If you’ve ever accidentally bumped your gear shifter into neutral while driving, you know the feeling of sheer panic when your vehicle suddenly revs without accelerating. While this moment can be panic-inducing, in most cases, it won’t cause major damage.
But have you ever wondered what would happen if you accidentally bumped your vehicle’s gear shifter all the way into reverse while driving? Learn what may happen to your automatic transmission vehicle if you put it in reverse while driving, and what you should do if it occurs.
Is it Possible to Put Your Car in Reverse While Driving?
Before looking at what happens if you shift your car to reverse while driving, you first have to ask if it’s even possible to do this. The short answer is, it depends.
Many modern automatic transmission vehicles have electronic controls that will override the shift request if the computer thinks it’s an error. If you do shift into reverse while driving, here’s what may happen.
1. Your vehicle will activate a reverse inhibit feature.
Many vehicles on the road today are equipped with a reverse inhibitor as a safety measure for both the vehicle and the driver. This inhibitor essentially ignores the request to put the transmission in reverse while the car is driving forward until the vehicle has slowed to an acceptable speed to shift.
Auto manufacturers install this feature on cars to both protect your vehicle from costly repairs and help protect you and your passengers’ safety — especially at highway speeds. On many vehicles, the reverse inhibitor is controlled by the onboard computer. But even older models utilized a more manual system with a hydraulic control apparatus as the reverse inhibit system.
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If your vehicle is equipped with a reverse inhibit feature, putting your car in reverse while driving may actually be a bit underwhelming, as the feature won’t allow anything to happen until you slow or come to a stop. However, the best thing you can do is avoid “testing” this feature out by keeping your hand off the shifter while driving your automatic vehicle.
2. Your vehicle will stall and you may hear a grinding noise.
If by chance your vehicle is not equipped with a reverse inhibitor, or it is malfunctioning or broken, putting your automatic transmission in reverse while driving will more than likely stall the engine.
Your vehicle’s automatic transmission is made up of a system of gears that work together to move it down the road. The gears will spin one direction to power your car forward and the opposite direction when backing up. The automatic transmission uses a torque converter and transmission fluid to shift gears and increase power from the engine to the transmission and ultimately to the wheels.
You Put Your Car In Reverse While Driving. Now What?
If you somehow manage to shift your automatic transmission into reverse while driving forward, the first thing to do is stay calm! Panicking may induce irrational and unsafe decisions.
When you feel your vehicle stall, let off the gas, shift the vehicle to neutral, and coast to the side of the road. Since the engine likely stalled, you may lose power steering assist and power brake assist, so calmly and carefully bring the car to a safe stop on the side of the road. Make sure your car comes to a complete stop, then shift into park. You may need to turn the engine off and start your car again.
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