When I learned to drive a manual transmission, I learned by accident that if I started it in gear without engaging the clutch, it would lurch forward, and might even start and drive on. (Usually I was so startled that I let the key go and it didn't actually begin running).

I was told that this trick could get you out of a dangerous situation such as being stalled on a railroad crossing or in a traffic lane: just use the starter to "motor" the car a few feet.

Do manual transmission cars still allow this, or is there now a clutch engaged switch or neutral safety switch or something?

I thought that the ability to "motor" in an emergency was one advantage over an automatic. Is it still true?

  • Most cars have clutch safety switches to prevent that from happening, so the clutch has to be pushed in for the car to be started in gear. I wonder if you can engage the clutch partially and try this. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 1:59
  • I drove a more recent car where the clutch pedal had to be to the floor or the starter motor would not operate. I guess I answered my own question... Thank you for the prompt.
    – user15009
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 2:02
  • I would say it depends on the car. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:35

2 Answers 2


You can still do it in a way. Just press the clutch before engaging the starter and let it go. The car will jump forward and move. Some cars might now allow the starter to continue operating. But you can keep doing the same thing over and over.

  • 3
    So, they made the car safer, but took away what I thought of as a safety advantage. Oh, well, manuals are not that common anymore.
    – user15009
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 1:45
  • The added a safety issue by not allowing the starter to be engaged in gear with the clutch engaged. Lots of dumb accidents occurred that way.
    – race fever
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 4:02
  • Like the time my ex wife pinned against a wall with the bumper because she didn't push in the clutch on a vw rabbit 30 years ago? Yeah....that happened. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:43
  • 1
    no comprende - manuals are still by far the most common type in Europe. It may be different in the US, but remember we have a global community here.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 9:53
  • Also, the ability to jolt forwards was not really an intention - it causes damage and was only ever suggested for extreme emergencies. Some cars will even flag up an error condition requiring a visit to the garage on the first attempt at this (I'm thinking Citroens especially...)
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 9:55

As most of the comments and 'race fever' stated in his answer, most vehicles will prevent you front running the starter motor without engaging the clutch safety switch. If you know where the switch is (usually behind the clutch pedal) you may be able to stick your foot back there and press the switch without disengaging the clutch. You could also rig up an electronic switch defeat, or a little lever to press the button for you. These modifications are only suggested assuming you live in a train-dense neighborhood.

Some vehicles with remote start capabilities have clutch safety override switches on the dashboard, so that you don't have to press the clutch to start the motor. Those vehicles, alternatively, are equipped with neutral safety switches, so that the remote start will not work if the vehicle was left in gear. If you live in a train yard, it wouldn't be too hard to rig up a neutral safety switch override as well.

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