Home » How Many Times Do You Yank The Shifter To Know It’s In Neutral? Tell Us About Your Involuntary Car-Driving Habits

How Many Times Do You Yank The Shifter To Know It’s In Neutral? Tell Us About Your Involuntary Car-Driving Habits

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David does a lot of things here at the Autopian that we all know about, but there’s also one thing he does secretly: he watches me. If that sounds creepy, that’s only because it is. No, no, I’m kidding, it’s not creepy, but it is A Thing. Once he pointed out this weird shoulder tic I seem to have when on camera, and I get to feel all self-conscious about that, and now he’s noted a habit of mine I’ve never realized before: when I get in a car, especially one I’ve never been in before, I tend to give the steering wheel a little sawing, left and right… Huh.

[Ed Note: Let me just point out the Jason Shoulder Twitch:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

There’s a slight one at about 52 seconds into that video, and then there’s a big one at 1:37. It’s always the left shoulder — it just shoots up! -DT]

I had no idea I even did this steering wheel sawing motion until David pointed out that it shows up in the recent Instagram video of me driving Adrian’s Ferrari Mondial:

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Yep, there I am, cranking that steering wheel for no clear reason, right as I get settled in there. I think maybe I do it to get, like, settled in with the controls? Get a feel for things? Those tugs on the wheel can telegraph an awful lot of physical information about the car, how mechanical or assisted it feels, how much play is in the wheel, how well the seat is adjusted, and all of that is conveyed almost instantaneously! So I’m going to defend my unconscious wheel-cranking, I think.

Also, there’s another unconscious car-gesture you can see in this little video: the waggle of the shifter to confirm the car is in neutral. I think usually I do a wag-wag-wag to confirm, but it’s possible some people may do more or less? Three seems the right number of wags? I think this is worth discussing, too.

Damn, now that I’m thinking about this, I’m realizing I have one more physical car unconscious habit: if there’s a between-seat handbrake, I’ll check that it’s down multiple times, without realizing it, pushing the little button on the lever and making sure it’s all the way down. I know I picked this habit up from my years of Beetle-driving, where it was easy to, say, leave the handbrake on the first pawl notch there.

So what are your habits? What strange things do you do when you get in a car unconsciously, things that, if you worked closely with David, he’d tell you about?

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Dávid Tóth
Dávid Tóth
3 months ago

My first car had a bad 2nd gear synchro, so now I double clutch on an upshift to 2nd in every car I drive.

Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
3 months ago

I wiggle it a lot, the knob … stick … rod … thing.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
3 months ago

I almost always wiggle the shifter in manual cars a couple times to make sure it’s in neutral when I set off.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
3 months ago

Jumping in the Spark gets a left-right shifter wag a couple of times, every time. The winner here though is the ’66 Biscayne with a 3-on-the-tree. I am constantly moving that column-mounted shifter back and forth in the neutral position when not in gear. Never know when I’m going to have to give it some gas to keep it running and I prefer to be in neutral when it happens. I also just kind of like the clunk-clunk sound as I’m coasting up to a stop-light, not sure if I’m going to need to push it back up into second should the light turn green before I get there.

Another thing I do in that car, and any older car that still has a single-reservoir master-cylinder (yes, on the list of things to update) is give the brakes a bit of a pump way before using them in a more normal manner when coming up to a stop. It’s not really enough to even slow the car, but it’s enough to feel that there is pressure in the lines. Sometimes I’ll do it two or three times out of habit. I once ended lost my brakes completely in a ’59 Cadillac with no E-brake just as I was entering the garage. Ended up doing a slow roll into my air compressor and screwed up some drywall behind it, so that may have had something to do with it.

Banpei
Banpei
3 months ago

I used to have the wiggle on the shifter as well. However, I changed habits and started parking in gear. This means I can’t wiggle the shifter anymore. In effect this also means I press the clutch plus brake pedal at the same time to start the car.
I also do this last thing in my other car (which is parked in a dry garage with a perfectly flat surface) where I have the habit of leaving it not in gear, but also not on the handbrake.

I also have the habit to double declutch and blip the throttle in down shifts on all my cars. It’s totally unnecessary, but I still do it.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
3 months ago
Reply to  Banpei

Same, I park in gear, so no wiggle before starting the car. But then I leave it running when I get out to close the garage door and after shifting to neutral and pulling the hand brake THEN comes the wiggle-wiggle before letting go of the clutch. Two times seems to be my habit, always from neutral to the left, between 1st and 2nd gear.

Might come from my driving school back in the day having their cars parked in front of a maybe 1m tall step and the instructor telling me horror stories of people ending up half way down that step starting the car in gear.

