5 Tips on How to Park a Manual Car (Especially on Hills)

Parking a manual transmission car, especially on a steep hill, can be intimidating. All that potentially stands between your vehicle and a downhill runaway is your shifter and handbrake.

However, with some key tips on technique and preparation under your belt, you can park smoothly and safely. Identifying the incline and decline spots ahead of time, keeping the clutch depressed, and turning wheels strategically allows you to use first gear and the handbrake to hold position solidly. With practice, you’ll be a parking pro.

5 Tips for Parking a Car With a Manual Transmission

Below are the top 5 tips for parking a manual transmission car. The two gears you’ll need to concern yourself with the most are the first gear and reverse gear.

1) Leave it in First Gear

hard to shift

A manual transmission car does not have a Park gear like an automatic transmission car does. This means when you go to park your vehicle, you should make it a habit of putting the transmission in first gear after you shut off the engine.

If you simply leave the car in neutral, then your car is simply going to roll away even on a very slight slope which can cause all sorts of damage. As an extra precaution, you can also set your emergency parking brake.

This may be a lever you pull up with your hand, a small pedal you push down, or a button (in case of an electronic parking brake).

2) Parking on a Hill

how to park on a hill

If you are parked on a hill with the emergency brake set, there is still a chance that your car could roll if you don’t have the right gear set. Choosing the right gear depends on which direction the car is facing on the hill.

  • If the car is facing uphill, set the transmission in first gear and turn the front wheels to point away from the curb.
  • If the car is facing downhill, set the gear to reverse and turn your front wheels to point towards the curb.

Of course, make sure you always have the emergency brake lever set no matter which gear you choose.

Addition tips for parking on a hill with a manual transmission:

  • For an additional safety measure, use wheel stop blocks (chocks) against the curb wheels when parked on steep hills. These wedge-shaped blocks slide behind the wheel to add an extra barrier against rolling.
  • Practice on small, shallow inclines before attempting to park on steep streets. Identify flat areas as well to build skill.
  • Have an experienced manual transmission driver assist you the first few times parking on hills. They can guide maneuvering and proper use of the handbrake.

The key is to go slow, be observant, and build good habits. Don’t rush the processing of surveying a spot, keeping the clutch depressed, shifting smoothly into first gear, and firmly engaging the parking brake. With repeated practice parking on inclines and declines, it will become second-nature.

3) Neutral Parking

parking in neutral

If you are on flat land and parked between two vehicles, it is often recommended to set your gear in neutral. Although rare, it would help protect your transmission in case someone accidentally bumps into you.

As always, use your emergency brake in conjunction with the neutral gear.

4) Forward Parking

forward parking

If your pulling into a parking space at a business or driveway to park your vehicle, then you would normally shift to first gear and then use the emergency brake. However, you can also use reverse gear as well and it should still be okay.

The only exception to either of these is if the parking space happens to be on a steep hill. But most parking spaces are on flat land anyway. You shouldn’t use neutral because you’re not parked in between two cars.

5) Reverse Parking

parking backwards

If you’re backing into a parking space at a business or driveway to park your vehicle, then you will want to keep it in reverse gear after you’ve backed in all the way.

You could get away with first gear but leaving it in reverse gear is better if you’ve backed into the parking space instead of going forward into it.

Related: 5 Tips for Driving a Car as a Beginner


5 thoughts on “5 Tips on How to Park a Manual Car (Especially on Hills)”

  1. I disagree with this.

    Parking brake/hand brake should always be used (having it in gear alone would not stop a roll).

    If it’s on an incline or decline, also recommended to put it in the gear going up the incline (as stated in this article).

    • Having it in gear alone does keep the vehicle from rolling. I would only trust it on ground that is pretty much level, though. Always best to both put it in gear and use the handbrake on hills.

  2. Good refresher. It’s been almost 15 years since I drove manual and I’m buying a manual transmission car soon and I’m excited about that! So i have been looking for refreshers like this, and first gear is the gear I always used, with the parking brake too, always.


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