Uphill Parking

Parking on a Hill: How to Park Uphill and Downhill

by Zutobi · Updated Nov 01, 2023

At some point in time, you will end up having to park on a hill or sloping driveway. If you do not know the tips outlined in this article, you could end up putting yourself or others in danger if your brakes fail. A rolling vehicle can seriously injure or even fatally wound a pedestrian and cause a serious accident if rolling into traffic.

Parking uphill and downhill is commonly tested during the driving test which means it’s essential to know even if you live in an area that is mostly flat.

Below, we’ve outlined all the tips and tricks you need to know to safely park on a hill or sloping highway.

If you prefer video, check out this explainer on the subject:

How to Turn Your Wheels the Correct Way

When parking on a hill, you will need to turn your wheels in a direction that prevents your vehicle from moving into the path of traffic if the brakes fail. This means you will need to turn the wheels differently depending on whether you are standing uphill or downhill with your car, and if the road has a curb or not.

Turning the wheels the correct way when parking is a simple precaution to prevent what could be a very dangerous accident. You don’t want to face criminal charges and be responsible for putting someone in the hospital (or worse).

Parking on a Hill With a Curb

On roads with a curb, you will need to turn the wheels in different directions depending on whether you are parked uphill or downhill.

  • If parking downhill – turn your steering wheel toward the curb. Leave the gear in reverse (manual) or park (automatic).
  • If parking uphill – turn your steering wheel away from the curb and let your vehicle roll back to touch the curb gently. Leave the gear in first (manual) or park (automatic).
Parking on a Hill With a Curb
Parking (A) downhill, (B) uphill on roads with a curb

Parking on a Hill Without a Curb

If you are on a road where there is no curb or the curb isn’t high enough to stop your vehicle if it starts to roll, you need to think through how you position your wheels. The wheels must be turned so your vehicle will roll away from traffic (i.e. roll “off the road”) in case of brake failure.

Look at the illustration below to see which way the wheels should be turned when uphill or downhill.

Parking on a Hill Without a Curb
Parking (A) downhill, (B) uphill on roads without a curb

Which Gear Should You Use?

Leaving your car in the correct gear is more important than you might think. It will help keep your car in place by using the engine braking effect, which means your engine will act as a 2nd brake together with the parking brake.

Manual transmission cars should be in 1st gear when parked uphill and reverse gear when parked downhill. You can think of the correct gear being the gear that points “up the slope”.

Driver Checklist for Parking on a Hill

Below is a checklist of the 6 most important things you must take into consideration as you attempt to park on a hill on the driving test or any other time. If you can answer all these questions, you can safely leave your vehicle knowing you haven’t missed anything.

  1. Does the road have a curb?
  2. Are you parked uphill or downhill?
  3. Are the wheels positioned correctly?
  4. Will the vehicle roll into traffic or off the road in case of brake failure?
  5. Is the car in the correct gear, i.e. does it point “up the slope”?
  6. Have you activated the parking brake?

That’s it! If you want more tips and tricks on parking or other topics, read our other articles or take the Zutobi Drivers Ed course for your state to get all the in-depth information you need to become a safe driver and pass the DMV Knowledge Exam or Driving Test.

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