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Can You Start a Car in Neutral?


You might have heard people talking about how bad starting a car in neutral is. When you start your car in neutral, it will start without a doubt. However, you have to remember that starting a car in that transmission is not the safest way. So again, can you start a car in neutral? If so, what are the consequences?

The answer to the first question is yes. You can start your car if it’s in neutral gear. Since there are not any apparent consequences, you might believe that starting your car in that way is safe. Wrong! Starting your car in neutral affects the performance of your car’s engine.

When you give ignition, the engine tries to reach a certain RPM to invoke the fuel injector and make the vehicle ready to hit the road. But at what cost?

This post will guide you on how the car starting process works and why starting your car in neutral is not good.

Why Starting a Car in Neutral is Bad?

If you are confused about why starting a car in neutral is bad, you first need to know what happens when you turn on your car.


Therefore, let’s get into the details of starting a car and the following components that play an important in this very process:

  • Electric Starter
  • Battery

Electric Starter

First of all, an electric starter is responsible for initiating the car starting process. It’s a small motor that connects to a powerful gearing system that’s directly connected to the engine. Moreover, the electric starter is located either at the back or at the lower back of the engine.

This electric starter has a small gear wheel that turns the larger gear present around the flywheel.

Always remember to press the accelerator while giving ignition to your car. Why?

When the electric starter moves the gearing system to the flywheel, the engine needs fuel and air for the combustion process inside the cylinder.

That’s why you see that cars quickly turn off when you start them in winter if you don’t give the engine some speed.

Have a look at the Electrical Starter Replacement.

Now, the starter needs an electric current to juice up the entire engine. Where does that electricity come from?

A car battery provides enough electrical energy to the electric starter.


A car battery is responsible for providing enough energy to the electric starter through thick wires. The car’s ignition system is in the open circuit unless you manually turn on the switch and let the current flow through the battery to the electric starter.

This safety measure is necessary because it requires 400 – 600 amps to start a car. Also, that’s the reason it’s quite dangerous to keep the ignition switch on for more than 2-3 seconds.

Check out the Odyssey Car Battery.

Another safety feature in the car starting system is the use of a solenoid through which the switch turns on and lets the current pass and complete the circuit.

Besides, you might be confused about the alternator and the battery. Understand that the alternator doesn’t start the engine. Instead, it’s there in your car to recharge the battery. Only the car battery is capable enough to start the engine. Also, starting your car eats up more than 50% of the battery’s energy. That’s why once you start your car and start revving the engine, the alternator starts recharging the battery.

Now, as you have read how an electric starter and the engine start your car, the main part is the combustion process. When you press the accelerator and let the fuel and air mix in the chamber, that’s when the engine completes the ignition process.

But What Happens When You Start Your Car in Neutral?

When the gear is in a neutral state, the motor of the electric starter will struggle to reach the required RPMs to allow the combustion process. Therefore, you might not feel the delay if you continuously press the accelerator. However, there’s something else happening during the struggle of the electric starter. What’s that?

Wear and tear your car’s engine because that small starter motor provides around 24 Newton-meters (212-inch lbs) to the crankshaft. That crankshaft is directly connected to the engine.

When you turn the key ignition while the car is in neutral gear, you might hear a different sound of the engine starting for longer than usual. That’s one subtle sign that you need to look out for while turning on your car.

Besides, if the ignition sound doesn’t change even after you have changed the gear, seek automobile help and never drive your car in such conditions. The issue might be with the gearbox or with the engine’s crankshaft.

Keeping Your Car in Neutral

Another practice many people are involved in is leaving their car in neutral. There’s no harm to the engine or any other car component. But here’s something you need to know.

Neutral Gear in Automatic Transmission 2

When you leave or run your car in neutral gear, the car is almost out of your control. So if the road is uneven, your car can move forward or backward without any stoppage.

Therefore, leave or run your car in neutral if there’s an emergency or the car’s mechanical system has failed.

Also, if you really want to leave your car in neutral, make sure you have pulled on the parking brakes.

When your car is in neutral gear, there is no connection between the engine and the wheels. However, you can still rev the engine to keep the things warmed up. The purpose of the neutral gear in both automatic and manual cars is the same, i.e., to give minimum stress to the car engine by disconnecting the wheels.

Many people also complain that their car’s transmission automatically gets neutral. Is it possible?

One of the reasons is that your car’s gearbox has run out of fuel. Therefore, you have to simply refill the transmission fluid.

Final Words

Starting a car in neutral affects the engine’s performance in the long run. But, on the other hand, you might not even feel the difference. That’s why you can start your car in neutral.

However, if you want to extend the lifespan of your car’s engine, avoid starting your car in a neutral transmission.

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