Why do you recommend putting a manual transmission into neutral at a stoplight?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

In your pamphlet "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car.." you guys mention in "number 13" that if you are driving a manual transmission, you should put the car in Neutral and take your foot off the clutch when you're stopped at a light. You don't say why. Would you explain?

RAY: Sure. There are two parts of the clutch that wear out, Susan. There's the clutch disc, which is the part most people are aware of. That's the component that gets "ground down" every time the clutch is engaged. Every time you make the car move by taking your foot off the clutch and stepping on the gas, that disc is wearing out.

TOM: And you can wear out the disc really quickly by "riding the clutch." That is, letting the clutch out too slowly and using too much gas, or resting your foot on the pedal (and depressing it slightly) while you're driving around.

RAY: But the other, less-well-known part of the clutch that wears out is the clutch release bearing. That bearing does the brunt of the work disengaging the clutch when you step on the clutch pedal. And every minute your clutch pedal is depressed, that release bearing is spinning like mad and wearing out. And eventually, it'll need to be replaced, just like any other part that gets a lot of use. And like all clutch repairs, the part is relatively cheap, but the labor is big bucks.

TOM: So that's one reason we suggest putting the car in Neutral and taking your foot off the pedal when you get to a stop.

RAY: The other reason is to avoid those painful cramps in your left leg!

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One