Accidentally Put Car in Park While Moving Slowly – Is It Harmful?

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

Have you ever accidentally put your car into park while it was moving?

It can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re concerned about the damage it may have caused to your transmission.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the potential damage caused by this mistake and give some tips and techniques to avoid it in the future.

Is It Even Possible to Put Your Car in Park While It’s Moving?

It’s typically not possible to shift a modern car into ‘park’ while it’s moving. A safety feature called the “park-to-lock” mechanism prevents the transmission from being shifted out of the park position unless the brake pedal is depressed.

In older vehicles, it is possible to shift the transmission into ‘park’ while the car is moving, which can cause damage to the transmission. It’s never recommended to put a car in park while it is moving, no matter what speed you’re traveling at.

Is It Harmful?

The short answer: It depends.

If you accidentally shift your car into park while driving, it can cause damage to the transmission as the gears will grind and potentially break because the transmission is locked and unable to change gears.

However, as mentioned above, newer cars have built-in safety features that prevent this from happening and will automatically shift back into drive.

One potentially risky consequence I can think of is when you’re already driving slowly (around 10-15 mph) and you accidentally put your car in park mode, your transmission, and subsequently, your tires can lock up and skid. In a few rare cases, this might be serious enough to cause a collision with another vehicle close by.

Understanding the Problem

If a vehicle’s transmission is put into the park position while it is still moving, it can cause damage to both the transmission and the parking pawl. To fully recognize the potential issues, it’s important to understand how a transmission works.

A transmission is a mechanical device in your car that sends power from the engine to the wheels. It changes gears to control the speed and power of your vehicle. Your transmission has different-sized gear options, which you can select to match the speed of your vehicle with the amount of power needed to move it.

Inside the transmission, there is a mechanism called the parking pawl. This is a small metal piece that locks the transmission in place when you put your car into park. However, if you put your car into park while it’s still moving, the parking pawl can cause damage to the gears, bearings, and other components of the transmission.

Additionally, if the parking pawl is broken or damaged and the vehicle is parked on an incline, it can cause the car to roll away which can lead to an accident or damage to the car. It is important to always make sure that the vehicle is stopped before putting it into “park” to avoid any damage and ensure safety.

Prevention Techniques

To reduce the likelihood of this happening, it’s important to double-check your gear selection before coming to a stop. It’s also essential to be aware of your surroundings and to pay attention to your driving.

Many newer cars come with electronic systems that prevent the parking pawl from engaging while moving, so if you’re considering buying a new car, this could be a feature to look for.

What to Do If It Happens

If you accidentally put your car into park while it’s still moving, taking immediate action is critical to minimize potential damage.

Here’s what you should do:

1. Shift Back Into Drive

As soon as you realize the mistake, shift the gear back into drive. This will disengage the parking pawl and prevent further damage to the transmission.

2. Slow Down

Gradually reduce your speed and bring your car to a safe stop. Avoid abruptly braking or turning as this can cause additional damage to the transmission.

3. Check for Damage

Once your car is safely stopped, check for any signs of damage. Listen for any unusual noises coming from the transmission, such as grinding or whining sounds. If there are any warning lights on the dashboard, check your car’s manual to understand what they mean.

4. Contact a Mechanic

If you suspect any damage or if there are any warning lights, contact a mechanic as soon as possible. A professional can inspect your car and determine the extent of the damage, and recommend the necessary repairs.

5. Drive Cautiously

Even if there are no signs of damage, drive cautiously for the next few days to ensure that no additional damage occurs. If you notice any unusual noises or if the car is behaving differently, contact a mechanic immediately.

It’s important to address any potential issues as soon as possible to prevent further damage and costly repairs. To avoid this type of incident in the future, always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your car’s controls.

Wrap Up

Accidentally putting your car in park while moving can be a stressful experience. By understanding the causes of the problem, taking steps to prevent it from happening, and knowing what to do if it does happen, you can minimize the potential damage and get your car back on the road safely.

Remember to double-check your gear selection, pay attention, and seek professional help if you suspect any damage.

Avatar photo

About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

Leave a Comment