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(Daniel Timiraos/iStockphoto)
(Daniel Timiraos/iStockphoto)

You & Your Car

Is it better to park in first gear or neutral? Add to ...

All the cars I've owned for the past 25 years have been five-speed manuals. I admit I'm a stick-and-clutch person who believes there's more of a connection between car and driver through a manual transmission than an autobox.

Whenever I've parked my car, I have always left the transmission in neutral and pulled the parking brake handle. I have always subscribed to the theory that if you leave it parked in a gear with the parking brake handle pulled and someone bumps your car from behind or the front, that gear will be damaged. When I park at a curb going downhill, I always turn the wheels toward the curb. On uphill, I turn the wheels away from the curb. In either case, the parking brake lever is pulled.

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In May, Globe Drive writer Peter Cheney wrote that he parked his test Porsche "in first gear, which is standard practice in a manual car, because it prevents the car from rolling if the parking brake slips." Have I been making a mistake all these years parking in neutral with the parking brake lever pulled?


ANSWER: I'm with Peter - always park in gear.

Your concern about gear damage if your vehicle is struck by another while parked might be a case of over-thinking things slightly.

First of all, if there is contact sufficient to move your car, the damage to the front or rear of your vehicle will be the biggest issue. Secondly, if the gears are engaged, especially first or reverse as Peter mentions, which have the lowest (highest numerically) ratio, the driveline would effectively be "locked-up" and the force passed along to the weakest link, the grip between the drive wheels and the surface of the road. You'd see skid marks where the wheels failed to move with the vehicle.

There is sufficient strength designed into the driveline to absorb a single event such as you fear. The gears might be the strongest mechanical point, with various other couplings and joints between the transmission and drive wheels likely to fail first.

The double feature of the parking brake and engaged transmission is the best way to ensure your vehicle does not move - under any circumstances.

Kudos to you for turning your wheels while parked on an incline. All too often you see where drivers fail to take this important safety step.

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QUESTION: I have a 1995 Honda Accord sedan V-6 which starts fine when it is cold but does not when it is hot. I have to let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes to get it going again.

So far, I have changed the battery, installed new starters, installed a new water pump, installed a new timing belt and lastly installed a new main relay. The problem still continues. Any suggestions? I am dealing with a specialist garage.


ANSWER: Have you checked with a Honda service location? It has more experience with your car/engine than all the specialist shops combined. That same engine is used in the Odyssey minivan as well as some Acura products so there is a wide base of experience available.

I assume you have had the codes read by a proper diagnostics machine and nothing shows. But it may not be electric in nature.

An engine needs two things to work - fuel and spark. It sounds as if you have covered the spark side of things, how about the fuel delivery? If there is a restriction in a line, caused by heat expansion or if a line is too near a source of heat, you may be suffering from fuel vaporization or vapour lock, which occurs when the liquid fuel boils and some is turned into a gaseous state. You then have air trapped in the fuel delivery system.

This is most likely to happen when the engine is stopped for a short period when the engine is hot. The fuel in the lines does not move and might heat up enough to cause vapour lock. If this proves to be the case, look for the point in the delivery system which has been relocated or moved within close proximity of a major heat source.

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