Transmission damage avoided via park before turnoff?

In general, I assume that you’re free to turn off an automatic transmission engine when in any gear, as long as you’re at a complete stop.

Does it harm the transmission in any way to be in non-park gear when turning the engine off?

My wife has heard anecdotally that one must shift into park before turning the engine off. This sounds ludicrous to me, especially since I generally drive stick and there’s no such parking gear at all, however the burden of proof has somehow landed in my court. Help!

If this factors in, the automatic in question is a 2002 4-cylinder Camry.

Thanks for any words of wisdom or referrals to online resources I can reference!


It doesn’t matter if you turn the engine off while in some gear. But it is best to set brake before putting it in park. That way the parking pawl (or prawl) won’t be holding the weight of the vehicle. But of course you cannot remove the key until placed in park.

Toyota may be exenpt from all this with all their crazy stuff!!

You can turn off the engine in any gear. I used to own “junkers” years ago that “dieseled” real bad when you turned off the ignition. I simply turn the vehicle off while in gear and that solved the dieseling problem. I also bypassed the neutral safety switch if they gave me problems. I could start the engine in any gear (with my foot firmly on the brake). If you have a safety mindset you can do a lot of things but I don’t recommend it for others.

I learned about the parking pawl while trying to find a definitive answer - thanks for reinforcing the brake-before-park maxim. We’re in Pittsburgh so it’s do or die with hill parking tips.

I would love to know exactly what you mean by “a safety mindset”, so that there’s less wiggle room when I finally present my argument. I assume you’re being nice by not saying “paranoid”, but let me know…

The safety mindset that I’m talking about is the ability to do things out of the ordinary but in a safe manner. It’s nothing personal. I always have my foot on the brake when starting an engine or turning it off. I use my emergency brake on hills and level ground. I use goggles when drilling or working on batteries. My “safety” mindset came about because I threw caution to the wind when I was younger. I even raced cars and motorcycles without a helmet. I’m no longer that dumb. I’m also still breathing and have all my body parts.

Its not going to hurt it at all. Just dont shut off the engine while you are coasting for any length of time because automatics need the engine to run the pump to circulate the ATF through the transmission. The ATF lubricates the internals of the trans as well as acting as a hydraulic fluid to operate clutches, servos etc.


Yes, it’s brake-before-park, especially on Rialto Street!