Rafael
Rafael
3 months ago

I stomp the clutch into the firewall when I get in :-). I kid, I am delicate about it, but I do press the clutch before starting the car. Had a shared car at work when I was learning to drive, so I’ve started it on first gear a few times too many. Weird that this is what I got used to, instead of the shifter thing.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
3 months ago

I always give the shifter a L-R waggle to make sure it’s in neutral before I start the car. It’s totally unnecessary, since I hardly ever leave it in gear, but I do it just the same. I would do it when I drove an old girlfriend’s Mini and it drove her nuts -“why do you do that!”

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

“What strange things do you do when you get in a car unconsciously”?

Um… blow into an ignition interlock device?

Maybe open another “road soda”(beer)?

Fumble with and drop the keys somewhere before they make it into the ignition cylinder?

Text a friend then fall asleep in the driver seat?

“What strange things do you do when you get in a car unconsciously”?

I dunno… I’m unconscious.
Maybe get strapped in to a gurney?

Maybe with some sort of IV drip fluids attached to me?

Have the rudest possible awakening from a sleepwalking fever dream?

Oh.. I jiggle the little knobby protuberance that juts into the cab from the transmission as well. Gotta make sure it’s in neutral first I guess…

Last edited 3 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

What a snooze fest of commentary we’ve got here.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

“I jiggle the shifter too.”

“Me too.”

“High five fellow shifter jiggler!”

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
3 months ago

Excellent commentary. You get the paper hat and the peanut.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

Hurray! A peanut… I’m starving.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

For originality.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

And a paper hat!?
I am overjoyed!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

This was all a huge mistake.
Why did we allow ourselves to comment on the internet?
This is going poorly.

Some personality types can’t handle the obsession and compulsions involved with having a platform to shout our nonsense at a captive audience.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Audience? You don’t have an audience here.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Oh thank goodness. Please tell me nobody is paying attention to me.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Nobody is. Not a soul.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

So… what are we doing here?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

I dunno… expanding our threshold for shame?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

That doesn’t seem like a good use of our time. These writers are trying to build a fine, car loving community. So many of the usual peanut gallery participants are aligned with the same goals in mind.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Yeah, they are all pretty great. So…

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

I think we’re trolls.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Oh. Definitely, at this point.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

That was never my intention.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

It’s an extremely disturbing aspect of yourself to recognize.
Where do we go from here?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

We never comment on the internet again!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Haha! Where have I heard that before?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Seriously!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

But… our species evolved and got where we are today because of our strong social networks, to escape the pull of an internet comment section community goes against every fiber of our being.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Sure… in great ape societies exclusion from the pack was a fate worse than death.
That’s how we subconsciously view this crap.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

But… you’re not a monkey. You have a real life outside this space that needs tending to.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

We haven’t evolved at the same pace as our technology though.

Last edited 3 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

It’s a simple evolutionary hangover.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Like our preference for high-calorie foods and our fear of snakes and spiders?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Yup.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Ok. So… how do we deal with this?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

I dunno? Ignore it all, while simultaneously paying attention to it?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

That’s not possible.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Mostly you though.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

And now for a shower spaghetti or chainsaw/battery reference…
Zzzzzzzzzz

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

I know right? Boring! Why does anyone think that old trope of a take is still funny?
Might as well be quoting old “Family Guy” episodes.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

The internet is a toilet stall in a public restroom, and everyone that uses it has a Sharpie and an awful opinion.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Put a cap on it!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Rude alert! Rude alert! An electrical fire has knocked out my voice recognition unicycle! Many wurlitzers are missing from my database. Abandon shop! This is not a daffodil. Repeat: this is not a daffodil.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

Dude, quite bogarting: share that shit!
😉

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I can’t share. It would be a federal crime.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

Mostly I just had to reply to “this is not a daffodil’
[thumbs up emoji]

Space
Space
3 months ago

My daily is a column shifter so whenever I drive one of the other cars I find myself reaching for a nonexistent lever. Maybe that counts.

Tomato
Tomato
3 months ago

Every Acura/Honda I’ve owned has had a little more resistance to move into the 5-6 column compared to the 1-2 column, so I just pull the shifter to the left once. I also treat my car as though it doesn’t have a fob. Turn the key to get in, lock the doors and pull the handle to confirm on my way out… I did a year of Bay Area living.

Old curmudgeon
Old curmudgeon
3 months ago

Do you think Jason is the only crazy one from Greensboro? When I come to a red light in my Chevy truck I always put the automatic in neutral. In my six speed Maxima I just keep it in gear with the clutch pedal depressed. Now that I think of it I go neutral with any automatic I drive. Although older, living a 1/4 mile away from Jason I guess we drank the same water.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Old curmudgeon

And breathe the same lead dust.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
3 months ago

I’ve developed a habit of pulling the parking brake on even the slightest of inclines. It’s not the result of an incident, it just feels like something I should do. I also check the driver’s side rear window and handle on my ’97 ZJ before walking away (both have issues, and I need to make sure they’re secure/properly locked).

