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Keeping “Drive” Mode during Traffic is Good for your Transmission?

Common question from drivers:

Is shifting from “Drive” mode to “Neutral” mode while waiting for a few moments during traffic is bad for your vehicle transmission system?


Transmission system


No. There are plenty of drivers, especially those who picked up bad driving habits from someone who does not know anything about automotive transmission system, who practice this improper driving habit by not shifting the vehicle to “Neutral” mode when the vehicle is not moving.

These people will keep their vehicles in “Drive” mode and hold on the brake pedal until the traffic starts to move again.

Naza Kia Forte 1.6SX with Brake Light

Naza Kia Forte 1.6SX driver stepping on the brake pedal while waiting for traffic

I can’t do it and proper auto enthusiast can’t do this as well. This bad habit is mostly cultivated due to lack of appropriate training from driving academies and also laziness of the drivers.

Keeping the vehicle in ”Drive” mode when the vehicle is at stopping for more than half a minute will cause the engine to consume more fuel and increase wear down the brake-system parts faster as well.

Let’s see how this  happens:
When the vehicle is in “Drive” mode, the vehicle engine is driving the transmission to move in the direction of the gear that we’ve selected, either forward or backward.

The driver is instructing the vehicle to move to that direction, yet at the same time the driver is stepping and holding on the brake pedal which prevents the vehicle from moving to the pointed direction.

This action slowly raises the automatic transmission fluid, thus wearing out the transmission clutches eventually.

The vehicle consumes more fuel too during this period because driver is stepping on the brake pedal that keeping the vehicle from moving to the pointed direction. This action also speed up the wearing of the vehicle brake pads.

Toyota Vios TRD Sportivo Wheels with Red Brake Caliper

Toyota Vios TRD Sportivo Wheels with Red Brake Caliper

All these wear and tear break down can be reduced by simply shifting the transmission to “Neutral” mode whenever the driver is stopping at the traffic lights or in a situation which is similar, where driver just required to stop for a short while.

There would be no need for the driver to apply brake because there are no force would be required to resist motion of vehicle.

If the vehicle is required stopping on a slope, the situation would be a little different. Driver would need to engage the hand brake to prevent the vehicle from rolling down after the driver has shifted the transmission to “Neutral” mode.

There is another bad habit is some people who tend to shift to “Park” mode when stopping at the traffic lights.

Mazda 2 Skyactive 1.6 Gear Knob

Mazda 2 Skyactive 1.6 Gear Knob

It doesn’t matter whether your car has a conventional multi-speed automatic transmission or Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT). Shifting to “Neutral” mode while waiting in traffic is the best practice.

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10 thoughts on “Keeping “Drive” Mode during Traffic is Good for your Transmission?”

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  2. Andy says:

    Woah, I usually shift to P mode while stopping at the traffic light. I never knew that could effect the car transmission. Thanks for the info!

    1. Kelvin says:

      Hi Andy,
      yea! you should only shift to ‘P’ when parking and ensure your pull up your hand break.

      Shift the transmission to ‘N’ when you only stopping your car a while will keep your longevity of your transmission system 🙂

  3. Ken says:

    Nice blog and very informative post 🙂

    1. Kelvin says:

      thank you Ken. Do drop by occasionally for update.

  4. Joe says:

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    1. Kelvin says:

      Thanks Joe,
      do drop by more often for update 🙂

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