Hi, Top Gear Philippines,
We have a question about parking. A neighbor told me to not park in an inclined position because it will ruin the engine piston because oil will not lubricate it properly. I live in the Baguio area. Is this true?
Raymond and Christopher
There are times when we’re at an area where we have no choice but to park on an inclined road. Some of us have to do this regularly because we live, work, or frequent a place that’s hilly. Occasional parking on an inclined slope may not harm your car, but consistent and regular parking like this will have detrimental effects on some parts.
What does parking on an incline do to your car?
The first thing that can happen when you park on an inclined slope is that readings of your fluids will be inaccurate. There are many fluids in your car that will be affected by this—fuel, oil, brake fluid, clutch fluid, and transmission fluid. Hence, when checking fluid levels, make sure that you are on a level surface so that you can get accurate readings.
Another part of your car that can suffer is your parking brake. Using it all the time will accelerate its wear on the cables and brake pads or brake shoes. This is especially true if you’re only using the parking brake to hold your car up on an inclined slope.
The parking brake is not designed to hold the car up on steep slopes. My brother found this out the hard way in San Francisco. He parked his Volkswagen Beetle on a hill, and when he got back, the car was gone. He found out later that the car had rolled away on its own, down the hill, and hit another parked car. Luckily, no one was hurt.
The correct way to park in an inclined position
There is a manner of parking to ensure that your car does not roll away. In fact, this is covered in exams for drivers (in countries with real driving tests, anyway). When parking on a hill and your car’s front is pointed uphill, you will want to turn your front wheels away from the curb and then slowly back your car in so that the rear portion of your tires come into slight contact with the curb. Then you can put your transmission in park or first gear before engaging your parking brake and turning off your engine.
The reason for this is you will have three things keeping your car from rolling away: Your drivetrain, your parking brake, and your tires. If the transmission and the parking brake should fail, the car’s front tires will roll towards the curb preventing the incident mentioned above.
When parking on a hill with your car’s front facing downhill, you will want to turn your front wheels toward the curb, and then slowly move your car forward until your front tire slightly touches the curb. Again, engage park or first gear, then engage the parking brake and turn off your engine.
Just relying on your transmission and the parking brake is not enough. Those two measures could fail. Setting your front wheels to roll against the curb will guarantee that your car will roll not roll downhill by itself. This helps you prevent an unwanted accident.
Just to reiterate: Apart from inaccurate fluid readings and accelerated wear and tear on parking brake components, parking on a slope is perfectly fine.