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Oops, engaged reverse while moving forward

Yesterday I reversed my 1996 Subaru Outback (manual transmission) out of a perpendicular parking place on a hill, swung around forward and coasted down the hill. Near the bottom, I let out the clutch out without realizing I was still in reverse gear. It made a not-so-awful noise (sounding rather like engine braking) and I very quickly put it in neutral. I immediately smelled a fairly strong gasoline/exhaust aroma and the engine stalled. The Subaru restarted without trouble, but the check engine light was on. Everything appears to function normally now, and I’ve reset the engine light by disconnecting the negative terminal of the battery for a few minutes.

Have I likely damaged anything? Is there anything I should check? Should I have tried to read the diagnostic code instead of sticking my head in the sand while singing la-la-la at the top of my lungs?

If you had done any damage you’d know i by now. You can sleep soundly.

Your clutch probably took the brunt of it, but stalling the motor makes sense as you were basically asking it to turn backwards. I am sure no damage was done, other than your pride… In my younger years, I wanted to know what would happen on an automatic if I shifted into reverse while going forward… It was a work car… all that happened was a big clunk and the motor stalled… I decided it would be unwise to try again :slight_smile:

I’d guess the clutch took most of the abuse on this one. The odor might have been from the clutch. The abrupt stall would happen so fast I doubt you’d get much raw gas smell but perhaps a bit. Most codes are stored but I don’t think you will learn anything from them at this point. If all is well with no CEL on count yourself lucky and drive on.

Actually, I’m going to posit one of my wild theories on the gas smell.

Like any 4-banger engine with a flat crank (and all stock 4-bangers have them), one cylinder will always be on the intake stroke and its respective injector squirting. If any action happens that attempts to turn the engine backwards while an intake valve is open and an injector squirting, it may push the piston abruptly up for a moment and push gas fumes up out the intake manifold. Even if it only stoped the piston suddenly, there’d be a sudden pressure wave bounce off the piston and back up through the intake. I propose this as the source of he gas smell.

My car even had a charcoal filter in the induction system to prevent fumes from wafting up into the great outdoors when the engine is shut down, since there’ll always be one cylinder with the intake valve open and the injector squirting.

Must have been about 1961 and my brother in law to be had a 53 or 54 Desoto. Just for fun, at about 20 mph, he’d pop it into reverse to hear the tires squeel from turning backwards. Maybe they don’t make them like they used to but you’re probably ok.