Which Gear When Parking a Manual Car?

Some say 1st gear when facing uphill and R when facing downhill. Some say the opposite so the engine won't spin backwards (if handbrake fails). What do you say, and why?

Poll Options

  • 216
    1st when facing uphill, R when facing downhill
  • 8
    1st when facing downhill, R when facing uphill
  • 118
    Always 1st
  • 4
    Always R
  • 43
    Always leave in neutral
  • 6
    Other gears


  • +22 votes

    Any gear.

    • +49 votes

      Nah. I have a manual car and I remove the transmission and take it with me when I park the car. I'm smart though, I put a brick in front of each tyre to avoid the car eloping

      • +4 votes

        You turn the wheels towards the kerb. Done.

        • -1 vote

          You turn the wheels towards the kerb. Done.

          As an extra safety precaution, if you were a bit unsure if handbrake and gear can hold up to the load, This actually would be a great precaution

      • +8 votes

        Transmissions are bulky and hard to remove. I rest my brakes on bricks and take my tyres with me. Car can't roll away without tyres.

        That said, I get weird looks when I book a table for two and turn up with this as my date…

      • +1 vote

        the real question is would you have locks like mr bean has OUTSIDE the doors? That's most important!

      • +1 vote

        I just carry the car with me as I find removing the transmission tedious.

  • +31 votes

    Put it in 'P' mode then just relax and let the car park itself.

    • +33 votes

      Love a good "should". The purpose of selecting a gear is a failsafe. It costs you nothing to put it into gear, so why not? Seemingly fine hand brakes have failed before… First gear for uphill and R for downhill. Turning the wheels is also recommended on a slope.

  • +21 votes

    1st or R, turn front wheels so that if you start to roll down the hill, the front wheels will run into the kerb.

  • +15 votes

    Top gear…

  • +19 votes

    I usually wear my adidas trackie

  • +42 votes

    Put in it H.

  • +40 votes

    1st for 1hr parking, 2 for 2hr etc. R for ‘recreational parking’

  • +2 votes

    Put it into the gear that is against the direction the car would roll in if the handbrake were to fail. 1st uphill, R downhill. I'll generally just leave it 1st if on flat ground.

    • +1 vote

      Most comments online would agree with this (1st uphill, R downhill), and I wonder if it's because of instinct rather than logic. Instinct, as if a parked car would "push" against gravity better with these gear choices than the opposite. Logically, I would want my engine to always be turning the same way, so 1st downhill, R uphill.

      • +4 votes

        Logically, I would want my engine to always be turning the same way

        Please explain your chain of logic.

        There are no direction-sensitive components in any car engine that I'm aware of.

        • +3 votes

          Its funny how you mention "chain". Lots of cars with a timing chain will damage their chain tensioners if the engine is turned the wrong way.

          Thats why it should be 1st downhill and R uphill.

          Otherwise you will need to fix your handbrake and your engine if the worst happens.


            @stumo: No they will not damage their tensioners.


              @brendanm: Well it can compress the tensioner, which can subsequently cause very serious issues if the chain skips a tooth or comes off.

              So why risk using the opposite gear when there is no advantage to it (its the engine compression that causes the braking effect, either on the proper compression stroke when going the right way, or the reversed power stroke when going the wrong way), and it can carry serious consequences if you reverse.


                @stumo: Even with the tensioner compressed the chain will not skip a tooth unless the chain is extremely stretched. The only time I've seen it be an issue is with Subaru EJ engines, where people have incorrectly set the little belt guard thing at the crank pulley. Apart from that, they are literally designed so that the engine can be turned in reverse with no ill effects.


                  @brendanm: Well thats the whole point isn't it. How do you know your timing chain and tensioner are all kosher, enough to survive being run the wrong way? - you don't. It may not even be your car. etc.

                  Couple that with there being no braking advantage to using the opposite direction gear anyway, then it is just asking for an unnecessary wallet flush to use the opposite gear.

                  • +1 vote

                    @stumo: If your car sounds like someone is shaking a can of marbles then you will know your timing chain is gone far enough for that to be a possibility.

      • +1 vote

        "1st facing uphill, R facing downhill" does make intuitive sense but I think I agree with you and with pegaxs below, or rather that it doesn't matter which gear you put it in, so long as it's in gear because it's the inertial threshold of moving the engine at all which gives putting it in gear utility - and there may be issues with engines turning backwards (cam positionings?) though as with abb, I'm not aware of any directionally-sensitive components.

        But since it makes no difference, no reason not to be safe in this respect (direction of turning) anyway.

      • -3 votes

        I wouldn't want to rotate an off engine. Seal's would not be oiled while trying to expand and compress vacuums.

        That's why you put it in the opposite direction of potential movement.

  • +7 votes

    If you put it in first and face it up hill, if the car starts to roll back, it will turn the engine over backwards. Some engines will put up with being turned over backwards, some won’t…

    Which ever end is facing downhill, that is the gear you put it in. Front down, first. Rear down, reverse…


      Then what's the point in putting in a gear at all?

      If you put it in first facing downhill what happens if the handbrake fails and the car begins to roll? The engine turns in the right direction? That's useful.

      • +6 votes

        If the car is front facing downhill, you put it in first, so in the unlikely event the handbrake fails and the car rolls forward, the wheels will try to turn the engine.

