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Our garage has an incline, meaning with the parking brake disengaged, the car can roll out without any external force. My father takes advantages of this and rolls out of the garage often without the engine started while in neutral position, saving some gas according to him.

Today I wanted to take the car out for a wash, and attempted the same, as the weather is cold and doing so can save an unnecessary cold start. However, with the poor lighting condition in the garage, I accidentally put the car in drive and backed out without knowing. I realized this after I was outside. I backed out slowly and traveled only the length of the car. The car was never started during this.

My dad was unhappy upon hearing... even though my intention was good. I just want to know what are the consequences. It's a 3-speed AT Toyota corolla 98 (if it were a new car I'd be toasted)

Thanks

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If the engine isn't running, there'll be no pressure in the hydraulic circuits within the transmission, so the clutches or band brakes within the transmission won't be engaged, and the transmission can likely freewheel just as if it were in neutral for a limited distance with no damage - since there's no lubricant flow to the bearings you don't want to go any distance in this state.

The hydraulics are pressurized by a pump on the input shaft. Some transmissions have either an additional hydraulic pump at the output, or an electric pump to pressurize the circuit, but I don't think this one does.

  • Thanks for the reply. As I reflect the reason I failed to realize the car is in drive is because it rolled back without any trouble just as if it were in neutral. Hopefully the distance that I've traveled (5~6m max) didn't do harm, I would assume going further would use up all the lubricant and there would be noise produced. – Alexander Wang Dec 9 '19 at 21:27
  • Too far would be many miles, not yards. – Phil G Dec 9 '19 at 21:35
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    @AlexanderWang It's likely no worse than reversing these few meters with the car in neutral as your father does. Both torque converter automatic cars I've owned allowed for a tow (in neutral) of 30 miles at 30 mph (50km at 50 km/h). – towe Dec 10 '19 at 7:38

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