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Changing from Neutral to Drive while Driving

A couple of times, I accidentally pushed my gear shift from Drive to Neutral while driving 50 mph, and then immediately put it back to Neutral. Can you do damage to the transmission? I didn’t hear any noises of feel any strange lurching or anything else.

By the way, it seems this site has changed it format, as you can’t click on the “Model” button - it is greyed out, in any browser I tried.

Hi @ToyotaWill there is some issue (I’m trying to backtrack through our settings) where in some of our topic sections the tagging isn’t enabled. I thought it was resolved, but it might not be for driving and drivers. I am a bit embarrassed, but it’s the truth. Will keep looking.


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It would not be a good habit to get into. The few times I’ve done it, when it goes into gear it seems to take a moment to find the correct higher gear, while straining a little in the lower gears.

Like @Bing said, it’s probably not something you want to do all the time, but I highly doubt any damage was done after just a couple of instances especially if there were no severe clunks going on.

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No, no clunks. It’s like I didn’t do anything. That’s encouraging, but in the back of my mind, I don’t necessarily think that nothing damaging didn’t happen to the gears, etc. of the trans.

I have two thoughts - maybe it did nothing, or maybe there is some damage. But what do I know? I’m no more than a mild back yard quasi-mechanic.

From what I remember, you’re more of a manual trans type of VG backyard mechanic. Read my response to @tomichnorth.

I have done this a hundred times, no harm. Shifting into drive engages a hydraulic clutch, there are no gears meshing.

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If no clunks or jerks, no harm done, I bet.

Is this because you are resting your hand on the gear shift lever ? If so why are you doing that . I have never accidently put a car in neutral at any speed.


I have done it a few times in cars to try and figure out issues, lucky or no harm, drive on bro, even as recently as last summer. Ocassianol rumbling on cpo car when braking, wanted to narrow out drive train issue, ended up being rusted rotors, no thought I would harm the drive train, but then ignorance can be bliss. It was done to be able to report to the shop the best info possible. Such as it does it if I am going 50 slowing down, and I shift it into neutral and no change. Did it maybe 6 times in 3k miles. 30 k miles they did the job for 1/2 price, but we discssed that previously so no need to hit me on the head with a stick in case I was an idiot. The rotor looked like bubbles on the outer inch and a half, they took me into the shop and showed me.

I can’t recall anymore the exact time or place but I do remember in a snow storm at low speed and in a lower gear and then moving the shift to drive. No way I was taking my eyes and mind off the road and missed drive in the hurried shift. You know when the ship is in trouble sometimes you just can’t look at the controls.

I had a car that kept losing ground randomly and would shut the engine off briefly, I would jusy put the car in neutral, restart the engine and put it back in drive. No damage to anything and this sometimes happened at speeds much higher than 50. There is no silent damage you can do to the automatic transmission by shifting.

The car was a 98 Intrigue and it had the ground cable going to a 10 mm bolt in the fender, I added a ground cable directly from the battery to the block and it stopped the stalling.

Thanks, Nevada. I’m a bit confused, because doing a search, I found this:

– because it’s unclear to me that when this article talks about a “torque converter” and planetary gear, and makes some differentiation between the torque converter system in an automatic as opposed to a manual.

Please excuse my ignorance, but I know little about the internals of a trans and how they operate.

Just to be sure, you do mean that while you were driving, you put it into neutral, and then put it back into drive?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you mostly drive cars w/manuals?

I think you’ll find the article interesting, and encourage others to read it who have more knowledge than I do.

Aye. Then it sounds like you are talking about a manual, correct?

Automatic. First, second, drive. Sometimes you need to keep it in a lower gear in deep snow for more control.

Will , instead of trying to determine who drives automatic or manual transmissions concentrate on why you are putting yours in neutral while doing 50 MPH . It may not cause damage but you might do that at the worst possible time . You have never answered the question of whether you are resting your hand on the shift lever or what you were doing when this happened.

Rusted rotors? What year Toyota? I know body-wise a number of older years had big rust problems. It was either that, or you live in an even worse climate than I do.

Ok. I’ll make you happy. Yes, I was resting my hand on the shift lever, and I think I did so because I accidentally pulled on a paddle shifter (they react very quickly) and thus the engine downshifted gears and was going too fast for that speed.

I guess I’m stodgy, and I never took an interest in learning about the paddle shifters. I would think a big downshift that runs the engine at high RPM puts some strain on the engine and possibly accelerates wear. Mine is, after all, a regular V4. Give me a powerhouse V8, and I’d probably do some of this.

Oh, for those interested, here is an article from a dealer in a southern state about using them -

How To Use Toyota Paddle Shifters.

2017 gmc acadia bought used. Not uncommon they said.

The torque convertor takes the place of the clutch on a manual transmission, however an automatic transmission has wet clutches inside to control the planetary gears. The clutches are engaged/disengage with hydraulic pressure, much different from gear changing with a manual transmission.

4 cylinder engines generally are capable of operating at more than 6000 RPMs, the 4 cylinder engine in my Dodge shifts at 5000 RPMs daily due to my driving. The V8 engine in my truck would not tolerate this for 20 years.

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