Car in Park

The key to maintaining a healthy transmission is understanding how it works. Here’s the rundown on shifting your car, truck, or SUV into park before it stops, from the professional technicians at Autoworks in Ithaca.

So, is it ok to shift into park before your vehicle stops moving, even at low speeds? The short answer: no. On most modern vehicles, the electronics probably won’t even let you try, locking you out of the park function or overriding the shift until the vehicle is stopped.

But why is it such a bad idea? Your transmission has an internal “parking pawl”, a lever which locks into a tooth of the transmission, preventing it from turning. That’s why your car sometimes rolls a couple of inches after you let off the brakes, once you’ve shifted into park...the transmission has to turn to a point where the pawl engages. If you engage it while the vehicle is in motion, this tiny lever has to stop the momentum of a moving vehicle, which is a considerable amount of force. Obviously, this causes tremendous stress to the pawl, which can cause it to break or round off, making your park function unpredictable or unusable.

Some cars are equipped with ratcheting pawls, which prevent the pawl from engaging at unsafe speeds. Police cars, for example, are equipped with such a mechanism, as well as a strengthened parking pawl. Even still, used police cars are notorious for parking issues, as a result of years of abuse. It’s best to simply wait until you’ve come to a complete stop before shifting into park.

If you’ve come here because you accidentally shifted into park early, and want to know if you’ve sustained any damage, you’re probably in luck - as long as park is still engaging, you’ve most likely dodged a bullet. Just be cautious until you’re sure everything is working correctly.

If you’re experiencing parking troubles, and for any of your other transmission repair and maintenance needs, our expert mechanics have you covered. For the best transmission service shop in Ithaca, call or stop by Autoworks today.


Thank you for visiting Autoworks in Ithaca, NY. Count on our automotive repair technicians to keep your car, truck, suv, or van on the roads longer and safer.

Schedule your appointment today (607) 277-9989 or REQUEST APPOINTMENT HERE.

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