        If the wheels are going to turn the engine, you want it turning the engine the right direction. You don't want an engine turning over in reverse because some engines don't like being turned over in reverse because of things like timing chains and oil pick up.

        While some cars may not have an issue, some may. And engine compression is not a replacement for a working handbrake. Compression can leak down over time and let the car's engine to continue to rotate.

        If you want to have the weight of your car drive the wheels and inturn rotate your engine backwards, be my guest.


          If I park my car in the drive way (which faces nose downhill) and put my car in first and take the handbrake off the car rolls forward defeating the point of putting it in any gear at all.

          • +3 votes

            @Nereosis: The engine is relying on compression to stop the pistons moving up to stop the car from moving. It is NOT a replacement for no handbrake, but an assistant for a shitty/worn/out of adjustment handbrake.

            A worn engine may not build up compression while moving slowly and this compression is what resists the turning the wheels are trying to make the engine do. The other thing is, moving at very slow speeds without combustion forcing the rings out to seal the cylinder, there may be little to no compression and this totally negates putting the vehicle in gear anyway.

            But, like I said, putting the car in gear is not a replacement for a handbrake, but more of a backup assistant to help with a shitty handbrake. (ie: in addition to. Not "instead of")

            If someone finds themselves having to put the car in gear to stop it rolling with the handbrake applied, then they need to look at their brakes, not a band-aid patch…

            • +4 votes

              @pegaxs: Further to this (if we can all finally accept that it is the engine compression that causes the braking effect rather than some magical reverse gear fairy)… When you switch off an engine, it naturally comes to a complete stop at the start of one of its compression strokes.

              So putting the car in the correct gear for normal engine rotation means that you get the braking effect immediately, because that piston is going to try to continue its compression stroke with the dense cool air charge it already has, against valves that are already closed.

              If you put the car in the opposite gear, then the car will roll a certain further distance while the engine closes the exhaust valve after taking up the slack in the timing gear being run in reverse, sucking in hot/thin/wet exhaust gasses, which it then has to compress against its reversed power stroke.

              Coupled with the aforementioned potential timing chain and oil pump prime issues, means that using the opposite gear only ever comes with disadvantages, some of which can be catastrophic.

              • +4 votes

                @stumo: Bingo.. but the logical answer got 3 votes and the the wrong one got 175+. Apparently there is some voodoo magic ratchet system on engines that stop them turning backwards…

                Even the NSW Road Users Handbook says;

                Before leaving your parked vehicle you must ensure that:
                • The gears are engaged either in first gear for downhill, reverse for uphill

                • +2 votes

                  @pegaxs: Thank you for the link. That's exactly what I was looking for. The poll result was an eye opener on public opinion vs real knowledge.

              • +1 vote

                @stumo: You've flipped my opinion!
                Great, Logical reply

      • +2 votes

        The compression of the engine will stop it turning on all but the most steep hills, and may allow it to go very slowly in a very steep hill, but won't let it gain a lot of speed.

  • +6 votes

    Big night on the gear moite

  • +2 votes

    Put in lowest gear. 1 if facjng downwards. R if rolling back


      I agree with your gear choices, BUT you mention another thing I'm not sure about. If the purpose of putting the car in gear when parked is to add resistance to the drive wheels, wouldn't a higher gear (e.g. 3rd) do a better job? I would like to postulate that choosing the lowest gears (1st & R) is instinct rather than logic, because those gears produce the slowest speeds. I would have thought that the drive wheels, if the car was on an incline (and switched off), would produce more torque to the engine in 1st, than say 3rd, thereby reducing the engine's resistance to turn (i.e. less braking force).

      • +9 votes

        You have it in reverse - the wheels would be trying to turn the engine at the same speed as it the engine were driving the wheels. so the lowest gears would be trying to produce the highest engine speed. We used to push-start cars using second or third to reduce the shock down the whole system if first was used. Using first for that purpose usually ended up with a sudden halt of the vehicle even with the ignition on.

        • +4 votes

          Correct. Which is why you always try to push start a manual in higher gear rather than low. It's almost impossible to push a car in 1st

      • +1 vote

        Do you know how engine braking works? Or do you use your brakes when driving down hill?

        It's surprising your said that when you drive a manual.


        Next time you drive down a hill try going down in different gears. The lower the gear the slower the car will go down the hill and the less braking you need.
        You can get significant engine braking in a low gear like 2nd to the point of barely needing the brakes at all, unless the hill is extremely steep.


        I would have thought that the drive wheels, if the car was on an incline (and switched off), would produce more torque to the engine in 1st, than say 3rd, thereby reducing the engine's resistance to turn (i.e. less braking force).

        No. The torque multiplication reverses when the application of torque between the input and output shafts of a gearbox is reversed.

  • +1 vote

    Best to keep a block of wood if going away for long as shoes can bind with moisture


    I heard (on CarTalk) of a Porsche with an electrical starting motor issue which somehow activated over time, meaning they found the car moved every time they returned to it after a night or two of being parked! Turned out they left it in first gear and the starter motor caused it to move forwards!!!

  • +3 votes

    Any knucklehead knows 1st gear and front wheels turned to the left(into the kerb) downhill and opposite lock uphill.

    The kerb will always stop your car if you forget to put it in gear and handbrake fails

  • +1 vote

    Any gear wheels turned into kerb

  • +3 votes

    i didnt know any of this and have been sticking it in neutral, this is really interesting, thanks!

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