This is not with the intention of saving fuel (as I have seen many answers assuming savings in fuel while doing this). But I have this habit of putting the vehicle into neutral before approaching stops (red lights). The main reason behind doing this being, is to reduce the strain of holding the brake pedal.

One of my friends is arguing that it's not good for the transmission system, shifting the transmission from D to N while the vehicle (with automatic transmission) is moving. I couldn't agree with him, as I couldn't find any issues with this. Also I couldn't find any information regarding the same on the manual for Toyota Corolla.

Do you guys have any technical details about this?
Thank you in Advance.

  • I believe WRT manual transmissions, the idea was to reduce wear on the clutch and use the brakes instead, which are far easier to replace.
    – Drise
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 0:34

5 Answers 5


Being in Neutral or Drive should have negligible to no effect on the distance the vehicle travels when the accelerator is not pressed because the torque converter disengages the engine below predetermined RPM levels.

However, if you somehow were to push just a little too hard and sent the transmission into Reverse instead of stopping in Neutral, you would most likely be faced with purchasing a new transmission.


Rafi: If, by your question, you mean to say that you put the transmission into Neutral while waiting at a stop light, then this would not harm the transmission in any way.

Though it will not harm your transmission to shift into Neutral while your vehicle is in motion, the additional wear on your brakes by leaving the transmission in Drive will be negligible over the life of the brake pads. It is that minor.

  • 4
    WRT "reverse", this isn't true on modern cars. Mythbusters did exactly this and showed that putting the selector in reverse put the transmission in neutral to no net effect. dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/db/transportation/…
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 18:47
  • 3
    Unless automatic transmissions have changed recently, and being in D definitely changes the amount of motion when you take your foot off the brake while the car is at rest. I'm a little interested to know how you've experienced anything else!
    – Colin K
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 17:05
  • 2
    Isn't it also true that in most modern cars, you are unable to accidentally push the shifter into reverse without pressing some sort of unlock button, as you would to take the car out of park. Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 10:47
  • 1
    Colin, my information is in reference to a vehicle moving at speed. You are talking about a stopped vehicle. These are different states for the torque converter.
    – jp2code
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 12:21
  • I'm wondering if this affects gas mileage? I'm thinking it's probably negligible, but does anyone know?
    – jtate
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 14:29

NEVER, EVER go into neutral while slowing down to a stop, for 3 reasons: 1. You lose the added benefit of engine braking if the car's not in gear 2. If you have to quickly avoid something by accelerating and moving out of the way, you'll hit the gas and won't go anywhere 3. If the light turns green before you come to a complete stop, you'd have to go back into drive while moving. And you should only go into drive when stopped, really, really bad things may happen to your transmission if you shift to drive while moving.

  • 5
    your first two points are perfectly valid, but why do you say that "really really bad things may happen" if you shift into drive while moving?
    – vlsd
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 21:46
  • to your 2nd point: in what situation would you accelerate to avoid hitting something?
    – jtate
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 14:31
  • Depending on the design of the transmission, engine braking may not occur in "D". Especially true of older designs, a freewheel clutch allows the engine to turn at idle speed even if the transmission gearing would otherwise turn it faster. The driver would typically have to select a lower gear (often labelled 1 or 2) in order to achieve engine braking - generally written up in the vehicle owner's manual. The only harm which may result from a shift from N to D while the car is moving is a bit of additional wear on the clutches due to taking up a larger than normal speed difference.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 3:02
  • @John if this was the case, then shifting to neutral would have required pressing of some sort of button and would have had a shift lock coupled to it, which is not the case. Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 20:27
  • # 1. - there is no engine braking in cars with auto trans unless you manually shift to lower gears. - # 3 - i have been doing this for many years with no "really, really bad things" happening to my transmission. - # 2, - SEE NUMBER 3
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 18:06

I do this quite a bit, actually, and I don't think there's any difference in shifting from drive to neutral when the car is moving or stopped. The reason is that the torque converter is hydraulic, so it gives you transmission some slack in order to let it shift, just as if you were pushing on a clutch. The shifting cannot possibly put more wear on the trasmission that the transmission shifting between 2 and 3, for example, something that it does thousands of time in one year.

P.S. The reason I shift into neutral at stop lights is that my car vibrates quite painfully when in drive and stopped. I haven't been able to figure that out yet, but that's another post.

  • 1
    The reason why I shift to neutral when stopping is because I have a jerky un-smooth downshift to first gear. Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 20:35
  • 1
    In an automatic, the gears are always engaged. It is a system of clutches which take up or release to provide the appropriate gearing. If stopped when shifting from N to D, a predictable speed difference will be taken up (along with a predictable amount of clutch wear) as the input shaft goes from engine idle speed to zero. If the vehicle is moving when shifting from N to D, the input shaft will go from engine idle to something else, depending on the gearing the transmission engages, and the clutches which engage will be vehicle speed dependent. It may result in more wear or maybe less.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 3:14
  • Thanks @AnthonyX, you are correct, I edited my answer to remove that sentence about gears being dis-engaged, since it was, at best, misleading.
    – vlsd
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:46

To provide some extra information...

My wife's Subaru Impreza (CVT) shifts itself into neutral after the car has been stopped for more than a couple of seconds. You can see it go out of gear when the tachometer drops a hundred RPM or so. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, it shifts back into drive and the car is ready to move.

It also stays in gear as long as it can when braking. This gives you the benefit of engine braking while gaining the lower wear and lower fuel consumption of being in neutral.

Interestingly, the manual specifically states to not move the car while the transmission is in neutral, as it can damage the all-wheel drive system. I don't understand the reasoning behind it, but to say that coasting in "N" is fine is not correct for all vehicles.


No, Not at all. Someone said here this:

"You lose the added benefit of engine braking if the car's not in gear"

Not true for automatic gears. Transmission still will allow the power from engine to go to wheels. Putting in Neutral will cut the power immediately and shorten the distance you need to come to a full stop. Try stopping from 40 mph with and without putting in neutral. You will even feel the car slowing down a lot faster in neutral.

This might be very helpful if you are speeding on highway and need to stop as short as possible, or in fully stopped/stopping for traffic like red a light.

I doubt putting in Drive harms the transmission because at all. in fact it might be less harmful than putting in Drive when fully stopped because car will not need all the power to move, because it has already have some speed.

All above ASSUMING that you will not put the pedal to the medal (accelerating in Neutral). Shifting to Drive at high RPM is very harmful to the transmission, let alone high RPM may cause problem for the engine as well in the long term.

  • 2
    This really is bad advice all the way around. Automatics still engine brake. Shifting out of drive and into neutral every time you need to stop creates wear and tear on the transmission and valve body. The drive train already has a device which will allow it to decouple the engine from the transmission ... it's called a torque converter. It will stay engaged as long as the engine is above a certain RPM, then will decouple when it gets below it, doing what you are suggesting without the need for the wear and tear from shifting. Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 10:36
  • Not all automatics will engine brake in D. Older designs will coast - engine can idle while car zips along at highway speed. To engine brake, such a transmission must be shifted into a "low" gear. The torque converter doesn't decouple the engine. It is a fluid link which transmits more torque the faster it is turning; at high RPM it is very firm, but there is always some slip; at low RPM it slips with minimal torque but at engine idle speed, it still transmits some small amount of torque. FWIW that slip (speed difference between input and output) multiplied by torque is the waste power/heat.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 3:28

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