there is going to be tension on the parking pawl, and might find difficulties getting out of Park.

Try this out the next time you park your car, and see if it really makes a difference!