Parking pawl met parking Peter and parking Mary

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

I thoroughly enjoy your column! You make car maintenance a fun job, rather than all worries, dollars, and cents! When I start my 1988 Chrysler wagon, sometimes--if it's on an incline--it's extremely difficult to pull the shifting lever out of park. Can you tell me what's causing the problem and if I can fix it? Thanks.

TOM: There's nothing wrong with your car, Laurene. The problem has to do with how you're parking it.

RAY: When you put the car in Park, you do the equivalent of throwing a wrench in the gears. A metal rod (called the parking pawl) jams itself into a gear in the transmission and prevents the gear from turning. That, in turn, keeps the car from moving.

TOM: But when you park on a hill, the car rolls a little bit after you put it in Park. When the car rolls, that gear pushes as hard as it can against that parking pawl. And that makes it hard to remove the pawl when you try to shift out of Park.

RAY: Think of the pawl like the deadbolt on your front door. If you just stand there and turn the key, it goes in and out easily. But if you were to lean into the door and push as hard as you can against it, it would be much harder to slide the deadbolt in and out. That's what you do to the parking pawl when you park on a hill.

TOM: So the solution to your problem is to prevent the car from rolling and therefore jamming the parking pawl in the gear. The way to do that is easy. You just apply the parking brake BEFORE you shift into Park. When you leave, take the transmission out of Park first, and then release the parking brake. That'll take care of it. Guaranteed!

RAY: Write to us again sometime, Laurene. We'd love to tell you the story of how the parking pawl met parking Peter and parking Mary.

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