Dear Car Talk:
In a column from 2012, your recommendation when parking on a hill was to set the parking brake first, then put the transmission in park. In one of your recent columns, the order was: put the car in park first, then apply the parking brake. To drive away, both columns indicate that the lever should be shifted into gear and then the parking brake released.
I checked the manuals for our two family cars (a Toyota Corolla and a Hyundai Elantra), and those two sets of instructions had opposite orders too! What's the correct order? Parking brake then "P," or "P" and then parking brake? Thank you! -- Kay
Well, I always P before I even get in the car, Kay.
Sorry for the confusion here. As long as you keep your foot on the brake pedal until the other two steps are completed, you can use any order you want. What you're trying to avoid is having the car roll once it's in park. It won't really do any damage, but when you park on a steep hill, and the car rolls and jams the transmission's parking pawl, it can be hard to get the car out of park.
So stop the car while it's still in gear, and keep your foot on the brake pedal. Then put the car in park and set the parking brake, or set the parking brake and then put the car in park. When both of those steps are done, remove your foot from the brake pedal and -- if you've engaged the parking brake securely, and it's working -- the car shouldn't roll at all. That's what you want. Then, when you get back to the car, you should have no trouble shifting out of park, so you can race home to research your next question for us.