Dec 25, 2005 — Dear Tom and Ray: I bought a 2003 Ford Explorer with an automatic transmission. I took my boss to lunch one day (first mistake!), and when we got back to the office, I pulled into my parking spot, turned off the ignition and put the vehicle in park.

My boss was aghast: "You'll ruin the transmission," he cried out. "Put it in park first, and then turn off the ignition."

Does it really matter whether I put it in park before or after turning off the ignition? - Garland

Tom: Well, would you rather be right or employed, Garland?

Ray: It doesn't matter to the transmission. There's nothing that happens when you move the shifter from drive to park when the engine is not running that would damage the transmission.

Tom: When you go from drive to park, you're doing two things. First, you're disengaging the gears. If this were a manual transmission, this would be the equivalent of stepping on the clutch and putting the shifter in Neutral. You can do that whether the engine is on or off.

Ray: The other thing you're doing is engaging something called the parking pawl.

Tom: You've probably heard of the parking pawl. It used to play with parking Peter and parking Mary back in the '60s.

Ray: You see what I have to live with, folks? The parking pawl is a lever that locks up the output shaft of the transmission and prevents it from turning. That's what keeps the car from rolling down the hill when you put the transmission in park.


And that can be done with the engine on or off, as well.

Tom: But that's not the real issue here, Garland. Bosses are concerned about efficiency, are they not? And it's more efficient to shut off the car his way (and, by the way, the way 285 million other Americans do it).

Ray: The key cannot be removed until the transmission is in park. So when you turn off the ignition, then put it in park, then remove the key, that's three steps.

Tom: Whereas if you put it in park, you can then turn off the ignition and remove the key at the same

Ray: He may infer from your car-turning-off behavior that you have other, similar inefficiencies in your workday, which are affecting your productivity and HIS bottom line, Garland.

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