Shifting to neutral while stopping

I am a stick-shifter for over 60 years even when driving my wife’s automatic Camry. For example when coming to stop signs or red lights I shift into neutral until/while stopped. My question is: does shifting an automatic into neutral while moving cause transmission problem?
Thanks, “Shifty”

It can but it is really an unsafe habit . If for some reason you have to move in a hurry you might not be able to . And shifting an auto just to be shifting is kind of silly.


Why would you take a chance on extra wear when there’s no good reason to do this? If you notice someone on a cell phone coming up behind you too fast (which happened to me), you’ll wish you stayed in Drive.

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The mechanical consequences of this pattern are zero. The transmission doesn’t care. Whether it’s unsafe or not is your call, after all the accepted wisdom is exactly what you are doing if you have stick shift car. If it’s driving your wife crazy and she’s letting you know, you are a fool to ignore her and you will pay a high price if you decide you are correct anyway.

With a manual there is less wear on the throw-out bearing and clutch system. No significant wear difference for an automatic.

The mechanical consequences are likely close to zero, but if you keep the car long enough, the extra wear and tear from repeated jolts of shifting into gear will take a toll on parts between the engine and the wheels, such as CV joints.

Most people who add unnecessary wear and tear to their vehicles like this won’t keep them long enough to experience the consequences, but some will without realizing they made a repair of the drivetrain necessary sooner than it would have been otherwise.

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I do the same thing when driving my truck and it doesn’t adversely affect the transmission. An argument could be made however that being in neutral at a stop light is less safe b/c if you see a car careening out of control in your direction you can’t step on the gas to get out of the way as quickly. On the other hand you could argue it is safer, b/c if your foot accidently slips off the brake pedal, being in neutral the car won’t move ahead and run over the pedestrian in the crosswalk ahead of you. Six of one, half dozen of the other. Doesn’t matter, so do however you prefer.

I’ve heard that in freight trucks being in neutral at a stop light is considered not being in control of the vehicle.
Now that’s just what I’ve heard, so no rock throwing please.

I can tell everyone that it takes a tenth of a gph less to idle in neutral than if it’s in D. That’s according to my OBD reader on a 02 Camry 4cyl. Put it neutral you’ll save some gas, load on the eng and load on the trans.

It used to be illegal to be moving and placing the trans in neutral, at least in NJ. Not so waiting at a stop light.

When was the last time somebody came careening down on anyone where you were able to move anywhere while you’re surrounded by cars at a traffic light. People just don’t pay attention. I had one moron playing with his coupons looking down at the front seat besides him rolling at idling speed and nailed me in the rear quarter panel. If I wasn’t parked where I was he would have hit the supermarket store front and would have cut badly a lot of people standing behind huge window panes. The store later put bollards in to prevent that possibility ever again. I got early 80’s $2000 of damage to my 76 Skylark, the store dodged a huge liability issue, and a lot of people went home totally oblivious as to how there lives we’re almost irrevocably changed forever.

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The average red light stays red for two minutes. That means that, by shifting into neutral, you just saved 0.0033 gallons of gas, but at what cost?

Every time you shift from neutral into gear, you start a chain reaction throughout your drivetrain, and every link in that chain gets slammed.

To borrow an analogy from Tom and Ray Magliozzi’s book Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car without Even Knowing It, your car’s drivetrain is like a jogger’s knees:

“You may think of ‘the leg’ as being just one piece. But in reality, it is made up of many different bones connected together. And when a jogger’s heel comes down on the pavement, it, too starts a chain reaction. As we all know, the heel bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bone’s connected to the…”

You get the idea, right? The same thing happens every time you shift from neutral into drive.

“The crankshaft turns, slamming into the transmission, which, in turn, slams into the differential, which slams into the axles, which slam into the CV joints and so on.”

…all to save 3/1,000 gallon of gas.

This reminds me of the advice to downshift a manual transmission in order to save the brake pads. NEWSFLASH: A new Clutch costs a lot more than a brake job. Likewise, a worn out CV joint is a lot more expensive than 3/1,000 gallons of gas.

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I don’t shift to neutral in an automatic. But how bad is it for the cv joints and engine mounts if you do? Everytime you let the clutch out from a dead stop, you’re subjecting those joints from the unloaded state to a loaded state.

As many times as this has been argued about in the last 5 years, might as well start another “how often should I change my oil” or “which oil is best” thread.
It’s an automatic!! Let it do what it does, automatically!


I never recommended that someone place there trans in neutral at a stoplight or anywhere else for that matter. I mentioned an observation from my obd reader is all. No matter what you do a car is going to turn into a worn out rusted heap eventually as all things do, why obsess over trivial things that are a matter of opinion.

What’s not opinion, and what might have taken out of this observation is that the extra consumption is pushing the car forward when in D. How much forward, when slowing to a stop, maintaining even pressure on the brake pedal, the vehicle slows down very noticeably quicker, no doubt about it. Again I’m not recommending this for any one. Your wheels are your own to do with them as you please.
UPS has their drivers shut their engines off at every stop, theft as much as fuel savings I guess. They’re not concerned about extra wear on eng bearings, driveshaft joints, ring and pinions, starters, switches, ad infinitum.