I have on a few occasions driven in wrong gear for example while driving fast, I forgot where my gear stick is and mistakenly put the gear into the wrong gear which has caused the engine to sound bad as well as develop a burning smell.

Of course with a minute or two I would have corrected the gear and brang it down to normal again.

If this has happened to the engine 3 times in say 3 months, could this have lead to any gasket, water pump, cylinder or other damage?

  • 1
    The burning smell is coming from the clutch most likely, so clutch wear would be my biggest concern.
    – GdD
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 12:24
  • Could you give an example of the speeds and gears you've put it in? Also, is it a diesel or petrol engine? I agree with Spivonious and @GdD as that it's most likely your clutch. I'd say that the second you notice your car not really 'grabbing' a gear to go to a dealer/local garage to get that checked out before it causes real damage to your engine / clutch
    – Paramone
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


Downshifting without rev matching first causes accelerated clutch wear (and probably the burning smell).

Being in too low a gear will cause the engine to run faster than normal, probably around 5-6k RPM. This will be loud but most engines can handle those speeds for a short time without any long term issues. As long as the engine speed is kept under the red line on the tachometer, you shouldn't have caused any damage.

  • in your second paragraph are you referring to upshifting. Are you saying going above 5-6rpm may lead to clutch wear/burning smell? thanks Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 12:51
  • No, clutch wear/burning smell would only happen while the clutch is slipping, i.e. when downshifting without rev matching first. High RPMs have the potential to damage the engine because things are moving much faster than a normal RPM range of 1500-3000RPM.
    – Spivonious
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 17:28

I can't imagine any clutch damage unless something crazy is done when shifting to the correct gear , assuming a standard transmission. Normal clutch wear/slippage only occurs during the shift . Modern engines tolerate high RPM very well so you may not have damaged it. High RPM causes excessive ring wear and may cause bearing wear. Ring wear will show up as oil consumption ; a modern typical engine ( 2 to 4 L ) will burn less than a quart in 6.000 miles.

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