How fast can I go in reverse before doing some damage?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

For the past three years I've been living in the bush in Africa as an Emergency Relief Coordinator. I generally travel in a Toyota Landcruiser, and I have a couple of questions. First, if I get caught in an ambush, how fast can I go in Reverse before blowing out the clutch? And second, the bullets from AK-47s go through a car door like paper. What can I do about that? -- Bob

RAY: First off, Bob, we want you to know that this is far beyond our capabilities. But then again, what isn't?

TOM: In terms of the bullets, I'd try complaining to OSHA. Aren't they supposed to deal with dangers in the workplace? I know they're busy dealing with repetitive stress syndrome from people using their computers too much, but maybe they could find time to look into this bullets-ripping-through-your-car-like-paper problem.

RAY: As for going in Reverse, it won't hurt your clutch no matter how fast you go. But you could harm the engine. Reverse has a gear ratio about equal to First gear,
which means by the time you're going 25 or 30 mph, the engine speed is going to be at or near the red line. So if you really stepped on it (which I imagine you would if
you were running for your life), you could overrev the engine and cause it to blow apart. And then you'd be facing that bullets-ripping-through-your-car-like-paper
problem again.

TOM: You'd also discover that it's not easy to control a car when driving quickly in reverse. You're effectively steering with the rear wheels, and that creates some
bizarre, and difficult, handling problems.

RAY: So what you want to do is get out of Reverse as soon as possible. And to do that, you need to learn how to do a "Rockford." That's a skidding reversal of direction
made famous -- at least to us -- by Jim Rockford on TV's "The Rockford Files."

TOM: It's a stunt-driving trick that's easiest to do on some sort of slippery track. And dirt -- which is probably what you're dealing with -- would qualify.

RAY: It takes some dexterity and quite a bit of practice -- especially in an SUV, which is easy to flip. But as you're traveling backward, you quickly cut the wheels all the
way while pulling up on the parking brake. The back end of the car should stop and the front end should swing around past it. And as the front of the car is sliding past
you, in one smooth maneuver, you shift into Drive or First gear, cut the wheel back the other way, release the hand brake, and pull out and keep going forward.

TOM: We should make clear that this is a stunt-driving maneuver and is not appropriate for the streets, so don't try this at home. You'll likely end up bashed into a curb
with $5,000 worth of suspension damage, or rolled over and trying to explain to your wife what the hell you were doing.

RAY: But in your particular situation, Bob, it may be something you want to become familiar with. And if you get real good at it, let us know, and when you get back to
the States, we'll see about getting you a job in pizza delivery.

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