In gear or in neutral at a stoplight?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

Please clear up some confusion!! I've been having a debate with my husband and some male friends about this one for years. Which offers less wear on the clutch of my 1987 Subaru three-door coupe: 1) Keeping my foot on the clutch and the shifter in first while stopped at a light, or 2) keeping my foot off the clutch and the car in Neutral?

RAY: Well, Karen, you don't say which position is yours and which is your husbands, but I'd be willing to bet that it's your husband who wants to keep his foot on the clutch and the car in first gear.

TOM: We all know that due to testosterone poisoning, most men have a biological need to be the first one away from the light when it turns green. And if that's your top priority, then you should keep your foot on the clutch and the car in gear.

RAY: But if your goal is to make your clutch last longer, then you should put the car in Neutral, and take your foot off the clutch. When your foot is on the clutch, you're shortening the life of the clutch's "throw out bearing."

TOM: So the appropriate procedure at a light is as follows: Put the shifter in Neutral, take your left foot completely off the clutch pedal, and put your right foot on the brake. Then, when the light turns green and the guy behind you (with his foot on the clutch and his car in gear) starts honking, wave to him in your rear view mirror, put your car in gear and slowly drive away.
TOM: Is warming up your car actually BAD for it? Does slamming the door really make a difference to the life of your car? Should you "save the brakes" by shifting into a lower gear to help you slow down?

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