Engage the parking brake before or after shifting into "Park"?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I told a friend that she should use her parking brake before she puts her automatic transmission in Park. I told her that she should do this to save the wear and tear on the parking pawl, and prevent it from breaking. Another friend of hers (who happens to be the General Sales Manager of a car dealership) said that this is the most idiotic thing he has ever heard. We've agreed upon you as our impartial judges in this matter. What do you think?

TOM: Well, I think if that's the most idiotic thing this car dealer has ever heard, he obviously hasn't listened to OUR radio show.

RAY: The parking pawl--for those who have never heard this silly name--is the thing that keeps the car from moving when you put the transmission in Park. And your advice is correct, Michael, but it only really matters if you're parked on a hill.

TOM: You may have noticed that when you park on a hill, your car rolls a little bit after you put the transmission in Park and release the foot brake. Then, when you come back, the weight of the car resting against the parking pawl can make it almost impossible to get the shifter OUT of Park. And that's why we suggest you use the parking brake.

RAY: Here's our advice: When parking on a hill, come to a stop with your foot on the brake. Then apply the parking brake. Once the parking brake is set, shift into Park. When you're ready to drive away, do just the opposite; start the engine, put your foot on the brake, shift out of Park, and then release the parking brake. Then you should be able to take off with no problem...and smash right into the Mercedes that squeezed into the little space behind you.

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