6 Things to remember when parking on a hill

Better safe than sloppy
by Leandre Grecia | Jun 4, 2019
PHOTO: Pexels

There are some people—even those who already have years of driving experience under their belts— who simply have a hard time parking, and there are others who have been able to master the art of getting a vehicle properly and accurately into a designated parking spot. But when that spot is on a hill, parking becomes a big chore even for the most of experienced drivers.

Do remember, however, that simply parking your vehicle in an inclined position will not damage it in any way—we’ve covered that one before. The thing with parking on a sloping surface is that not only is it hard, it also comes with a number of risks.

Even if you’ve successfully finished getting your car into a parking slot on a hill, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s already out of danger. The entire task of ‘parking’ doesn’t end when you turn the engine off. You might think you’ve done everything to secure your vehicle, but there’s still a slight chance that lady luck turns on you. What you can do is take preventive measures to at least mitigate the damages in case s*** happens.

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So for added safety and security, you can always observe these simple practices.

1) Make use of your handbrake.

Modern vehicles feature hill-start assist that prevents the car from rolling backward when moving up a slope from a full stop. It does so by holding the brakes for a few seconds after you release the brake pedal to prevent the vehicle from rolling back. But if your car doesn’t have this feature, you can always use your handbrake for good measure, especially if you’re driving a manual.

All you need to do is keep your handbrake engaged. Regardless if you’re going forward or backward up a hill, make sure you’re already accelerating before you release the handbrake. This way, your car doesn’t end up sliding down the slope and into an accident. It’s a handy technique, especially for beginners driving stick-shift.

2) Keep a safe distance from cars in front or behind you.

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If you’re parallel-parking along a slope, it’s best to maintain a reasonable gap in between your car and the ones behind and in front of it. A reasonable gap means one that you can comfortably drive out of, assuming that the positions of the cars in front and behind remain the same.

If the available space doesn’t allow for this, then you can always find a different spot. Besides, the space allowance you’re leaving is not only for you, but for the other drivers as well.

3) If you’re driving a stick-stick, engage either first or reverse gear when parking.

Put the car in first gear when you park facing upward on a slope, or in reverse when facing downward. Simple as that. This will prevent the vehicle from freewheeling down the hill in case the handbrake gives out. Take it from the responses of our readers who still park their vehicles with either gear engaged.

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Just always remember to shift back to neutral when starting the engine again to avoid accidents. It’s also common (and good) practice to step on the clutch as you turn your key and start your engine. In fact, some new cars with manual transmissions even require you to step on the clutch before you can turn the key in the ignition.

4) Use a wheel chock for security.

If you frequently park on hills or other sloping areas, it’s definitely a good idea to get a proper wheel chock to use whenever you park, especially if you usually load your vehicle with heavy cargo.

But if you feel like you’ll rarely ever need one and you don’t want to spend the extra bucks, keeping a sizeable rock or a small block of wood in your trunk wouldn’t probably hurt. It’s better to always bring something to stuff under your tire than assume you can always pick up a big rock somewhere when you need it.

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5) Tire positioning is key.

In the event that your parking brake, gears, and wheel chock fail you, you can always count on your tire positioning to keep your car from getting in an accident. If you’re parked facing uphill, turn your wheels away from the curb. If you’re facing downhill, turn your wheels toward the curb. This way, when everything else that’s holding your car gives out and the vehicle starts rolling down, the tires will hit the curb, which will then act as the chock that will prevent your car from going all the way down the road.

In case there’s no curb to rely on, simply turn your tires away from the highway and onto the side of the road, regardless of which way your car is facing. If the vehicle does decide to take a journey without a driver, it will move away from the highway and avoid any possible fatal accidents.

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For a more visual example, you can check out this quick but helpful YouTube video:

6) Last but not least: Try to avoid it entirely.

At all costs, avoid leaving your car parked on a hill to begin with—or at least avoid parking on the steepest part of the slope if you can. You’ll never really know if or when an accident will happen, so it’s best to just completely avoid the situation.

As much as possible, look for alternative parking locations. It might be farther down the hill on a more even part of the road, or it could even be an entire block away. If you can afford it, just go and park in a more secure location and walk to your destination. It’s good exercise, you know. We’d prefer having to catch our breath after strolling to and from the parking lot, than chasing after a soon-to-be-damaged car as it rolls downhill. Worse, the vehicle might cause damage to property or injuries to other road users—and that’s an even bigger problem to deal with.

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Do you know of any more tips for parking along a hill? Tell us about it in the comments.

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