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
3 months ago
Reply to  PlatinumZJ

When I learned to drive in the UK in the 1970s, you were taught to pull the handbrake on and put the car in neutral at every stop. After passing the test, I was too clever for that and sat at traffic lights, junctions etc. with my foot on the brake and the clutch depressed in 1st gear. Then you realize that driving teachers actually teach you good stuff, and that you can pull away more smoothly and quicker from a handbrake stop, so I do stops like a learner driver all the time now.
And check the door handle after locking the door, because I have my mother’s worry gene.

David Escargot
David Escargot
3 months ago

Right-left-right-left-right for the shifter wiggle

I look for the headlight operation in every car I drive… I drive about 5 or so on a regularish basis

I often try to drive off without putting the handbrake down in a manual and putting the car in gear when I park it

My normal manual vehicle has a non functioning handbrake

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
3 months ago

All this talk about cranking & tugging, I had to check what site I was on!

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
3 months ago

My dad always told me to check that the car was in neutral and to give the stick a wiggle before I start the car, a habit that sticks with me still. Also, when I was little, he would let me put down the parking brake, and I would most always press the button even after it was down because I felt like I was firing a missile or something. Still to this day I have to press the button a few times when I get it my car.

I also don’t like the ratchet sound of a parking brake so I always keep the button depressed as I pull it up.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Marquardt

Wait: I push the button engaging it, too. Pull it up, let go the button, then yank up one more click I can hear (yeah, I really need to tighten both cars’ parking brakes!)

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
3 months ago

I always make sure the Auto Start/Stop switch is turned off. The little A in a circle reminds me of the Avengers symbol. Every time I press it I whisper, “Assemble!”

David Escargot
David Escargot
3 months ago
Reply to  Iwannadrive637

This is the correct answer too… I also switch off the lane assist

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

I do wiggle the gearshift to confirm neutral, and also used to twist the steering wheel a little when parking to make sure it wasn’t jammed against the steering lock.
On my motorcycle I often lightly press down on the gearshift to confirm what gear I’m in, no resistance is first, resistance is,second or higher.

Who Knows
Who Knows
3 months ago

It hasn’t happened in a while, but after getting used to the regen paddle on the steering wheel of the EV, there were more than a few times when driving other vehicles that I tried to pull a non-existent paddle to brake, and then had a split second of panic before remembering I actually had to use the brake peddle. Arguably better than all of the times I accidentally hit the brakes on my parent’s auto Jeep, instinctively going for the clutch pedal, and certainly better than the time I went to shift said Jeep into 3rd at the top of a mountain pass, pushed the shifter forward like I would in a stick shift, and put it in reverse with a thud.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Who Knows

> brake peddle

Pedal*

Sucktastico!
Sucktastico!
3 months ago

2 or 4 for me, never an odd number

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago
Reply to  Sucktastico!

Never thought about it before, but I think I do it 5 times.

HumboldtEF
HumboldtEF
3 months ago

I think my quirk is turning on my headlights then 10 seconds later trying to turn them on again. 4-5 wiggles of the shifter for me.

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
3 months ago

Probably 4 to 5 fast back and forth swipes to make sure I can take the foot off clutch pedal. My wife says “Why do you move your stick so many times when the same thing happens?” HAHAHAHA

Wally_World_JB
Wally_World_JB
3 months ago
Ricki
Ricki
3 months ago

“wiggle wiggle” I think is two right-left combos? So however that counts.

I have tendency to let my Subaru sit on Run for a five count before starting it just to be sure the fuel system is pressurized, which has managed to seep into my habits with any other car, regardless of how new it is or how long it’s been sitting.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Ricki

Same: I can hear the fuel pump in my Subaru, so, turn to ON, wait a couple -3 beats till it cuts out, then to Start. Can’t hear the pump in the Roadster most times, so, ON, put on seat belt, then crank it. Work van is up over 200K, and when you turn to Start, it keeps cranking even when you let off, so I also do ON, belt, Start

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
3 months ago

I think I just waggle once, pulling it towards me, but I also think I used to do a triple back when I had my Saturn, which had a less firm shifter (that is, my VW is a bit springier back to center, so a triple requires more conscious effort).

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
3 months ago

Pulling the wiper stalk back to off position. For some reason it annoys me when I turn on the car and they are waving back and forth.

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