Is Engine Braking Bad for Automatic Transmission?

Are you concerned about engine braking and its effects on your automatic transmission? Many drivers feel that engine braking can damage their automatic transmission, but the truth is that it can be beneficial when used correctly.

Read on to learn more about when to use engine braking and how it affects your automatic transmission.

Key Takeaways

  • Engine braking with an automatic transmission can help reduce excessive wear on brakes and improve fuel economy.
  • However, it can also increase fuel consumption, cause transmission damage, and result in jerky stops.
  • Engine braking can lead to overheating of the transmission, which can damage seals, gaskets, and other components.
  • Excessive engine braking can also cause damage to the plastic thrust washers within the gearbox, leading to serious issues.

So, can engine braking affect the automatic transmission?

When it comes to engine braking with automatic transmissions, there are both pros and cons.

Helps reduce excessive wear on brakesIncreases fuel consumption
Reduces the need for manual shiftingCan cause transmission damage
Improves fuel economyMay cause jerky stops
Reduces fuel emissions

Engine braking with an automatic transmission can help reduce excessive wear on the brakes, reduce the need for manual shifting, and improve fuel economy.

However, it can also increase fuel consumption, cause transmission damage, and cause jerky stops. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use engine braking with an automatic transmission is up to the driver.

How can engine braking help fuel consumption, but in the same time increase it?

Engine braking is the technique of slowing down a vehicle by releasing the accelerator pedal and downshifting through the gears. When you engage in engine braking, the engine ceases to consume fuel, making it a more fuel-efficient method compared to conventional braking.

However, in specific situations, such as when you have to frequently use the accelerator pedal, engine braking can lead to increased fuel consumption.

Here are some ways in which engine braking can either increase or decrease fuel consumption:

  1. Using the accelerator pedal while engine braking will result in higher fuel consumption.
  2. Over time, engine braking can be detrimental to the engine and transmission, causing wear and tear on components like piston rings, bearings, journals, and cams.

Ways in which engine braking can decrease fuel consumption:

  1. Engine braking decelerates the vehicle without the need for applying the brakes. This passive slowing down allows for better control of the vehicle’s deceleration, reducing the necessity to apply the brakes at lower speeds and for shorter durations. This, in turn, leads to less wear, reduced heat generation, and decreased brake fade. The obvious advantage here is that your brakes will have a longer lifespan, providing better value.
  2. Engine braking proves especially beneficial on extended descents down mountains or hills. Riding the brakes extensively on a steep slope can cause them to overheat, resulting in reduced braking performance and damage to the braking system. When you employ engine braking while descending, there is less heat, wear, and brake fade. Consequently, your brakes endure less stress, ensuring a longer lifespan and a safer descent.
  3. While driving downhill and lifting off the throttle, the engine stops injecting fuel into the combustion chamber, effectively consuming no fuel. Your fuel economy is at its maximum in this situation. In contrast, if you shift the car into neutral and coast, a small amount of fuel is still required. This is because the car operates in a standard idle condition instead of an engine braking condition, needing minimal fuel to keep idling.

Effects of engine braking on automatic transmission fluid temperature

The effects of engine braking on an automatic transmission’s fluid temperature can be detrimental if not carefully monitored.

When using the engine braking, the transmission works harder and is subject to extra stress that can cause the fluid to overheat. Heat can cause damage to the seals, gaskets, and other components in the transmission, leading to costly repairs.

To reduce the risk of overheating, it’s important to shift frequently and have the transmission serviced periodically. Additionally, it’s advisable to reduce engine braking when driving on challenging terrain or in heavy traffic. This will help to keep the transmission fluid temperature in a safe operating range.

Effects of engine braking on plastic thrust washers within the gearbox

Engine braking can put excessive strain on the plastic thrust washers within an automatic transmission’s gearbox, potentially causing damage. Here are four points to consider when using engine braking:

  1. Plastic thrust washers are designed to provide insulation and act as a cushion for gear shifts.
  2. When engine braking is used, the amount of pressure placed on the washers is increased.
  3. This can result in excessive wear and tear on the washers, leading to serious damage.
  4. It’s important to keep this in mind when using engine braking in an automatic transmission.

When to use engine braking with automatic transmission?

Using engine braking with an automatic transmission can be beneficial in some situations. It’s important to know when it’s safe to do so and when it should be avoided.

We’ll examine the correct times to use engine braking with an automatic transmission and the times when it shouldn’t be used.

Safe situations to use engine braking with automatic transmission

Here are four safe situations:

  1. Going downhill: When going downhill, engine braking is the most efficient way to slow the vehicle without having to use the brakes.
  2. Slowing quickly: When the driver needs to slow down quickly, engine braking is the quickest way to reduce speed.
  3. Maintaining speed: When driving on a long stretch of road, engine braking can be used to maintain speed without having to accelerate.
  4. Stopping: Engine braking can be used in combination with the brakes to stop the vehicle.

Using engine braking with an automatic transmission is generally safe when done in the right situations. It’s important to be aware of the terrain and the speed of the vehicle before engaging engine braking.

Situations to avoid using engine braking with automatic transmission

Situations to AvoidReasons
Steep DownhillSlippage from brakes
Uneven RoadsUnexpected lurches
High SpeedsOverheating of brakes
Driving at NightPoor visibility
Rain/SnowSlippery surface

Engine braking can be a great way to reduce wear and tear on brakes, but it’s important to know when it’s not safe to use. Steep downhill roads can cause slippage from brakes due to lack of friction, and on uneven roads, it can cause unexpected lurches which can be dangerous.

High speeds can also cause the brakes to overheat, and in bad weather conditions such as rain or snow, the surface can be slippery and cause loss of traction. Lastly, driving at night can be dangerous due to poor visibility and can increase the risk of an accident.


Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of engine braking with automatic transmission, it’s time to draw our conclusion.

Engine braking with an automatic transmission can be beneficial in some scenarios but should be used with caution. Here are four key points to consider when engine braking with an automatic transmission:

  1. Take note of the vehicle’s specific manufacturer instructions to ensure proper operation.
  2. Understand the terrain and driving conditions before attempting to use engine braking.
  3. Be aware of how the vehicle’s transmission works to determine if engine braking is appropriate.
  4. Utilize other braking methods if engine braking isn’t optimal.
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