/ Motoring

Do you leave your car in gear?

Car in gear

When parking your car do you apply the handbrake and leave your car in gear too?

Picture the scene: you manage to find a parking space right outside your destination, execute a perfect parallel park and jump out. As you’re walking away a faint graunching noise emanating from under the car gets louder, before a sudden ‘twang’. Your handbrake cable has snapped, but it’s OK, you’ve left your car in gear to prevent it rolling away. Or have you?

Our recent survey discovered that 25% of Which? members never leave their car in gear, even when it’s parked on a hill. Conversely, 35% will always leave it in gear, with the practice more prevalent amongst drivers over the age of 65.

This sensible precaution is likely to become more widely practised soon. That’s because new changes to the driving test in April 2014 now sees learners taught to leave a car in gear and apply the parking brake no matter where it’s parked. So what should you actually be doing?

Leaving your car in gear

Well we spoke to Mark Lewis, director of standards for the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), to help clear things up. Mark told us:

‘There is little need to leave a manual vehicle in gear when parked and unattended if the parking brake is working effectively. Vehicles fitted with automatic gearboxes get locked into park even though they have a parking brake.’

However, when parking on a hill it can be prudent to leave a car in gear in case the handbrake fails. As Mark pointed out:

‘On an uphill incline turn the wheels away from the kerb and leave the vehicle in first gear. Similarly when facing downhill, the vehicle may be left in reverse and the wheels turned towards the kerb.’

He also told us that drivers should de-clutch before starting the car – a requirement on more modern vehicles – to prevent it jerking forwards unexpectedly. Depressing the clutch also reduces wear on the starter motor.

Applying the handbrake

With the advent of the electronic parking brake, operated via a switch or button rather than a lever, there is less chance of the handbrake cable working loose over time, and eventually failing to hold the car properly.

But in my experience these electronic parking brakes are hit or miss as to whether pressing the button actually activates them. Although you’re soon reminded as your car gently rolls away as you try and get out.

So were you taught to leave your car in gear when parked? And do you regularly do so? Also, would you trust an electronic handbrake to hold your car over a conventional manual one?

Do you leave your car in gear when you park?

Yes (70%, 3,281 Votes)

No (30%, 1,437 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,718

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Sue says:
4 May 2016

I always leave my Astra in gear after it rolled out of my drive which is virtually flat and neatly went in a semi-circle and rolled into my neighbours drive 2 doors down and parked next to her car with only a slight scratch. The handbrake was on and it wasn’t in gear. The following week ‘Watchdog’ had a feature regarding this happening with a number of Vauxhalls with walls and cars being damaged. I have never trusted the handbrake since – luckily no one was injured.


Sue you should contact the editor of the Sun newspaper thats just the type of news they like. They could blame it on a long dead relative and call it the “ghost car ” .


Astralogy, Duncan?


I like it malcolm !

Patrick Taylor says:
12 May 2017


Merrik B. Brown says:
6 May 2016

If parking on a hill, always in gear, and the handbrake on. On the flat, probably in neutral with the handbrake on. When parking in the garage, or long term parking in the open, in gear and handbrake off, to prevent the shoes or pads rusting on to the drums or discs.
Honest John of the Daily Telegraph has reported that modern handbrakes can relax after the car has cooled down from a run, allowing it to move some time after parking.
I have known handbrake cables to break.

John Clayton says:
6 May 2016

I drive a Saab 9-5 and always have to put the gearbox into Reverse when parking. If I don’t I can’t remove the key! I once saw a car that had rolled down a grass slope in a cliff-top carpark straight into another car. If it had been left in gear that wouldn’t have happened.

Andy Pieters says:
8 May 2016

TL;DR the previous comments, but my opinion is this:

First and foremost, *always* *always* *always* depress the clutch and the brake when starting the car. Gear or no gear, there may be a time you’ll think you’re not in gear when you are. So always start the engine with the clutch depressed.

Secondly, I do put my car in gear whenever I’m parked on an incline or decline, no matter the steepness. I did find it hard to remember to put it in reverse or forward depending on the direction faced. Uphill = forward, downhill = backwards, in other words, choose the gear that you would use to move the car uphill from its present position.

Chris B says:
15 May 2016

Again as a 60 year old I was taught to park the car in gear and on inclines to turn the wheel so that if the car moved the kerb would help prevent it rolling away. However, I was told not to leave the handbrake on as well, The ‘reason’ for this was that if the car is left overnight the drop in temperature leads to the handbrake cable stretching. A little stretch each night soon leads to a handbrake that won’t hold.