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View Full Version : What is neutral for in an automatic car?


Boris B
12-20-1999, 12:13 PM
I've never been able to figure out how you're supposed to use neutral with an automatic transmission. The only ways I know of to use it are illegal, like coasting down long gentle hills with out having to step on the accelerator.

I also use it to rev my engine a little at stop lights, so as to perhaps make it warm up faster, but I can't imagine that they invented it for this, and I don't even know if it works.

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I don't want to make people think like me, I want them to think like me of their own free will.

RavingMad
12-20-1999, 12:17 PM
How about for towing the car?

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~ Complacency is far more dangerous than outrage ~

12-20-1999, 12:27 PM
It's illegal to coast downhill in nuetral?? Just how do they bust you doing that?

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If you can't convince them, confuse them.
Harry S. Truman

Scoobysnax
12-20-1999, 12:32 PM
I used to own a car that would often stall in wet weather.

I got realy good a popping it into N and restarting it without slowing down all that much.



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Scoobysnax

Save water drink beer!

Boris B
12-20-1999, 12:41 PM
I totally forgot about towing the car.

I don't know how they're supposed to bust you for coasting in neutral, but I remember learning it was illegal ... maybe only in Oregon or maybe it's just a legend.... I guess they bust you for it at the same time they bust bust you for driving with bare feet?

12-20-1999, 12:48 PM
The ticket for barefoot driving comes when they bust you for something else...sort of a surprise ticket I reckon.

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If you can't convince them, confuse them.
Harry S. Truman

Keeves
12-20-1999, 02:12 PM
I once ran out of gas, so I went into neutral and coasted for almost a mile, successfully arriving at an auto dealership, which happened to have a gas pump in the back lot!

DSYoungEsq
12-20-1999, 03:37 PM
You use Neutral to allow the car's engine to run while the wheels are not impeded from turning by the use of the 'Park' gearing.

I am not aware of any law that generally exists making it illegal to operate a vehicle on the street in Neutral. Anyone with a valid citation to a Vehicle Code section of some state that so states is welcome to post. :)

Boris B
12-20-1999, 04:08 PM
Okay, y'all have fired up my doubts about the legalities of driving in neutral. I have a copy of the driver's manual somewhere....

Yossarian
12-20-1999, 04:34 PM
You'll also notice that on most cars, the Neutral setting is between the Reverse and Drive (or Overdrive) settings... So it also works as a buffer to prevent you from accidentally grinding the shit out of your transmission if your stick gets bumped!

Just a half an hour ago my son escaped from his seatbelt, jumped into the front passenger seat and kicked my car from Drive into Neutral; if he'd kicked it from Drive into Reverse, I'd still be picking up the gears along the side of the road.

manhattan
12-20-1999, 04:42 PM
Yep. Itís illegal. From Title 7, Article 33, section 1216 of the New York State Vehicle Code (http://assembly.state.ny.us/cgi-bin/claws?law=127) :
S 1216. Coasting prohibited. The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a down grade shall not coast with the gears of such vehicle in neutral, nor with the clutch disengaged. Lord knows why.

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Livin' on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

UncleBeer
12-20-1999, 04:58 PM
As Manhattan has shown, there are regulations against coasting on downgrades. I can also remember seeing signs to this effect in the smokey mountains.

Here are some others:

California Vehicle Code, Section 21710 - Coasting, in neutral on downgrade.
Hawaii Motor Vehicle Code, Section 291C-127 - The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a downgrade shall not coast with the gears or transmission of the vehicle in neutral or with the clutch disengaged.
Alaska Vehicle Code, Section 515 - Coasting prohibited.
Michigan Motor Vehicle Code, Section 678 - Coasting Prohibited, $65 fine.

It appears to be very common to fine motorists for this practice. I don't know the rationale.

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"A zebra does not change its spots."
~Al Gore, 1992~

Padeye
12-20-1999, 05:02 PM
Do not use neutral for towing more than a very short distance with drive wheels on the ground. Automatic transmissions and some manual types are not lubricated when the input shaft isn't rotating and can be destroyed this way.

sly
12-20-1999, 05:52 PM
Coasting in neutral is prohibited because you wouldn't have complete control of the vehicle if you needed to accelerate in an emergency.

As to why we need neutral in an automatic? Well, anyone can squawk the tires pretty good with a break torque, but a neutral slam ... now that's impressive.

Konrad
12-20-1999, 07:37 PM
Neutral isn't for towing, you're always supposed to tow with the drive-wheels in the air. More likely it's for pushing your car off the road if it breaks down on you.

handy
12-20-1999, 07:59 PM
Neutral is ALSO very necessary so you go to a safe spot between forward & reverse...

Park is safety feature, also necessary.

Crystalguy
12-20-1999, 07:59 PM
Did you guys never hear of a "neutral safety switch?" This switch exists to prevent a car with an automatic transmission from being started while in a drive gear. A defective neutral safety switch can cause some serious accidents. Also, neutral is positioned between park and drive in order to protect the transmission from the shock of an abrupt switch from one direction to the other. Plus, shifting from neutral to drive is an effective way of rocking a car free from ice, mud or sand. It is hard on the transmission, though.

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Crystalguy

Crystalguy
12-20-1999, 08:03 PM
And I forgot---if you coast downhill in neutral, you lose the braking effect provided by the engine. Of course, your fuel economy gets much better--but it is dangerous.

