Driving Knowledge Useful tips

What Is Unknown about the Neutral Gear


Do you know why the N (Neutral) gear is there in automatic cars?
I will explain the feature of Neutral gear and when you should change to the gear.

What Is the N Shift?

The “N” in the shift range stands for “Neutral”.
The “Neutral” is the shift where the wheel axels are not driven by the engine moves/spins.

When you changed to the N, the accelerator won’t work. On a slope, the car will go down regardless of the direction of the car.

Why Need the Neutral?

Now, I will explain when and why we need the N in every automatic car.


When your car is pulled by the tow truck, you need to change to the N gear so that the wheels are to spin out, not being moved by the engine power.


When you are driving slowly in a heavy traffic, it is tiring to put on and off the brakes quite often. The Neutral is to be used to avoid the risk of accidentally releasing the brakes and the car moves automatically.

You may prefer to use the P (Parking) in this case. But if you change from the D (Drive) to the P, it passes the R (Reverse) gear then the reversing light will flash. That light could confuse the driver behind you. Therefore, being the N shift between D and R is meaningful to avoid the confusion among other drivers.


It may damage the transmission if you change the shift from the D, moving forward to the R, backward as these are the completely opposite directions. The position of the Neutral being between the D and the R is also to protect the important part of the vehicle.

Driving in the Neutral Gear

So, you’ve learnt that the Neutral gear is freewheeling. Have you ever thought that the Neutral gear could be fuel-efficient for example when sped up or on the down hill.
It seems to be efficient as the Neutral does not use the engine power, doesn’t it?


No Fuel Efficiency

Sorry, the fuel efficiency of the Neutral gear is not proved. You do not need to change to the Neutral because the modern vehicles control by its computer to cut the fuel consumption while the accelerator is off.

A Risk of No Effect of Engine Brakes

In the Neutral gear, it is very dangerous that the engine brakes do not work as the drive wheels are disconnected from the engine. The engine power will not help stop the wheels therefore please bear in mind that the only thing you can stop the vehicle is the foot brakes.

A Risk of Missed Shift

Please don’t be optimistic about changing gears. You might think changing to the D shift from the N is easy in the case of necessity so that the engine brakes will work. There is a high risk of making mistake changing to the 2nd gear by skipping the D. The 2nd gear will have the excessive strength of engine brakes and the rapid increase of the spins of the engine. In the worst case, the engine spins so rapidly to the red zone that it could cause the malfunction of the engine.

 Although you may not have chance to use the N shift in ordinary driving, you will need this in the trouble. Please do remember when and how to use it.

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