If you drive an automatic, you might have wondered if it’s enough to just put the gearshift in “Park” when you stop the car – or do you also need to engage the handbrake, no matter what? Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa

IF you drive an automatic, you might have wondered if it’s enough to just put the gearshift in “Park” when you stop the car — or do you also need to engage the handbrake, no matter what?

Safety experts say if the gearshift lever of a vehicle with automatic transmission is in the “P” position, the car will be well secured against rolling away. But they also warn that drivers should also apply the handbrake to be on the safe side.

“The park position should theoretically be sufficient in most cases, since here a locking pin engages mechanically in the gear teeth of the transmission and the vehicle is thus held by the drive wheels,” says Reinhard Buchsdruecker from the German testing organisation Dekra.

However, the pin could give way under heavy loading, such as a steep gradient. Older vehicles are particularly vulnerable in colder weather because of a phenomenon known as “brake shoe freezing,” which affects vehicles with drum brakes and inadequately protected wire rope hoists.

So the handbrake should therefore always be used, and the users of company cars, in particular, must apply the handbrake.

“Insurance companies and employers’ liability insurance associations’ demand that company car users secure their cars with the handbrake so that they do not unexpectedly start moving and cause an accident”, says Buchsdruecker. Depending on your country and insurer, failure to do so can result in the loss of accident insurance coverage.

Buchsdruecker’s overall advice once you’ve parked is to “set the gear lever to P, switch off the engine and apply the handbrake”. – dpa