Did I destroy my transmission by driving at 55 mph in second gear?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I was driving to work this morning in my 1996 Honda Civic with the CD player
playing really loudly to mask the sound of my new studded snow tires. I heard a
high, whining sound. I turned off the heater fan. No change. I turned off the CD
player. Still there.
Then I looked down and noticed that I was going about 55 mph in second gear!
There's no tachometer on this car, so I usually shift by listening to the engine
noise, which I couldn't hear with the music blaring. So I guess I just forgot to
shift. I probably drove like this for a total of 30 seconds, a minute at most.
Everything seems fine. But did I do the engine any harm? -- Susan

TOM: Don't worry, Susan. I've done this myself several times. Fortunately,
though, never with my own car!

RAY: Right. My brother did it most recently with an Infiniti I30 we were
testing. And it IS easier to make this mistake with better engineered cars like
the Infiniti, which have wonderful, smooth engines.

TOM: HAD wonderful, smooth engines!

RAY: Actually, you didn't do any damage, Susan, so don't worry about it. I'd
guess that at 55 mph in second gear, you were doing about 5,500 rpm in this car.
And that's below this engine's "red line."

TOM: The "red line" is named for the red "danger" area on the tachometer, which
tells you when the engine's going too fast. If you drive your car with the
tachometer above the red line, there's a real danger that the engine will fly
apart into two hardware stores' worth of nuts and bolts.

RAY: But as long as you stay below the red line (and as long as you don't run
the engine right near the red line on a regular basis) the engine will be fine.
It's designed to operate safely at speeds up to the red line. So I'd forget all
about it, Susan.

TOM: But you might want to turn down the music a bit. Even if you don't care to
know when to shift, it's always nice to be able to hear an ambulance, or someone
honking at you in an emergency, right?

* * *

TOM: Hey, do you think you're taking good care of your car? Are you sure?

RAY: If you're like many of our customers, you may be ruining your car without
even knowing it. Yes, even you! Find out how. Send for your copy of our
informative pamphlet, "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing

TOM: Send $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed No.10 envelope to Ruin
No.1, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

* * *
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper,
or e-mail them by visiting http://cartalk.com on the World Wide Web.
c 1998 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One