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I drive a manual 2013 Ford Focus. Often times when I am about to coast to a stoplight, I will pull it out of gear without using the clutch. Sometimes it just slides out nice and easy, but other times it offers a bit of resistance. Is there any way that this could be putting wear on my transmission or anything else?

EDIT: To ensure this question stays on topic, I thought I would point out that I am specifically looking for answers about what kind of wear/damage pulling out of gear without a clutch will do to a car, and how serious it is from a maintenance point of view.

  • Would wear and forcing a linkage be classed as a mechanical problem? – Solar Mike May 23 '17 at 5:36
  • @SolarMike Yeah, I'm pretty sure this relates to mechanical problems/car maintenance, not driving techniques. Not sure why they flagged it as off topic – BlackThorn May 23 '17 at 15:34
  • It will come out easy if you time it right so you pull out of gear just as the engine reaches its idle speed. Of course that is nearly stopped and it will stall if you wait too long. – agentp May 23 '17 at 20:09
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There are three components of wear I will consider: shift linkage, gear synchronizers, and clutch throwout bearing.

Shift Linkage

The number of times you use the shifter will not be altered by moving the transmission out of gear. Therefore, any change in linkage wear will be due to any extra force required to shift. It is not worth the hassle of worrying about shift linkage wear unless you are having to use excessive force.

Gear mesh synchronizers

This howstuffworks provides visual aid to the following.

The purpose of depressing the clutch is to disengage engine power from being applied to the transmission input shaft. The input shaft is connected to the countershaft. The countershaft has set of gears on it, one gear of a gear pair of always meshed gears for each numbered gear in your transmission. The output shaft has the second gear of each pair and none of those are permanently attached to the output shaft (neglecting a discussion of the reverse gear). When you press the shifter to place the car into gear, the synchronizers in your transmission connect one of the pairs of gears to the output shaft. This requires that the countershaft be spinning at the speed which matches the output shaft through the gear ratio. The synchronizers have a wear material on them and can be shaped like a cone and once the speeds of the shafts match (through the gear ratio), then the output shaft is connected to the gear and everything is spinning and power can be applied by releasing the clutch pedal.

  1. So if you leave the clutch pedal released, and if the engine power is such that no torque is being applied by the engine, there could in theory be less wear on the synchronizers when disengaging them by moving the shifter to neutral because you can artificially make that amount zero.

  2. The torque on the synchronizers when coming out of gear with the clutch pedal pressed (no engine power applied) will be caused by the tendency of the countershaft to slow down and thus the momentum of the car through the wheels to the output shaft will be tending to speed up the output shaft relative to the synchronizers.

  3. You fail to perfectly counter the tendency of the countershaft to slow with engine torque and have difficulty pulling the transmission out of gear and cause excessive wear on the dog teeth of the synchronizers.

Clutch throwout bearing

The throwout bearing is used when you press your clutch pedal to engage some splines which remove the force holding your clutch pad against the flywheel. The splines are spinning at the speed of the engine and the bearing presses up against it to move the splines. So you may be saving some wear on the throwout bearing.

My overall recommendation is that what you are doing is probably fine, but I would not do it to my own vehicles.

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I drive a 45 year old landrover, and do this frequently off-road and occasionally on-road.

Reading into your question, you only change out of gear into neutral. If you're coasting toward a red light, the road wheels are driving the engine, the engine is resisting that load, and you are on the "overrun" or engine-braking. The wheels are pushing the engine through the gearbox.

To change out of gear smoothly you want to either

  • blip the throttle/accelerator/gas pedal just enough you make the engine speed equal to the velocity of the vehicle.
  • throttle off / raise the right foot and slip the gearstick just as the vehicle's acceleration hits zero.

Either way, this means the teeth in the gearbox are not pressing hard against either side. In that short sub-second window you can slip the gearstick into neutral and coast up to the lights with less resistance, and less wear. Your engine is idling instead of running faster.

tl;dr: minimal to no extra wear if you change smoothly

Downside 1: If there's an impending accident and you suddenly want a burst of power, you'll have to engage a suitable gear quickly. Get a bad gear and you could stall instead of moving.


