What Happens If You Put A Car In Park While Driving?

When driving a car, one should know what all the letters on the gears shift means. The basics that most people use are drive, reverse, and park and should only be used when doing said activities. You might wonder, however, what happens when you put a car in park while driving?

Quick Answer

To put it simply, bad things will happen to your car. If you happen to be unlucky enough for it to happen, the damage will be done internally to your card and bank account. The parking pawl, which is the device to lock up the transmission won’t be able to park the car properly since the car is still moving. Chances are, the pawl will fall out of place due to damage to the break or locking pin and get lost in the gear. Damage to the transmission can occur which can sometimes lead to it affecting the engine. Other disasters can include tire wear, smoke from the heat being, and damage to the brakes and shift.

There will be damage that can be seen from the outside of the car that comes from parts inside the car like the pawl, transmission, and gears.

Breakdown of What Happens As The Driver

The first thing drivers might experience is the car jolting forward followed by a loud and expensive-sounding screeching noise and smoke being emitted.

From the driver’s perspective, putting the car in park while driving could be a reflex to stop. If one were to be driving fast when doing that, the first thing they might experience is the car jolting along with you and your passengers. This might be followed by a loud and expensive-sounding screeching noise from within. If the car keeps moving despite being put in park, then that means trouble especially if you’re going faster than 35/mph. You then might see some smoke behind the car which could be a hazard for anyone behind you.

Best Case Scenario

Forcing a car to do something it shouldn’t do naturally usually leads to bad results. If you happen to be lucky, then here are some of the best-case scenarios that you can face.

If you have a newer car-

If you have a modern car then you’re in luck and won’t have to deal with a disaster. This is because modern cars won’t let drivers put the car in park while driving. No matter how hard you may pull the lever, it simply won’t go into park if you’re going too fast. This is because of a safety mechanic holding the parking pawl in its proper place after hitting a certain speed. Even putting it in reverse won’t be possible as it will stay in drive when you are driving.

How It Is Prevented by the car-

It’s an understandable mistake especially if you’re used to driving a stick shift hence why car manufacturers made that preventable. Higher-end modern cars will stop automatically if there is a certain danger ahead of you on the road. If you’re even luckier, the worst that’ll happen is you’ll feel a jolt if you only put the car in park while driving. The chances are possible that nothing might happen if only done once or twice but those are not chances to play with often.

The car goes in reverse first-

Since the reverse gear comes before the parking, it’s possible the car could go into reverse before being put in park. The reverse inhibition mechanism is used to prevent this from happening but if it fails then disaster can occur. If you’re going at a speed that isn’t too fast for the car to ignore it or too slow to reverse then some of the gearsets will growl. If done rigorously, the gears could come loose and cause some damage to the transmission.

Worst and Most Likely Case Scenario

If we are being more realistic then the odds of one of these happening are more likely. If you have terrible luck then prepare yourself for at least of these scenarios.

The transmission blows-

If the transmission blows then it could stop the car from moving at all. The transmission has a connection to mechanisms that make cars park making damage to it nearly inevitable. A blown transmission will be something to deal with as it is essential to the car.

The gear blows-

Leaking fluids, the dashboard lights up, or an odor, are symptoms of a gearbox in trouble. When the gears have damage, then the gearbox can shift into a different gear by itself during the worst times.

Parking pawl breaks-

When the pin breaks, it can fall into the transmission thus preventing it from stopping the wheels. The car won’t be able to stop with the break and having gravity controlling the motions of the car instead.

Possible damage to the gears-

Since two gears are spinning during this process, one will quickly spin in the wrong direction. This will cause the teeth of the gears to mash against each other causing forceful friction and damage.

Assessing the Damage

Comment: Automatic vs Manual Car Damage

While parking while driving can do several manual and automatic cars, it has varying impacts. Manual and automatic cars park in different ways so it would have different effects when this is done.

  • Manual cars don’t have a parking gear so it will be put in 1st gear or reverse when parking.
  • With automatic cars, gears only need to switch by pulling or pushing the gear shift.
  • The parking pawl in automatic cars will suffer from damage.
  • Leaving a manual car in neutral while stopping won’t do any damage unlike with automatic cars.
  • The clutch components in manual cars can mess up if you forget to press them while switching gears.
  • Manual cars are more fuel-efficient and generally last longer making any damage done to the transmission not as bad.
  • Manual cars are cheaper to buy which means they’re cheaper to maintain.
  • That also means they’re cheaper to repair making fixing the damage not as expensive.

So What Can You Do Now?:

On the bright side, most of these parts are fixable or replaceable at various prices. If the damage sits longer than it should then the car can be worse off making replacements expensive.

Fixable Damage

Some damage can be fixable so hope isn’t all lost. Here are the parts that can be fixed and the options for said parts.

Repairs to broken parts: The good news is most transmission and parking pawl damage is fixable. If the car isn’t ancient then there is still hope for it. There are hundreds of parts in the transmission so if one part goes, the whole transmission will need repairing. For the transmission, there are multiple ways to go about making it usable.

