Drivers coasting into trouble

While some drivers mistakenly believe that coasting will save on fuel, they’re probably unaware that it causes higher repair bills, and could put themselves, and others, in avoidable danger.

‘Coasting’ is the term used when a vehicle is driven with a foot pressed on the clutch or the gear stick in neutral.

In a recent survey by vehicle lease comparison website LeaseLoco, 45% of respondents who drive admitted to coasting. The survey of just over 1,000 people found that 54% of drivers who have coasted were male, 40% female, and 6% didn’t disclose their gender.

What happens when you coast

  • If a driver coasts downhill with either the clutch depressed or the gear stick in neutral — or both at the same time — the wheels are disengaged from the engine, meaning engine braking (using gears to slow down) is not possible. Coasting means the car is taken down an incline by gravity and the vehicle's momentum.
  • The car picks up speed much more quickly when free rolling down a hill due to gravity.
  • Steering response is affected — particularly when cornering — because the driver can’t control the speed via engine braking.
  • If a motorist finds themselves in a difficult situation while the car is in neutral, they could struggle to select the appropriate gear or quickly accelerate out of the problem.

Damage to the vehicle

  • Travelling at speed when coasting means that drivers need to brake with more force than if engine braking was engaged.
  • Coasting wears out the mechanical brakes more quickly because the driver relies solely on the foot pedal – causing costly brake replacements to be required sooner.
  • Coasting with the clutch down also wears out an important release bearing. When that needs to be fixed, the entire clutch mechanism must be dismantled to replace it.

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