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Crystalguy

mangeorge
12-20-1999, 10:24 PM
Some owners manuals warn against being at a standstill with the tranny in drive for too long a time. Can't remember how long or why, and I'm far too lazy to go out to my car to find out.
Peace,
mangeorge

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Work like you don't need the money.....
Love like you've never been hurt.....
Dance like nobody's watching! ....(Paraphrased)

Sweet Basil
12-21-1999, 01:28 AM
The folks at the car wash have me put my (automatic) car in Neutral when I have the thing washed. I guess it would mess everything up to leave it in gear.

Also, I used to drive a really crappy car that idled really low and would easily stall at a stoplight. I remedied this by putting it in Neutral and revving the motor until I was ready to go. Upon the "greening" of the light I'd drop it into gear and go. Probably hard on the motor, but it was on its last leg anyhow...

Sweet Basil

Boris B
12-21-1999, 01:31 AM
You know why I'm annoyed? Cause I've had a car (needed a tune-up) that used to stall out sometimes, and it never occurred to me to put it in neutral and rev. Some people! Thanks, folks.

mr john
12-21-1999, 01:52 AM
Ok so why do automatics have a PARK? Ok, sure it locks the drive train,extra insurance for the Park brake,back in olden times when autos weren't so 'reliable' owners manuals waned about 'excessive' idling in park. But why don't standards have a similar feature? A seperate pawl that drops down,connected to the clutch similar to a "hill holder" brake,or to the shift lever so no inadvertant drops into park. ( any body done that while the drive train is in motion? You'll wind up in PARK at the tranny shop.)

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"Pardon me while I have a strange interlude."-Marx

John W. Kennedy
12-21-1999, 12:34 PM
Standard transmissions don't have "Park" because with the engine stopped, it is sufficient simply to leave it in gear (which many -- most? -- drivers of standard shifts do).

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John W. Kennedy
"Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays."
-- Charles Williams

Sweet Basil
12-21-1999, 12:48 PM
Leaving your car stopped, but in gear for long periods of time is (probably) a bad idea simply because you have two systems (brakes and transmission) working against each other. It saves "wear and tear" on these systems to leave it in Neutral or Park.

Sweet Basil

ps The "hill holder" on standard transmission cars is a trade name registered to and invented by Studebaker.

DSYoungEsq
12-21-1999, 02:17 PM
I am now aware of laws that make 'driving' in Nuetral illegal. Thanks, Uncle! :)

Dirty Devil
12-21-1999, 03:37 PM
Regarding the "buffer" between Drive and Reverse to protect the transmission, every car I've ever seen has a lock built into it that prevents accidental shifts like that from happening. That's why you have that little button that you need to depress on floor shifters to change the gears. The old "tree shifters" had a mechanism that required you to pull the shifter forward (or something like that) before changing gears. Maybe if you really kicked the shifter it might jump from Drive to Reverse, but you'd have to kick it pretty damn hard.

handy
12-21-1999, 03:45 PM
Well you can indeed kick it with a manual. Can use it to save your life, if necessary.

Konrad
12-21-1999, 06:59 PM
The "hill holder" on standard transmission cars is a trade name registered to and invented by Studebaker.

What dat?

mangeorge
12-21-1999, 08:03 PM
What dat?
---Konrad
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It be holes in the brake shoes that, combined with other devices, cause your brakes to "lock up" when when backward force is applied to the shoes. They release when you go forward. Usually. Never worked very good.
Peace,
mangeorge

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Work like you don't need the money.....
Love like you've never been hurt.....
Dance like nobody's watching! ....(Paraphrased)

Homer
12-22-1999, 01:30 AM
A few things to add to this:

if he'd kicked it from Drive into Reverse, I'd still be picking up the gears along the side of the road.

Highly unlikely, unless you're driving a 1935 Crappenwagen. Even my 1988 Escrotch had an electronic 'stop' that made the car just not shift if you abruptly went from drive to reverse. I suspect most other cars of a more recent nature have this feature, too. Besides, on an automatic, you'd not be picking up the gears off the side of the road, you'd be patching a hole in the tranny. The trans fluid pressure would skyrocket and blow out a gasket or something before it would lock the gears.

a bad idea simply because you have two systems (brakes and transmission) working against each other.

Nope. They aren't working against each other at all. The fluid pressure is not at a high enough level when idling to cause this. If your idle is screwed, it does become conceivable. But in a hydraulic automatic transmission, the 'clutch' doesn't activate until the engine is moving at a certain speed. Same reason you can't usually push start an automatic.

but you'd have to kick it pretty damn hard.

In my experience, this is usually just a small plastic or metal pin or divot in the shifter itself, not in the tranny. In fact, I've driven a few cars where it's broken, and didn't lock at all.

Also, most cars will go from R to N without pushing in the pin, and from 1 to 2 to D to OD to N without the pin. It makes for some nice manual shifting of an automatic. BTW, don't manually shift an automatic unless you a)know what you are doing or b)have a car made for that, like a Tiptronic-equipped Porsche, most BMWs, Lexii, MBs, and most newer, nicer cars.

--Tim



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We are the children of the Eighties. We are not the first "lost generation" nor today's lost generation; in fact, we think we know just where we stand - or are discovering it as we speak.

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