Like most people, you don’t want your repairs to be quick and sloppy fixes. If you’re willing to pay the price, here’s how you can get lasting repairs.

Lasting Repairs: You can have a transmission rebuilt at a transmission rebuild shop to have it cleaned and have broken parts replaced. Repairs can last for a year or two, but prices can cost thousands of dollars depending on what’s wrong. You can also buy a remanufactured transmission at a factory direct and/or order one online to be shipped to a repair shop near you for installation.

Where you buy the parts is important too. Here are the shopping options for parts as far as quality and quantity goes

Repair options: Repair shops offer transmissions at varying prices depending on the quality of the transmission. They can help you find a transmission and install it in your car for you making this a popular choice for those who need it. Dealerships provide transmission repairs at more expensive prices including hourly rates to make them last longer.

If you can’t afford expensive parts, then there are options that are more budget-friendly.

Cheaper options: Junkyards are a cheaper alternative place to buy a new transmission as junkyards have many spare parts. However, they can be riskier to buy since parts from junkyards are unpredictable and repair shops usually don’t warranty them.

The parking mechanism will obviously be impacted by the forceable actions you took. Here is the impact and cost that you will have to endure to fix it.

Parking pawl damage: The parking pawl which is another part that could suffer from damage is a cheaper and less difficult part to replace. Since it is connected to the transmission, removing the transmission to repair the parking pawl is an essential step of the process. Removing and replacing the parking pawl itself isn’t difficult but it can cost from $500 to $1,000 depending on the car model.

Permanent damage?

If enough damage has been done to the transmission, parking pawl, or even the shift then permanent damage might ensue. Those parts or any other nearby parts in the car could be broken beyond repair in different ways because of the unnecessary force. These parts are essential for your car to work hence why it’s important to know if it’s broken.

Step 1: Check the Unfixable Car Parts- If you hear vibrations or other unusual sounds then those are signs that the transmission has blown. Other serious signs include the engine overheating and delay when you try to accelerate. The most critical sign of transmission failure is the car will stop moving to mean the car needs maintenance immediately. A transmission rebuild can be an option in which the transmission can be custom rebuilt by a specialist.

Step 2: The Process- The specialist will take apart and inspect the transmission, removing broken parts, and replacing them. Rebuilding it can be pricey but cheaper than replacing it. It is also much cheaper than letting transmission destroy the car’s engine. If a transmission with damage is left like that, then the engine could fail and eventually blow. Engines are the heart of the car and one of the most expensive parts to replace.

Step 3: Prevention- With the cost of part replacements, permanent damage can be devastating to your car and wallet. The transmission is one of the most expensive parts to fix so it’s best to avoid damaging it. Getting a maintenance check on routine is a cheaper way to avoid total transmission failure.

If All Else Fails?

At the end of the day, all things cannot be saved. If that is the case and you can’t fix it because of affordability or damage, then there are alternatives.

Getting a new car that won’t go let you park while driving:

If you have an old car then junking it and buying a new car will probably be the most cost-effective option. As far as modern cars go, manufacturers have been making vehicles that won’t let you park while driving. It’s hard to tell which ones won’t let you park while driving unless you do it, which isn’t advisable. What you can get instead is a car that stops when it detects a road hazard. This is done by the car’s radar or cameras by either making a sound or showing you on a screen.

Features: This new feature comes in newer cars that also have touchpad shift gears which can also deter that mistake. On top of automatic emergency braking, they can also include lane switching warnings, and automatic high-beams. By September 1st of 2022, every major automaker promises to make every new car with automatic emergency brakes. That’s good news for future drivers but now the only automatically stopping cars are either mid-end or luxury. The Toyota iA 2018 is the cheapest new car with automatic emergency brakes that work at city speeds but won’t work at highway speeds.

What Happens If You Put An Automatic Car In Neutral While Driving?

When driving, going in neutral is also something to be avoided as that can cause damage too. Not only is it illegal in some places to drive in neutral but it poses similar risks as parking while driving. Most automatic drivers rarely use neutral, to begin with, but since the neutral gear is near the drive gear, it can happen. The neutral shift’s purpose is for the car to move with outer forces like the wind or by a tow truck.

What Happens While Driving?

If put in neutral while driving the clutch backs in the transmission could wear out as it’s not made to do that. After hitting a certain speed, there’s a chance the transmission fluid could leak and lead to permanent damage. On top of the damage to the breaks and parking pawl, the car might delay while accelerating because the shifter might not go into the drive automatically.

Wrap Up

In short, if you put your car in park while driving then the damage is almost guaranteed to occur. The transmission, parking pawl, gears, brakes, and the engine could all suffer at varying degrees. If left alone, the damage to those parts could spread to other parts. If the damage costs more than the car itself then junking it and getting a new car might be best. So basically, you should never put your automatic in park while you’re driving. Your car and bank account will suffer negatively due to such a silly error.

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