Dear Tom and Ray:
My husband and I are at odds on this issue. We have a 2003 Mini Cooper with an auTomatic transmission. He applies the hand brake before throwing the car into Park. The car then makes a noticeable creak when we get out of the car. I usually put the car in Park, then apply the hand brake. If I'm on an incline, the car will roll a little, then stop — but no nasty creak. Hubbie's logic is that it's better to be hard on the hand brake than to be hard on the transmission. The creak just makes me uneasy! Any advice on who's right? — Cat
Ray: Well, we're glad this is all you're at odds over. During my brother's most recent marriage, they were at odds because he would put the car in Park, and she would hit him with the hand brake.
Tom: The good news is that neither of you is doing any damage with your respective parking methods. But we prefer Hubbie's.
Ray: When you put the car in Park on a hill, Cat, and it rolls a foot or so, that's because the parking pawl — the device that locks up the output shaft of the transmission and prohibits the car from rolling — is not a precise instrument. It's a ratchet with some slop in it, and it can allow the car to roll a bit in either direction before it jams into place and holds the car.
Tom: There's nothing dangerous about that — unless you just parked six inches up the hill from Leadpipe Louie's new Cadillac.
Ray: We've never seen a parking pawl break from rolling, so that's not a concern. But if the car rolls and jams the parking pawl, it can make it hard for you to get out of Park when you try to drive away.
Tom: Applying the parking brake before you put it in Park eliminates that problem. The brake holds the car in place and doesn't let the car roll until the parking pawl jams up. You just have to remember — when you come back — to take the transmission out of Park first before releasing the parking brake.
Ray: The creak you're hearing is just the parking brake grabbing. That's nothing to worry about.
Tom: No. My brother creaks when he grabs now, too.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)