The pros and cons of coasting

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

I like to coast down long hills in neutral to save gas. Sometimes, I can go ten miles or more without touching the gas pedal. My wife doesn't like it when I do this. What are the pros and cons?

TOM: Well, Phil, I don't know how long you've been married, but by now you should know the cons of pissing-off your wife.

RAY: In terms of the car, the only real plus is that you save some gas. On the negative side, coasting down long hills can be quite dangerous. When you're in gear, the engine has a natural braking effect on the car, which helps keep your speed under control. In neutral, that braking effect is gone. Studies have shown that losing control of your speed on long, steep hills is not a good idea.

TOM: There are other dangers, too. In neutral, your engine could stall without your knowing, and leave without power brakes or power steering (also not a good idea on long, steep hills). Your brakes could also fail due to overheating, and even if they don't, you'll certainly wear them out prematurely. The few cents you save on gas could be more than offset by an extra brake job or two during the life of your car.

RAY: So get it in gear, Phil. You'll be much safer. And who knows? You might also find that once the adrenalin is gone, and you're not bug-eyed and white-knuckled driving down these hills, you might even enjoy your wife's company. This could be the start of a second honeymoon, Phil! Congratulations!

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