Parking manual transmission car on hill, Reverse or First?

Recent Car Talk podcast, caller parked small engine sedan at top of hill pointing down, didn’t set parking brake, instead put manual trans in R. A while later car is seen lurching down the hill on its own. Caller asks Ray, "would it have been better to put the trans in First? "

Ray says no, that R is better than First, b/c R has lowest gear ratio of all the gears. No dispute, but got to wondering, as car rolled forward down the hill in R, engine was turning backward. Likewise, camshaft turning backwards. Since compression is what hold the car back in this situation, would the engine running backward affect the compression? In other words, maybe R isn’t the best, b/c with the camshaft turning backwards the valves aren’t sequencing properly to build up compression ?

My guess is that the car in question no longer had good compression.


When in R the engine doesn’t turn backwards but putting it in the lowest gear makes the most sense and so does turning the wheels against the curb so if for any reason (bad compression, bad clutch or just thinking it’s still in gear) and the engine or brakes don’t hold, the curb will.

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The engine turns backward when rolling forward in R.

It would be sucking in through the exhaust and putting pressure out the air intake. It could build pressure against the throttle plate which would slow the vehicle down if it got going rather fast I suppose.

Ray mentioned this, but caller didn’t want to do that b/c tires are new, curb had sharp edge. Ray also suggested to apply parking brake, but caller said last time she tried that it froze up and she didn’t want to end up with no way to move the car. As mentioned above, engine actually rotates backward in R when car is rolling forward.

Compression builds up anyway. The ring gaps allow that compression to bleed off and way it rolls. Turning backwards does not do the engine any good!

I experiencedtnjs first hand with my college car… worn out 4 cylinder manual with no parking brake. Would chug downhill one compression at a time turning forward or backwards. I had to turn the tire towards the curb.

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Too many excuses from the owner. Either she turns the wheels to the curb and sets the brake or she gets a couple of big wedges to put in front of the tires, puts it in gear and raises her liability insurance to the max. The way she wants it she’s pointing a loaded gun into a crowd, safety is off, and she’s not looking.


I just don’t know what to do with rear drum brakes and the built in parking brake that seems to hardly have any stopping force in reverse, but works fine moving forward. How do you park facing up a hill?

park next to a curb with your front wheels pointing to the left. you could also put wheel chucks behind your rear tires if you are worried about it rolling.

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I’ve been driving since 1965 and the written test still had “hand Signals” on the written test and the question of how to park on a hill with a standard (manual) transmission were testable questions.

When parking uphill with a curb, turn your front wheels away from the curb. The rational is that if the car should roll, the front tire will quickly bump into the curb. You should also place your manual transmission in Reverse. The rational is that if the car should roll, it would roll backwards and you would not be turning the engine backwards which could cause mechanical damage. Timing chain slop, valves hitting pistons, oil pumps draining oil filters, etc… Yeah, a drained oil filter was a Big Fear…

When you’re parking downhill with a curb, turn your front wheels toward the curb. The rational is that if the car should roll, the Front Tire will quickly bump into the curb. You should also place your manual transmission in 1st-gear. The rational is if the car should roll, it would be forcing the engine to turn in the correct direction, thus no mechanical damage…

In some States, counties, cities, towns, and municipalities, they actually had laws…

Here is a case of laws concerning Angled parking. I was stationed at Goodfellow AFB, in San Angleo Texas, and a bunch of my motorcycle friends and I went to Eldorado, Texas, and they did not have storm sewers to catch the rain/storm water. So many of the streets had a really high hump in the center, which meant that when you parked angled, the curb was really a foot of so lower than the center of the road.

For motorcycles, that meant that some motorcycles had to be rolled right up to the curb to keep them from rolling off their kickstands. The next issue was trying to get out of the parking spot by trying to roll your motorcycle backwards up this hill. The problem was that your motorcycle was parked right where all the oil, grease, and other dripping from cars left their marks and mess.

So a motorcyclist had no traction trying to push/roll their machine backwards up that incline… As for me, I’ve been riding since 1960 and “this isn’t my first rodeo” so I pull up to that parking spot, but roll in backwards. No kickstand problems and I can drive out, not push…

But as it turns out, there are laws that saw you cannp tback into an angled parking spot and in Eldorado, they ticket for this and everyone of us who parked by backing in, found a ticket tapped to their handlebars…

Update, it seems that they have revered the angle and feel it’s safer to back into an angled spot; worse case, you bump the curb, Now you pull out going in the same direction as traffic, rather than backing blindly into traffic…