Confusion over order of steps for parking on a hill

Dear Car Talk:

In a column from 2012, your recommendation when parking on a hill was to set the parking brake first, then put the transmission in park. In one of your recent columns, the order was: put the car in park first, then apply the parking brake. To drive away, both columns indicate that the lever should be shifted into gear and then the parking brake released. I checked the manuals for our two family cars (a Toyota Corolla and a Hyundai Elantra), and those two sets of instructions had opposite orders too! What's the correct order? Parking brake then "P," or "P" and then parking brake? Thank you! – Kay

RAY: Well, I always P before I even get in the car, Kay.

Sorry for the confusion here. As long as you keep your foot on the brake pedal until the other two steps are completed, you can use any order you want. What you’re trying to avoid is having the car roll once it’s in park. It won’t really do any damage, but when you park on a steep hill, and the car rolls and jams the transmission’s parking pawl, it can be hard to get the car out of park.

So stop the car while it’s still in gear, and keep your foot on the brake pedal. Then put the car in park and set the parking brake, or set the parking brake and then put the car in park. When both of those steps are done, remove your foot from the brake pedal and – if you’ve engaged the parking brake securely, and it’s working – the car shouldn’t roll at all. That’s what you want. Then, when you get back to the car, you should have no trouble shifting out of park, so you can race home to research your next question for us.

Bad connection may be cause of power issue

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 1979 Mercedes-Benz 240D that sat for about a year because the injection pump began to leak. I eventually was able to find an inexpensive injection pump and install it. I also put in new glow plugs, a new starter and a new battery. I checked all of the fuses and cleaned the fuse holder. But now when I turn the key, there is nothing. The dashboard lights won’t even come on.

I had no electrical problems before the car stopped running. I would appreciate any ideas you have about what I should do next. Electricity is the only class I failed. Thank you. I love your show. – Ed

RAY: I think you might have failed "Car Selection," too, Ed. But we'll leave that aside for now. You're getting absolutely no power when you turn the key. That's good. It's good because it's easier to diagnose than an intermittent electrical problem.

My first guess would be that you’ve got a bad connection at the battery or a bad ground. Every electron that leaves the battery eventually has to return to the battery. So if Eddie Electron leaves the positive terminal, and goes to the ignition switch, then to the starter, it then has to leave the starter and travel through a ground wire to the engine block and the chassis, where another ground wire brings it back to the negative terminal of the battery.

If it buys a one-way ticket and fails to make that round trip, you don’t get any power. Nada. Zip. So start by testing the battery. It’s new, but test it anyway. And make sure the cable connectors are tight and free of corrosion. If the battery is good, then you need to test the ground connections. You may have simply knocked off a ground wire, or a ground wire may have “completed” its corrosion process during the year this thing sat in your driveway.

If the ground wires are all connected, and not obviously corroded, have an assistant try jiggling them while you try to start the car. Have him or her jiggle all the wires under the dashboard too. If you turn up nothing there, test the ignition switch, which could be at fault. But my first guess is that you’ve got a loose or corroded ground wire.

When you finally do get the car started, Ed, then you can look forward to spending a weekend trying to bleed your new “inexpensive injector pump” and figuring out if the only reason it was “inexpensive” is because it leaks just like your old one. Best of luck.

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