How to Put a Dead Car in Neutral: Simple Steps & Tips

July 9, 2024

When confronted with the challenge of a dead battery, knowing how to put a dead car in neutral is crucial. Whether it's to push the car to a more convenient spot for jump-starting or to tow it safely, this simple trick can be a lifesaver. Many modern cars have electronic lockout features, making it challenging to shift into neutral without electrical power. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to put a dead car in neutral.

Steps to Put a Dead Car in Neutral

Firstly, locate the gear shifter in your car. Often, near the shifter, there is a small plastic trim piece that can be popped off. By removing this piece, you will typically reveal a small hole. Insert a screwdriver into this hole and push down; this action releases the transmission. Different car models might have this mechanism in slightly different areas, so it's crucial to find the specific location for your vehicle.

how to put a dead car in neutral
"Dead car" by MastaBaba is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Without pushing this lever, you can’t put the car into neutral. This small but essential step allows you to change gears even when the battery is dead. With the transmission released, you can now shift the car into neutral and move it as needed.

Additional Tips and Tricks

If you find yourself in a bind and need to put a dead car in neutral, remember to use tools like a flathead screwdriver or even something as unconventional as sunglasses to push the necessary button. Some cars might have an electronic lockout feature that requires you to put your foot on the brake in order to shift to neutral. In these cases, locating the lockout mechanism and manipulating it manually can override the system.

how to put a dead car in neutral
"Dead Car" by fusky is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

In emergency situations, being able to put the car in neutral can make a significant difference. For example, if your car is stuck in a garage and faced downhill, releasing the park lock and shifting to neutral allows you to move it manually without power steering or power brakes, though this might require extra effort.

Preventive Measures and Advanced Techniques

To avoid complications with a dead battery in the future, it’s a good idea to regularly maintain your car and check the condition of your battery. Additionally, understanding the specific process required for vehicles with advanced gearboxes, like the ZF 8-speed, can be invaluable. The procedure for these may involve more detailed steps and tools such as a special lever.

It is also advisable to keep a physical key on hand to unlock the driver door, should electronic locks fail. Be mindful of the vehicle's anti-theft alarm, as using physical keys to gain access might trigger it once power is restored.

how to put a dead car in neutral
"dead car" by ValetheKid is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

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