Does shifting an automatic into neutral put unecessary wear on the transmission?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

My father and mother are constantly arguing about whether it is right to put the car in Neutral sometimes. My father drives an automatic car, and when he goes down a hill or is ready to stop, he puts the car into neutral. I am tired of hearing them yell at each other. Would you please tell me which one of them is right.

RAY: In the last few months, we've been called upon to settle sibling rivalries, boyfriend/girlfriend disputes, even a romantic problem concerning a husband's unusual attraction to his Nissan Hardbody truck, so I guess we can handle a little family therapy, Ian.

TOM: The answer is that your mother is right. Shifting back and forth between Drive and Neutral puts unnecessary stress on the drive train, and makes those parts wear out faster.

RAY: And more importantly, taking the car out of gear when going down hill is dangerous. Not only can you not accelerate to avoid a sudden obstacle, if need be, but you also lose the natural braking action of the engine, and you can easily build up excessive speed and overheat the brakes.

TOM: But if mom and dad are constantly yelling at each other, I have to suspect that this automotive argument is just symptomatic of something deeper, Ian. There's got to be something else that's bothering them, and I think that only professional counseling will get to the bottom of it.

RAY: It could be Dad's tightness with a buck...

TOM: Or Mom's cigar smoking.

RAY: But whatever it is, they've got to dig through it and sort it out, Ian. Wish them luck for us.

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