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Summary
  • Setting your gear shifter in the correct position before turning off the vehicle is critical. If you’re driving an automatic vehicle, you’ll need to set it to its park or “P” setting.
  • To protect your vehicle’s parking pawl, you should engage the vehicle’s hand brake before releasing the brake pedal to ensure the vehicle’s weight is resting on the hand brake rather than the parking pawl.
  • If you’re parking on an incline, you need to turn the wheels in a way that will make your vehicle roll into the curb if it starts rolling.

Turning off your vehicle might seem like a trivial task. You just park your vehicle, pull the handbrake, and twist the key in the ignition or press the stop button. However, is turning off your vehicle that simple? How do you really turn off a car?

There are extra steps when it comes to turning off your car that you might not know. These extra steps can ensure that you’re parking your vehicle safely and preserving some of your vehicle’s components. Here’s how to turn a car off properly.

When Can You Turn Off a Car?

There are certain situations where you should never turn off your vehicle. For example, you should never turn off your vehicle while it’s moving. When the vehicle’s wheels move, components like transmission gears will also move. These components require proper lubrication and electronic assistance to function properly, which won’t be available when the engine is shut off. Moving the vehicle when the engine is off can result in transmission damage. You should only turn off your vehicle when it’s stopped.

Put the Shifter In the Correct Gear

After parking your vehicle in a location, you need to set your vehicle in the correct gear setting. This varies slightly depending on whether you’re driving an automatic or manual. If you’re driving an automatic vehicle, you’ll need to set it to the park or “P” setting. Doing so engages a parking pawl that locks onto your transmission’s output shaft. Since the transmission output shaft is directly connected to your vehicle’s wheels, it essentially acts as a backup brake and prevents your vehicle from moving.

When turning off your automatic transmission vehicle, the proper sequence should be:

  1. Park the vehicle.
  2. While pressing the brake pedal, shift to neutral.
  3. Engage the parking brake.
  4. While still pressing the brake pedal, shift to park.
  5. Release the brake pedal.
  6. Twist the key to turn off the vehicle or press the stop button.

Why the Sequence Is Important

These tasks are specifically sequenced to protect the vehicle’s parking pawl. Shifting to park and then releasing the brake pedal before engaging the hand brake can put all of the vehicle’s weight onto the parking pawl. Doing this isn’t a good idea because the parking pawl is more sensitive than the vehicle’s hand brake.

On the other hand, engaging the vehicle’s hand brake before releasing the brake pedal will ensure the vehicle’s weight is resting on the hand brake rather than the parking pawl.

Turning off a manual transmission vehicle is simpler since you don’t need to take precautions to protect the parking pawl. You’ll just need to do the following:

  1. Park the vehicle and shift to neutral.
  2. Engage the hand brake.
  3. Twist the key to turn off the vehicle or press the stop button.

Point the Wheels Toward the Curb

If you’re parking on an incline, you need to turn the wheels in a way that will make your vehicle roll into the curb if it starts rolling.

If your vehicle begins to roll, its wheels will run into the curb, which will hopefully stop it before it gains momentum. This precaution is done so that the vehicle won’t roll into traffic and endanger other road users.

If you’re driving a manual transmission vehicle, you should also leave the vehicle in gear. If you’re parked facing an incline, you should leave your vehicle in first gear. If you’re parked facing downhill, then you should leave the gear lever in reverse.

Turn Off Your Vehicle’s Headlights and Electronics

Before leaving your vehicle, ensure that the headlights are turned off. This is typically done using the steering column-mounted switches. Some vehicles have their headlight switches located on the left side of their steering wheel. You should also ensure that your cabin lights are turned off. Leaving these lights turned on can drain your battery and result in your vehicle being unable to start.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Driving
Garage Essentials
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