Is it bad to leave your car in gear when parked?

There are discussions, some contradictory, about how it is better to leave the car parked, in gear without the parking brake applied, with the shifter in neutral but with the parking brake, or using both. There are enough supporters and opponents for each method. I think everyone leaves their car parked as they are used to.

The disadvantage of leaving the car in gear when park to lock the car’s movement is the load on the timing system such as belt, timing gears, and tensioner. If the car is on an inclined road, the load will be significantly increased and that will lead to high-cost repairs.

Also, the damage that the car will suffer from leaving the car parked by only using one of the gears is minimal and it will have to take some time before you expect to see those serious consequences unless you are parking a lot on inclined roads.

If we talk exclusively about safety, then, you should use both methods, pulling the handbrake or activating the parking brake and putting the shifter in a gear, so the car will definitely stay exactly in the place where the driver left it. 

However, not everyone bothers so much, they will act according to their habits, There are so many drivers that don’t know how to do it right. Also, the handbrake is also known as the parking brake, and that is why it is called so because it is used when you park your car.

What are the advantages of leaving the car in gear when parked?

Some drivers prefer to use this method despite what they learn in driving school because it can have some benefits.

The biggest advantage of using this method is in cold seasons when temperatures drop well below the freezing point. Using the handbrake at low temperatures when the car is parked for a longer time will affect the brake pads.

They can simply freeze, which will lead to vehicle operation problems, and the car will need to be taken to a workshop or to a warm area. That is why you should not use the handbrake in winter, and if you need to park for a long time, you should leave it parked in one of the gears.

Another advantage that is mainly used by “old-school” drivers is that leaving the car in gear when parked can protect the handbrake. Of course, the more you use the handbrake, the faster it wears out. But many drivers think a repair made on the handbrake is expensive, and that is not the case.

Maybe the parts were harder to buy, it was problematic to get those spare parts for a car in the past and the repair was more expensive. Handbrake cables were often stretched or sour from moisture that got on them and failed. These days, however, this issue is no longer encountered. So unless it is very cold outside you should also use the parking brake.

Leaving the car in gear when parked can also help to car to stay still if there are problems with a worn parking brake, if the transmission and engine are in good condition.

Disadvantages of leaving the car in gear when parked

A car left in gear when parked can be a problem, it may run suddenly if there is a fault that helps, especially if the car is parked on an inclined surface. When the car is left parked that way, and if you push it the car will roll if you overcome the force of the pistons, and also if the wheels are not blocked.

Thus it’s better to have a working parking brake to block the rear wheels completely so that the car does not roll and to minimize as much as possible other faults that the car might have in the future.

Another disadvantage is that, depending on the selected gear, the driver may forget that the car is parked that way, and when he wants to start the engine, the car can move forward or backward, he may forget to press the clutch and brake before starting, and this can go bad if you have a car in front or back because it can hit them, and damage them.

Also, it is worth mentioning that if someone hits your car while it is left in gear when parked, it can inflict more damage to the transmission.

In addition, if the timing gear is driven by a belt rather than a chain, the timing belt rollers will gradually wear out on a vehicle that is constantly in gear.

In which gear should the car be left parked?

It doesn’t make much difference what gear is used to keep the car stationary. However, if the car is on a slight slope, then it is recommended to use the first gear, which will eliminate the likelihood of its rollback forward. Similarly, if the car is parked on a hill, then, in order to prevent the car from rolling back, use the reverse gear.

If your car has an automatic transmission, the answer is simple, just leave the shifter in P after you park the car.


To sum it up, there are some consequences for your engine if you leave the car in gear when parked, but these will appear in the long run, the timing system will suffer especially if your car is equipped with a timing belt. Try not to use this method if you park the car regularily on an inclined area because the load on the parts will increase significantly.

Not only that but leaving the car like that on a hill without using the parking brake as well can cause the car to roll. Use this method when is very cold outside to protect as much as you can the parking brake because it can easily suffer damage in these cold temperatures.

The required advice is to use both gear and handbrake when the car is parked. If the car is left in gear, the front wheels will be blocked, and using the handbrake will block the rear wheels, ensuring the car will not move at all from the parked spot.

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