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When I have to stop the car but I know that I will be moving again soon, on the red light for example, should I shift to neutral?

When I was learning how to drive, my instructor said that there is no problem in stopping for a long time with the car engaged on the first gear as long as the clutch pedal is fully pressed.

But everyone else says that even if the clutch pedal is fully pressed, the gearbox gets worn out, so I should shift to neutral, is that true?

I'm not comfortable with the idea of shifting to neutral when stopped then shifting back to first gear to move, then shift to neutral to stop then shift back to first again, etc. especially on heavy traffic.

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I was always taught to put the car in neutral while waiting at lights. I ruined my throw out bearing by always holding the clutch in. Apparently it was a very difficult replacement because it was a front wheel drive car.

The consequences I would receive if a family member saw me idling and holding in the clutch were severe.

Don't hold in your clutch at stoplights. Put it in neutral. There's no reason to ruin a perfectly good throw out bearing.

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    My dad would call me a tool user when I did that. He'd just say, "Use your tools kid, you got one inside your skull. Why not use it?" – DucatiKiller Dec 27 '15 at 22:35
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    So the throw out bearing can be damaged... Then I think it's a question of how much time I'll be stopped. Holding the pedal for 30 seconds really doesn't sound like a good idea. – Paulostation Dec 28 '15 at 2:19
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No. The gearbox does not get worn if the clutch pedal is fully depressed. Actually, if the gearbox could get worn depending on the position of the clutch pedal, it would get worn when the engine is connected to the gearbox, i.e. when the clutch pedal is not pressed. Then some parts of the gearbox are rotating. However, when you are stopped and the clutch is pressed, nothing in the gearbox is in motion.

In theory, the throwout bearing could get worn if you are stopped with the clutch pedal fully depressed. The throwout bearing translates the linear force from the clutch pedal to the rotating clutch assembly, and has load only when the clutch pedal is depressed. Here's more information about the throwout bearing. But I don't really believe this is something that would happen regularly.

So, my advice is you use whatever style you like better. I don't like having to hold the clutch down, so I often put the transmission in neutral, but recently I've become worried of the battery condition and I have a start/stop car, so I hold the clutch down to prevent the start/stop system from stopping the engine.

  • I agree with the do whichever you like statement. By pilot bearing do you mean throw-out bearing? – Fred Wilson Dec 27 '15 at 16:25
  • That's what I thought, can you give me more details on the pilot bearing? – Paulostation Dec 27 '15 at 16:34
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    Yes, I think throwout bearing is the correct name of the bearing I mean here. I'll edit the answer and add a link for more information. – juhist Dec 27 '15 at 17:15
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    Another thing to think about: when the clutch pedal is depressed, you are putting extra wear on the crankshaft thrust bearing inside the engine. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 27 '15 at 20:29
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I agree with @juhist that the nothing in the gearbox or engine can be damaged by holding the clutch (fully) in at lights. The only parts to consider are the clutch's throw-out bearing and maybe the diaphragm spring.

Personally I don't think it's a big deal to hold in the clutch at lights. I drive a manual transmission in a major city and spend a decent amount of time sitting in stop-and-go traffic on and off the clutch. Sometimes I hold the clutch in at lights, but mostly I don't because my leg gets tired.

I had my transmission rebuilt at 85,000 miles and they replaced the clutch at the same time. I assume they examined the throw-out bearing and didn't find any issue with it.

Mechanical wear aside, there is one reason to idle in gear with the clutch depressed and that's for safety. If you suddenly see a another car barreling down on you can get away a second or two faster.

That's what's taught in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course. It might be more of a safety issue for motorcycles since you don't have a protective cage around you, but it's something else to consider.

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