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you & your car

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I live on a hill and park on the street in front of my house. Is it hurting the transmission on my car when I use Park? – Bill, Dartmouth, N.S.

It might, depending on the car and transmission.

Most automatic transmissions use a pawl to engage a part of the drive system when using park. This pawl is retracted or disengaged when you shift out of Park. If there is a load on the connection, it will eventually wear.

But the most important aspect of hillside parking is safety, should the car jump or slip out of the Park position.

When parking on a hill, if you are facing down the hill, turn the steering wheel so the front wheels are pointing in toward the curb. Let the vehicle roll forward slowly until the front right tire comes into contact with the curb. Let it come to rest, engage the parking brake and then shift into park. When you go to move the car, start the engine, push on the brake pedal, disengage the parking brake, place the transmission in reverse and gradually apply gas until the vehicle pulls back from the curb, brake, turn toward the road, shift into drive and depart.

If you are parking facing uphill, the procedure is the same except you turn the wheel to the left at the last moment when parking and let the vehicle roll backward until the rear portion of the tire comes into contact with the curb. Then apply the parking brake, shift into park, etc. In both cases, let the tire contact with the curb ease some of the pressure, apply the parking brake and then place the transmission into Park.

If you have a manual transmission, place the transmission in first gear when parking facing downhill and reverse when parking facing uphill.


What regulatory institution tests and approves/disapproves the newer types of headlights? Is their effect on oncoming drivers taken into consideration? Are there any laws relating to the use of fog lights? If so, are they ever enforced? – Rob

Transport Canada is the federal regulatory agency responsible for motor vehicle equipment regulations.

I suspect you are among the many bothered by the bluish-white light of "new" headlights, but I think there may be two issues on hand – the height of those oncoming or following lights and the possibility they are illegal aftermarket replacements.

Transport Canada sets regulations hand-in-hand with those established by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Washington. The newer-generation headlights – known a HID (High Intensity Discharge) or Xenon (the lighting method itself) – emit a more concentrated and brighter white light.

Regulations govern how these lights operate and are installed in new vehicles, or vehicles imported into the country. Provincial regulations apply from that point. The regulation regarding original equipment is that the light be DOT (Department of Transportation) approved. Here is where things get murky.

The latest generation of headlights, halogen and newer, allow for replacement bulbs. In an effort to have their vehicle look like it has the latest-generation HID lights, many consumers swap the standard DOT-approved bulb in their DOT-approved lamp assembly with a more powerful, non-approved bulb that emits a white or bluish white light.

That is likely the problem you are referring to because DOT-approved HD lighting systems, as installed on an increasing number of new vehicles, must be aimed according to Transport Canada regulations that do not allow for the top of the beam to be above a specific height or for the beam to be directed into oncoming traffic. Here is where we get to the second-most likely source of concern and complaint.

The regulations have not taken into account the growing number of lights trucks, including SUVs, which sit taller than cars, placing their headlights higher as well. Even if correctly set, these lights will shine into the eyes and mirrors of lower vehicles. Placing a heavy load in the trunk or cargo area of a vehicle can also cause the rear end to sink and the front to raise, thus causing the lights to be mis-aimed. European regulations demand lighting systems automatically level according to load.

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