Turning Off Car While in Drive – What Happens?

You would be foolish to turn off the engine at 60 miles per hour driving on the highway. But what if you accidentally pushed the start/stop button? Turning off the car while in drive – what happens?

Turning off the engine while the car is in the drive will cut off the power. You will lose power steering and practically all the other controls of your vehicle. As you lose control of your car, you may get into an accident and hurt yourself, other drivers, and pedestrians.

Yes, you can turn off the engine while driving, but you should only do so in emergencies and rare cases. Shutting off the engine will cause your car to stop. However, the car would roll downhill if you were on a slope. So, you should shift the gears to Park if you still can.

Read on to learn more about what can happen if you shut off the engine while driving and why you shouldn’t do it.

Turning Off Car While in Drive – What Happens?

turning off car while in drive

Turning off the engine while driving will cut off its power. You will also lose power steering and everything that allows you to have control of your car. If you lose control, you will surely get into an accident and hurt yourself, other drivers, and pedestrians on the sidewalk.

You can shut off the engine while driving, but you should only do this in rare situations, such as emergencies. The engine will surely stop. However, your car will roll down if you go uphill or downhill. To control its roll, you must shift your gears to PARK if you can.

Thankfully, most modern cars have safety features that prevent drivers from shutting their engines off while driving. Even then, don’t attempt to do it because of the unwanted consequences.

Driving is risky. That’s why you must exercise caution when you are behind the wheel. Adding more danger to the mix is not a wise move. If you get into an accident, your insurance risks will drastically increase.

What Happens When You Turn Off New and Old Cars While in Drive

Modern cars have push button start/stop, allowing you to turn on or off the ignition without using a physical car key. In contrast, older cars require drivers to insert their keys in the ignition to start and stop the engine.

Cars manufactured from the ’50s to the ’60s have simple techniques to remove the car key without affecting the moving vehicle. This was possible because older cars have lesser features compared to modern autos.

Most modern cars have complex systems that make it impossible for drivers to shut off the engine while the vehicle is in motion.

With many cars nowadays, you can’t start them using physical keys you insert in the ignition. There is simply no car keyhole in most modern vehicles today. Battery-powered key fobs already replace the physical keys.

These modern key fobs operate under the Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) system. The vehicle’s computer tells that the key is nearby and the car will start or stop by pressing the start/stop button.

Most modern cars with key fobs won’t stop the engine even if you throw the fobs out the window. These cars are built with safety features that enable them to run even without their key fobs.

If your car is running and you move away, taking the key fob with you, it will still keep on running. The engine will not deactivate because the car computer will consider it as the malfunctioning of the key fob. 

Accidentally pressing the start/stop button on the key fob won’t usually be a problem. Most modern vehicles won’t let you control the engine if you drive above a set speed.

Is It Bad to Turn Off the Car in Drive?

You may wonder whether turning off the car will damage your engine while driving. If you could control the engine while driving, your engine would not be harmed. Insert the ignition key back into its keyhole.

However, it will be harder to control your car since its electronic components will not work while the engine is off. There is no power running in the electrical system. So you need to stop your car.

Your car’s emergency brake will still work. This is a safety feature that most cars, old and new, are equipped with. So, use your emergency brake, and then turn on the engine again.

What Do Drivers Say About Turning Off Engines in Drive Mode?

turning off your car while in drive

Some drivers turned off their engines while their vehicles were in drive mode. Here are actual experiences of what can happen if you stop the engine, either accidentally or intentionally:

Ryan Pszczolkowski

Ryan Pszczolkowski, a test driver and tire program leader at Consumer Reports, said he drove a Ford Maverick with a physical key and a push-button starter out on a test track. He drove it down and shut off the ignition while speeding.

The engine promptly shut down. However, the steering wheel and the brakes didn’t stop working. So he could steer the truck off the track and bring it to a complete stop.

Then he put the gear in PARK. After a couple of minutes, he started the engine again, and it did. No harm was done to the engine and the driver.

Pszczolkowski also tried the same in a hybrid version of the Ford Maverick. When he hit the push-start button for a couple of seconds while driving the truck, its engine turned off immediately. The dashboard lights, brakes, and steering went into accessory mode.

Mike Monteverde

Mike Monteverde, a road test manager at Consumer Reports, said it might appear strange to turn off a vehicle at highway speeds. In reality, this is a safety feature for most modern automobiles. This is an important feature that you should be aware of.

For instance, if your car suddenly develops mechanical failure or catches fire, you should have a way of shutting off the engine so no further damage will happen to the engine, you, and your passengers. Then you can safely pull your car and park it somewhere safe.

Again, should you turn off your car’s engine when it is in drive mode? Do not switch off your car’s engine while in DRIVE mode. Switching off the engine will make it difficult to steer or stop the vehicle since you’ll have unresponsive power steering and power-assisted brakes.

What Can You Do If Your Car Stops While You Are on the Highway?

What if you didn’t pull out the key or accidentally pushed the start/stop button and your car abruptly shuts off while you are driving? Here are some tips that will help you safely avoid dangerous consequences:

1. Shift the Gears to Neutral

Firstly, you need to shift your gears to neutral. Doing so will disconnect the wheels from your engine. So you will be able to avoid damaging your car.

2. Slow Down the Vehicle

Immediately slow down your vehicle. You will feel that it will be hard to press the brakes. Use the emergency brake if you can’t make the brakes work.

Steering will also be harder since power steering is no longer working. So, your first move is to slow down the vehicle and get off the road. As you slow down, you should also turn on your hazard lights.

This action will alert the drivers following your vehicle on the road. They will know that your car is having some troubles. By slowing down and getting off the road, you will give the other drivers room enough to pass and avoid your vehicle.

3. Get Out of the Car

You can only get out of the car when your vehicle is out of the road. Leave your hazard lights blinking. Then call a tow truck or the AAA and wait until they arrive. You can’t drive your vehicle even if you can start the engine again.

It is unsafe because your car may again suffer the same problem. You will again put yourself and other drivers in danger. So it is wiser to wait for the tow truck to bring your car to the nearest car service shop for diagnosis and repair.

Should You Remove the Key Out of the Ignition While Driving?

shutting off car while in drive

Perhaps you are curious and want to get the experience. Don’t ever do this to your engine. Turning the engine off while driving is very dangerous. Although some drivers say you can do it without harming the engine, you still expose yourself to unnecessary danger.

There are older cars that will allow you to remove the car key while you are driving. Still, their steering wheels will lock. If your gears are in glider mode, your wheels will also lock.

The car’s airbags, GPS, Bluetooth, radio, and safety devices, critical to safe operation, will not work.

It’s not a good idea to fool around with automotive engines. They are powerful and can be hard to control. Remember, since power is cut off from the car, you will not be able to use the safety features of your vehicle.

If your attempt leads to an accident, your insurer will increase your risk. You’ll be forced to pay higher rates than before.

They may not even insure you if they discover that you did it yourself. That’s not even considering the damages that your car can sustain if you get into a car crash.

In Closing

If you turn the engine off while your car is in drive, the power will be cut off. You will lose power steering and everything that enables you to control your vehicle. When you lose control, you can get into a terrible accident and hurt yourself, other drivers, and people on the road.

You can shut off the engine in rare cases, such as in emergencies. You will be able to stop your vehicle. However, your car will roll down if you are on a hill. So, the best you can do is to shift your gears to PARK to stop your vehicle.