There is an important, fundamental difference between people who drive stick shift vehicles and those who drive automatics. Those who drive sticks are used to shifting their vehicle while it is in motion. On the other hand, those who drive vehicles with automatic transmission shift only when the vehicle is stopped. The growing number of drivers who never learned how to drive a manual might find the idea of shifting their automatic while moving frightening. They fear that shifting their vehicle while in motion might somehow blow up or otherwise harm the engine. However, shifting an automatic into neutral while driving won’t make your engine explode. In fact, it might even save your life.
The Role of Neutral in an Automatic Vehicle
Whenever the news hits of a car that crashes due to sudden, unintended acceleration, people fear that the same thing will happen to them and want to know what to do if it does. Most of the time, the cause of unintended acceleration is a driver who mistakenly thinks they’re depressing the brake pedal, and, instead, hit the accelerator. Sometimes, however, the throttle can get stuck. If the throttle sticks open and the driver does not depress the brake hard enough, the vehicle may not come to a complete stop. If the throttle is stuck, putting your car into neutral will prevent your car from accelerating, potentially saving your life in the event of an emergency.
Won’t This Blow Up the Engine?
But if you put the car into neutral gear with your accelerator going, won’t this red line the engine and make it explode on you? The simple answer is, no. Modern engines are sophisticated machines and they feature a device called an electronic limiter. This limiter prevents the engine from blowing up.
But What If You Accidentally Shift to Park or Reverse?
If you accidentally shift up to park or reverse, your vehicle won’t do either of these things. Depending on the vehicle, the gear shift may not even be able to move to either of these positions unless the physical button on the shifter is pressed. And if your vehicle has an electronically controlled transmission, it will conveniently ignore your shift to go in reverse or park when moving, essentially functioning in the same manner as neutral.
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