Parking on a hill can be intimidating. If your car’s brakes fail for whatever reason, your car will roll down the hill. To prevent your vehicle from moving once it’s parked, you’ll need to know how to correctly park on a hill.

Uphill and Downhill Parking

Uphill and downhill parking are two different techniques you can use to keep your car in place if the brakes fail.

Uphill Parking

Before you start to turn the wheel and park, you need to know if you’re parking uphill with a curb or without a curb. If you’re parking uphill with a curb, turn the wheels away from the curb. If your car begins to roll backward, the front wheels will likely hit the curb and prevent your car from moving any further.

If you’re parking uphill and there is no curb to prevent your car from rolling, the best thing to do is to position your vehicle so it doesn’t roll toward the center of the road by turning your wheels toward the right side of the road.

Downhill Parking

Similar to parking uphill, you can also park downhill with or without a curb. If you’re parking downhill and there is a curb, turn your car’s wheels toward the curb. In the event the parking brake fails, your vehicle won’t roll too far before the curb blocks the wheels and the car stops moving.

When there’s no curb and you’re parking downhill, make sure your wheels are pointing toward the right side of the road. If the parking brake fails, your car will travel away from the street instead of colliding with traffic.

Parking On a Hill Step-by-Step

If you need to park on a hill, make sure you take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and everyone else safe.

  1. First, you need to pull up to the space you intend to park in. Position your car parallel to the curb.
  1. If you’re parking uphill, ensure that your car’s wheels are turned away from the curb. If you’re parking your vehicle downhill, ensure your car’s wheels are turned toward the curb.
  1. Now you’ll need to engage the handbrake, also referred to as the emergency brake or parking brake. Using the handbrake ensures your vehicle is secure on the hill and doesn’t move.
  1. If you’re operating a car with a manual transmission (stick shift), your car should be in first gear when you’re parking uphill, and reverse gear when you’re parking downhill.
  1. Turn off the engine and remove your car key.
  1. Before exiting your vehicle, check for traffic, and don’t forget to lock your vehicle!

Driver Hill Parking Checklist

Below we’ve created a checklist of the 6 most essential things you need to take into consideration as you attempt to correctly park on a hill, whether it’s for your driving test or another time.

  • Does the road have a curb?
  • Are you parked uphill or downhill?
  • Are the car’s wheels positioned correctly?
  • Will the vehicle roll into traffic or off the road in the event the parking brake fails?
  • Is the vehicle in the correct gear? (does it point up the slope?)
  • Have you activated the car’s parking brake?

How to Secure Your Vehicle On a Hill

Parking your vehicle on a hill isn’t something that crosses your mind until you’re in this situation. Whether you’re parking uphill or downhill, remember to always apply your parking brake BEFORE placing the gear shift into the park (P) position in an automatic vehicle. When your vehicle is secured by the parking brake, this decreases the chance of the shifter lever becoming stuck in the park position.

When you’re leaving the parked position, make sure to do the following:

  • Keep your foot on the brake
  • Choose the correct gear
  • Release the parking brake
  • Complete a 360 view of your surroundings
  • Use the appropriate turn signal to let other drivers know you’re coming out of the parking spot
  • Perform a shoulder check
  • Proceed in your desired direction

Parking On a Hill for Driver’s Ed

If you live in a state where parking on a hill is required to pass Driver’s Education (Driver’s Ed), we can help!

Parking on hills is one part of Driver’s Ed that many drivers fail on the written and in-car DMV tests. The first thing you need to remember is that it’s not illegal to park on a hill UNLESS there are posted signs or painted curbs that state otherwise. However, you must always make sure that your vehicle is not a hazard once it is parked.

Parked vehicles must be far enough away from all travel lanes to avoid interfering with traffic. Cars must also be clearly visible to other cars that are approaching from either direction. You should NOT park where other vehicles can’t see your car, such as right before a curve or too close to a crest.

You are responsible for knowing how to prevent your car from rolling into a traffic lane. In some states, you will receive a ticket if you don’t angle your car’s front wheels correctly if you’re parking on a grade that is at least 3%.

General Rules for Parking On a Hill

When you’re parking your vehicle on a hill, you need to turn your engine off first, set the parking brake, and lock the ignition. You also need to turn the car’s front wheels so your vehicle doesn’t roll into traffic if the brakes fail.

General Rule 1 – Turning the Wheels to the Right

The general rule for parking on hills, whether uphill or downhill, is to turn the car’s front wheels to the right. This means you must turn the wheels to the side of the road and away from all travel lanes.

If your vehicle begins to roll, it will often move away from the travel lane and off the road instead of in the middle of the road into traffic. Turning your wheels in the opposite direction (away from the side and toward a travel lane), if your vehicle rolls, all or part of your vehicle will roll into traffic. However, there is one exception to this general rule, which is general rule #2.

General Rule 2 – Turning the Car’s Wheels to the Left

The ONLY time your car’s front wheels should be turned to the left and toward traffic is when you are parking uphill AND there is a curb.

Curbs Can Stop Your Car!

When you’re parking uphill and there is a curb, turn your wheels to the left and away from the curb. Before you set your parking brake, allow your vehicle to roll back and hit the curb. Your vehicle should only be rolling back a few inches. The curb suffices as a second parking brake to stop your vehicle from rolling any further.

You should try parking on hills until you get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect! Park your vehicle uphill on a road that has a curb. Ensure you’re in a safe location so you’re not interfering with traffic. Turn the car’s front wheels to the left, put your vehicle in neutral, and release the parking brake. If needed, you can have another person push your vehicle from the front.

As you complete this exercise, you’ll realize that when the back of the car’s front wheels come into contact with the curb, your car stops and won’t travel any further. If your front wheels are pointing to the curb (your wheels are facing to the right), your car’s back wheels will eventually hit the curb. However, the front of your vehicle will stick out in a traffic lane, and that’s not the result you want.

Keeping your wheels pointed straight in front of you ensures that your vehicle will continue to roll downhill until something stops it, which is often another car, so avoid this at all costs!

The Bottom Line

There will likely come a time when you’re driving and will have to park on a hill, whether it’s a road, driveway, or another type of slope. Using the tips outlined in this article will help you secure your vehicle and keep everyone safe in the event your brakes fail for any reason.

Rolling vehicles can cause serious and sometimes fatal injuries to pedestrians, and destroy property. Knowing how to properly park on a hill is a skill that can save your life and the lives of others!