People don’t always have the best driving habits. Whether they roll through stop signs or fail to use turn signals, many drivers habitually make mistakes that could cost them. And these blunders aren’t limited to ignoring road rules. Often, people make errors that put unnecessary wear and tear on their cars. When they do, they set themselves up for unnecessary — and costly — repairs. A video of a road rage incident between a Chevy truck driver and a motorcyclist highlights one such common mistake.
Road rager forgets to shift his Chevy truck into park
In a bystander-captured video posted to YouTube in 2021, a driver hops out of his Chevy truck to confront a motorcyclist. An example of why road rage is never a good thing, the two exchange words and then blows. Though it’s unclear whether either motorist was arrested, the pickup truck driver made a key mistake that could cost him a trip to the mechanic.
Because he’s so eager to confront the motorcyclist, he hops out of his truck before shifting his pickup into park. That’s bad enough and could have caused an accident. But as he races to open the door and stop the truck, he fails to bring the car to a complete stop before switching gears.
Instead, he cranks the gear selector, resulting in a horrible ripping sound. The truck finally stops, and the driver rushes off to confront the motorcyclist — though, from the fight footage, that too is a mistake. (See the incident on YouTube.)
Why should you bring your vehicle to a complete stop before shifting into park?
In addition to risking injury and arrest, the truck’s driver likely regrets slamming the truck into park without bringing it to a complete stop. Why? Because when you shift a car into park, a locking pin, known as a parking pawl, is inserted into a slot in the automatic transmission. The parking pawl presses against an output shaft gear to keep the vehicle from moving farther.
When a car is stationary, the vehicle can perform this simple mechanical motion with ease. But when the car is moving, you risk breaking the pawl and the gear. The vehicle might stop, but its automatic transmission could suffer significant damage. The resulting friction might even leave shavings on the road beneath the car.
Newer vehicles have mechanisms that prevent the pawl from moving when you select park once the car is moving at a certain speed. That preventative measure will save you and your vehicle from the most severe possible damage. However, shifting into park at a low speed can still damage the transmission.
And from the sound the pickup truck made in the video, its owner should probably take it to a mechanic for a check-up, even if it appears to drive smoothly.
How to use your car’s parking brake correctly
When it comes to minimizing transmission repairs, your parking brake is your best friend. Your car’s parking pawl will naturally endure a lot of stress over time, but using the parking brake properly can help ease some of it. And, as a recent Reddit thread discusses, many drivers don’t realize that not using the parking brake properly can shorten the life of the pawl and increase the risk of car accidents.
When preparing to park, you should engage the parking brake before you shift the vehicle into park. Doing so reduces stress on the transmission, brake, and pawl. When you don’t, the pawl is left to stop the car on its own. You might feel your car roll a couple of inches when you’ve shifted to park if you haven’t done so with your foot on the brake. That rolling results from the pawl stopping your car on its own, which, over time, will reduce its operating life.
Repairing a transmission is one of the most expensive car repairs. And once your vehicle passes the warranty period, that bill comes completely out of your pocket. But you can keep your car’s automatic transmission in good working order with regular maintenance and good driving habits. Using the parking brake to bring your car to a complete stop and keeping it depressed while shifting into park is an easy way to prolong your transmission’s operating life.