Does putting an automatic transmission in neutral harm the car?

Becoming more and more popular due to their versatility and practicality in use, automatic transmissions, despite their rapid spread are not properly used by a lot of drivers.

A lot of questions are asked about the role of the neutral gear in an automatic car. At the same time, it is not clear why such a neutral regime is needed and how to use it correctly.

What is the role of neutral gear in an automatic transmission?

The neutral gear is used only in emergency cases. When the neutral mode is activated in an automatic transmission, there is no communication between the wheels and the engine, so the torque is not transmitted to the drive axle. When the car is damaged and cannot move unless it is towed that’s when the neutral (N) should be used in an automatic car.

This eliminates the increased load on the car, preventing its overheating during towing. The peculiarity of putting the gear in neutral is that the input power shaft is completely blocked, but the output shaft remains free, which allows the wheels to rotate without any problems, thereby towing the car.

Regarding the speed of towing, some car enthusiasts and mechanics believe that the towing speed should not exceed 30 km per hour (approx. 19 miles per hour), others are pointing to 50 km per hour (31 miles per hour).

One thing is certain, the towing distance of a car that has an automatic transmission is not designed for long drives. If there is a long distance to the first workshop then you should use a tow truck to transport your car.

Switching the selector to neutral is also used in a car service, when it is necessary to unlock the wheels before repairing, and when the car is parked and you want to start the engine, but be sure to activate the parking brake or press the brake pedal before you start.

When does the use of neutral gear in an automatic transmission affect your car?

Using the neutral in an AT can affect your car in a bad way. There are some situations when using it can be harmful, for example, in a parking lot some drivers are putting the shifter in the N (neutral) spot and that is totally wrong.

Remember, that when you use it, the wheels are not blocked, so if you forget to apply the parking brake, the car will simply roll, and this can lead to road accidents. Thus, in most cases, it is recommended to activate the parking mode (P), and not neutral.

Another situation is when coasting or driving down on an inclined road you should never use the neutral gear in an automatic car. If the car owner switches the selector to neutral mode while driving the car, the unit will not receive oil in the required amount, leading to a pressure change, and will be forced to rotate dry.

Since the automatic transmission has a number of rubbing elements that constantly need lubrication in the form of transmission oil, operation without lubricant leads to accelerated wear of parts. Surfaces rub against each other, heat up, wear off and fail.

This aspect is also valid for constant stops at traffic lights. If you move the lever to the neutral position N, the clutches open, and close, and also the shafts are separated. When the traffic lights are green, the driver engages gear D again, but after 1 or 2 minutes of driving, he repeats the process.

Because of the constant changes in modes the transmission will simply not withstand the load, and it will quickly fail.

The safest procedure to do when meeting a traffic light is to leave the automatic transmission in driving mode (D) and pressing and holding the brake pedal until the green light turns on. In D mode, the torque converter continues to build up pressure and the transmission assemblies are thoroughly lubricated with fluid.

There is no need for frequent gear changes, especially in an automatic car, keeping the lever in the D spot is the best option. If however, the traffic jams are long you can turn off the engine and engage the P gear until traffic starts to move again.


Unlike manual transmissions where the neutral position is used quite a lot, the neutral spot in an automatic car is used rarely and only when need be, especially in emergency cases such as towing. It is forbidden to activate the neutral gear while the car is moving, and on many vehicles, this is completely impossible

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