Note this is different to pressing the clutch pedal and coasting in gear - a manual clutch is more fragile when apart and its possible to destroy clutch plates by spinning them too fast with the pedal pressed down.


With the exception of pulling away from a standstill, I can change gear up and down by waiting till the engine revs match the roadwheels, and slide it right in or out. This is not a racing change, its all about timing and matching the road noise/vibrations to the engine note.

A light finger pressure against the gearstick helps read the vibrations. No sudden changes of throttle till the gearstick is fully home else you increase the risk of chipping teeth.

As long as you drive gently and change smoothly, the wear would be the same as changes with the clutch. A loud change with lots of graunching noises is worse.

Another advantage: Its generally ill-advised to get your clutch plates wet when offroad so changing gear while in water deeper than your bellhousing is bad.

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    As regards water and wading, before you enter the water you should fit the plug into the bell-housing plug hole provided for that purpose . It is a threaded plug with a square head (iirc) and is normally fitted to a bracket on one of the lower bell-housing bolts . – Solar Mike May 24 '17 at 7:01
  • @SolarMike that's good advice, but its also possible to overpressurise things if they're all sealed up. It would be better to fit a breather pipe and run it high like diff breathers. – Criggie May 24 '17 at 7:04
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    It is not designed to be left in permanently - once out of the water you remove it. I remember reading it in the manual - but I have had 4 ; one that i put a rover v8 in with a rangerover box... – Solar Mike May 24 '17 at 7:08
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    Of course, you may find it is missing as some don't recognise it for what it is and don't refit it when doing the clutch. – Solar Mike May 24 '17 at 7:09
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    Oh and by the way landie diff breathers (ones i had ) had a breather with a ball -as the water cools the axle the air shrinks "sucking" the ball onto the hole stopping water getting in. – Solar Mike May 24 '17 at 7:11
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It offers resistance because the engine is applying torque or the car is pushing the engine and this load is stopping the gears coming apart - when it slides out easily it means that there is no load ie the engine is not providing excess power or being driven by the car.

The wear will probably be mainly on the shift linkage as you force it out of gear when it offers resistance.

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    Great explanation of the resistance! Could you elaborate a little more on the shift linkage? Would this add significantly more wear than normal use. Is wear to the shift linkage better than wear to the clutch? The title of the question implies that I'm interested in whether or not I should avoid doing this. – BlackThorn May 22 '17 at 17:31
  • And I edited the title to be more explicit. – BlackThorn May 22 '17 at 17:33
  • Many types of linkage - but wear needs to be adjusted out and some are easier than others. Some issues show as can get 1st and 3rd but not 5th etc. One phrase that was used "gear lever like a spoon in a bowl of porridge" ie keep waving it about till you find something !! – Solar Mike May 22 '17 at 19:00
  • As to avoid : I was in a heavy wrecker with an old guy (and we had a broken truck on the back) - and I asked "is it possible to shift without the clutch?" Well, he was up and down that box for the whole trip and his left foot was on the floor the whole time. And not a sound of teeth from the box either... If you have mechanical sympathy and can "feel" what is happening you won't cause damage. Force it well.... you pays your money... – Solar Mike May 22 '17 at 19:03
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Youll notice if its ok or not it will be easy. People shift without the clutch in Dump trucks and tractor trailers all the time. But they have straight cut transmissions designed for it.

If your driving a car it probably has a synchro mesh transmission. If you shift the synchro wothout a clutch you will prematurly wear the synchro out. Its need zero force from the engine to work properly. When you get the revs right it will come out easily. But i bet you dont always get it right or push with your hand before it comes out. Which adds wear to the transmission. Dont try to put it back in gear. Itll just grind. No clutch shifting can still be done but its no good for a synchro transmission.

  • Although you could still figure out where the gears shift in and shift out. Then use the clutch and try to shift at those rpms. For better shifting. – C.J. Apr 4 at 23:23

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