What is the Use of Neutral Gear in an Automatic Transmission Car?

‘N’ or ‘Neutral’ is a gear in cars with an automatic gearbox? Have you ever thought about the functions of this neutral gearMost people have never had a reason to use it while some drivers don’t even know when and how to use it.

Well, it has some unique functions and can even save your life too in critical conditions.

Use of Neutral Gear in Automatic Transmission Car

So first thing first, what does neutral do in a car? Shifting to the neutral gear in an automatic transmission will cut off the connection between the engine and the wheels. So, no power will be transmitted to the wheels when you press the pedal. 

This allows the wheels to rotate freely without drawing much action from the engine, but you will still have some control over the car.

Shifting to neutral does not do much harm except for putting a bit of strain on the brakes when you intend to stop the vehicle. However, doing it frequently for a long time could damage the torque converter.

what does neutral mean in a car
Putting the gear at Neutral helps in some critical situations. (Photo: BMW)

When to Use the Neutral Gear In Automatic Cars

There are several occasions when selecting this gear will come in handy. Let’s take a look:

Stop a car with a stuck throttle

Think of cruising through the highway at a great speed and suddenly discovering that you have a stuck throttle! Scary, right? Pushing the brake might not be enough to stop the vehicle since the speed is high.

In that case, the safe bet is to move the gear to Neutral and use the brake to park safely. Switching off the engine is not the safest solution since it will cut the power to the steering, making it impossible to stop the car without any damage.

Safe parking during a brake failure

People mostly respond to a brake failure by killing the engine. It’s a wrong choice since it will leave you with no control over the steering wheel. 

Besides, it can even lock the wheel mechanism, making the situation more dangerous. Shifting to the neutral gear will help you toggle between the lanes and park somewhere safe.

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When the gas pedal fails

Few things are more unnerving than having your gas pedal become stuck or your brakes fail while driving. Unintended acceleration, in particular, appears to be a recurring boogeyman and driver anxiety.

Your car can still coast while in neutral. You may coast your automobile to a safe spot by shifting to neutral while maintaining control of the steering wheel.

neutral gear shift
Few things are more unnerving than having your gas pedal become stuck while driving. (Photo: Tom Hahn)

Even though that neutral is one of the more essential “just in case” safety precautions in an automatic transmission car, relatively few individuals know how to utilize it appropriately and are thus unable to profit from the safety benefits it provides.

During towing the car

Putting the vehicle in Neutral during towing is not the ideal way to do it. However, you don’t have any choice when the towing company does not have a tow dolly. 

The neutral gear will help in keeping the engine on and transmission damage minimal.

Frequently Asked Questions about Neutral Gear

The gear does not have much use other than helping in stopping the car in some critical situations. Check out the FAQs to clear your confusion:

Is there any disadvantage when using the neutral gear?

The only downside of the neutral drive is that you will have less control over the car. To overcome it, you should practice running the car in that gear mode. It may save your life in some emergencies.

Does putting your car in neutral save you gas?

Well, it’s just a myth. It has nothing to do with fuel efficiency since the engine is still running at Neutral. So, most vehicles will use the same amount of petrol in the idle state.

does neutral save gas
The neutral gear has nothing to do with fuel saving. (Photo: Alamy)

Is driving in neutral dangerous?

Yes, it could be. You should not abruptly shift to that gear when you are driving on a highway at a great speed, except for emergencies. It drastically slows down the car and cuts down many wheel functions, which may cause accidents.

Is it OK to put an automatic car in neutral while driving?

It is often assumed that putting car in neutral while driving will conserve gasoline. However, doing so is risky. Switching to neutral reduces your control over the vehicle. In a dangerous circumstance, this can be life-threatening.

Should you put your automatic car in neutral when stopped at a red light?

At traffic lights, never put your auto vehicle in neutral.

You’ll be shifting gears every time you come to a halt, putting extra wear on them. You may need to replace them sooner than you anticipated. Allow the brakes to do their work by leaving the motor in drive and stepping on the brakes at the lights.

Should you put the automatic transmission in neutral before parking?

Yes, you should put your car in neutral before turning it off to properly engage the parking brake. Then, activate the brake, and last, put your automobile in Park mode. To restart your automobile, repeat the previous steps in reverse.

Check out this video below from Engineering Explained to get to know about some bad habits automatic drivers must avoid!

What acts should I avoid when driving automatic?

Here is the summary of what you should avoid when driving automatic cars to ensure safety and optimize the transmission’s driving performance to the utmost.

  • Not using the neutral gear while sliding the vehicle down the slope

This operation act will not speed up the automobile; instead, it will slow it down. 

Furthermore, the gearbox will reduce gasoline to the engine, preventing it from receiving the needed lubrication to function smoothly. This can cause substantial harm to the vehicle.

  • Changing gears when driving

When you transfer gears while driving, for example, from reverse to drive, you utilize your gearbox to stop the car rather than the brakes. The car will stop, but you will wear down your automatic transmission band.

The transmission band is difficult to access, making maintenance and replacement costly and time-consuming.

  • Avoid coasting when in neutral gear

It has been suggested that coasting in neutral might help you conserve petrol. While it is right, coasting in neutral is not something you should do. 

This is because you do not have complete control of the car. Similarly to driving a manual, if your gear stick, you can respond faster and more safely.

  • Avoid doing launches when you are in automatic cars

Launches occur when your car is at a complete stop/neutral and you abruptly accelerate or drive at full speed. This may cause your transmission to wear out, which can be costly to fix the issue afterward.


In the end, driving an automatic car is not as complicated as it seems. Simply avoid the above notices and know exactly when to use neutral gear to take full advantage and avoid future problems with your automatic vehicle. 

Good luck and see you again with more helpful car maintenance tips!