Accidentally shifted car into Park while driving. How much damage?

Yesterday at about was driving along at about 50km/h (~37mph) and I stupidly got distracted, leaned over to reach my water bottle on the floor in front of the passenger seat. In doing so I accidentally depressed my Auto transmission gearstick and pushed it into Reverse. I noticed pretty quickly when I started slowing down and the "low battery" light came up on my dashboard. In a panic I tried to get it out of Reverse and instead put it into Park (now at about 30-40km/h - 20-25mph) - probably making my situation 10x worse!

The (transmission?) started grinding loudly, the car shuddering and I quickly slammed on the brakes. By the time I stopped the car had stalled.

I realise I was stupid in getting distracted and my panic reaction of putting it into Park was far from ideal. How much damage have I likely caused?

It's a 2002 car; Auto transmission. I was able to re-start the car and drive off without problems. When I found a quiet street on a hill, stopped and put it into Park, the car didn't roll down the hill so I hope this means the gears aren't completely stripped. There was no subsequent overheating, smoke or shuddering when driving.

How much internal damage to my transmission or other parts have I likely caused?

Thanks in advance!


Just to clarify, the button on my gearstick is awkwardly positioned - me leaning over actually depressed the button and allowed it to be pushed forward into Reverse. I believe that coasted like Neutral (no grindings/sounds) - it's the Park (and grinding) that's cause for concern.

It seems to be driving fine since. I completed the rest of my 2 hour journey at all speeds/conditions without cause for concern, including reverse parking.

4 Answers

  • Joe
    Lv 7
    8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    I might guess that you accidently bumped it into neutral, not reverse. Then, you slammed it all the way into park.

    It probably never engaged in reverse. That's a good thing.

    The grinding you heard was a part called the "parking pawl." It can take a certain amount of abuse before failing completely. Damage to the parking pawl won't affect the rest of the transmission. Just be sure to use the parking brake all the time (which you should be doing anyway).

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  • 8 years ago

    You must have really hit the shifter hard because usually in an automatic you have to hold the button in if you want to put it into reverse or park. You can knock it into neutral without hitting the button in, but park or reverse? Wow, your transmission is probably going to need a lot of work. Take it for a drive around the block and see if the gears change smoothly. If the gears switch smoothly, take it to a street where you can go a little faster and try out the other gears. Best of luck.

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  • br549
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    Probably none.

    Transmission designers knew you would be driving one day.

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  • Tony
    Lv 7
    8 years ago


    they are built to slip till the car stops and not damage the transmission

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