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How to Put a Car in Neutral Without Starting It?

There are plenty of reasons you would need to put a car in neutral without starting it. 

Maybe you’ve lost the key or the battery’s dead. 

Either way, putting a car in neutral without starting it isn’t too difficult. 

To put a car in neutral without starting it and without the key, you need to get underneath the vehicle and move the gear selector to neutral. Or, if you have the key, you can put the car in neutral by releasing the shift lock and shifting gears as normal. 

In this article, I will describe the eight steps you need to take to put a car in neutral without the key. 

Then, I will detail how to put a dead car in neutral if you have the key. 

8 Steps to Put a Car in Neutral Without the Key 

Photo of a car's gear shift.

In the following sections, I will detail how to put a car in neutral if you don’t have the key. 

Step One: Apply Wheel Chocks 

Before you get underneath the car to change the gear, you must ensure you take the proper safety precautions. 

If you don’t, the car will immediately start to roll as soon as you put it in neutral gear. 

Thus, you need to take measures to prevent the tires from moving. 

Your best option to keep the tires from rolling is to use wheel chocks, wedged-shaped blocks made from rubber, plastic, or wood. 

To use wheel chocks correctly, you must place them directly in the middle of your car’s tires and then push on the back of them to ensure they are firmly in place. 

You should also make sure the bottom of the chock is entirely on the ground. 

You need to put chocks on both the front and back of your tires to ensure the car can not move in either direction. 

Step Two: Engage the Parking Brake 

For added safety, you should engage the parking brake to be absolutely sure the car does not roll when you’re under it. 

Step Three: Get Underneath the Car 

For this next step, you need to grab a flashlight and get underneath the front of the car. 

Now, some cars have enough ground clearance that you can easily slide underneath them. 

However, others are much too close to the ground. 

Thus, you will need to jack up the car before you can get underneath it. 

And make sure that after you jack the car, you replace the jack with axle stands to ensure the vehicle does not fall on you when you get underneath it. 

Also, you must make certain that you place the axle stands on an area of the car that can hold the entire weight of the vehicle. 

Step Four: Find the Transmission

Now, you need to locate the vehicle’s transmission. 

You can identify the transmission because it is a space shuttle-shaped piece of metal near the engine. 

Step Five: Find the Transmission Cable and Gear Selector 

Look around the transmission until you find a cable that ends with a long metal rod. 

On the end of this rod, you should see a piece of metal shaped like a circle or a slice of bread. 

This small piece will have a hole in the center that attaches to a metal lever. 

The cable is the transmission cable, also called the shift linkage, and the lever is part of the gear selector. 

Step Six: Detach the Transmission Cable From the Gear Selector 

Next, you need to detach the transmission cable from the gear selector. 

In some cases, this piece will come off pretty easily, and you can just pop it off with your fingers. 

But, if the cable will not detach, you’ll need to use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to work it off. 

Step Seven: Shift the Gear Selector to Neutral Gear

Now that the gear selector lever is free from the transmission cable, you can push it back towards the rear of the vehicle until you hear it click twice. 

Step Eight: Push the Vehicle to the Desired Location

Finally, you can get out from under your car and take off the axle stands if you have them in place. 

Then, remove the chocks and disengage the parking brake. 

You can now push your car to a new location. 

7 Steps to Put a Dead Car in Neutral With the Key 

If you have ever tried to put a dead car in neutral, you may have found that you can’t just shift into gear as you normally would. 

But luckily, shifting into neutral gear is pretty easy if you have the key since all you need to do is disengage the shift lock. 

Step One: Engage the Parking Brake 

Before you try to put your car into neutral, you should first engage the parking brake. 

Doing so will ensure your car does not roll when you put it in neutral. 

Step Two: Apply Wheel Chocks (Optional) 

If you want added safety when you put a dead car into neutral, you can apply wheel chocks until you’re ready to push it. 

Step Three: Put the Key in the Ignition 

To get a dead car into neutral, you must first put the key into the ignition and turn it as you normally would. 

Of course, since the battery is dead, the engine will not start, but you still need the key in the ignition to perform the next steps. 

Step Four: Open the Shift Lock Cover 

Typically, the shift lock cover is right next to the gear selector. 

It usually looks like a small tab that blends in with its surroundings. 

In other cars, though, the shift lock cover may be a bit more challenging to find. 

For example, in the newer Ford F-150 models, the shift lock cover is underneath the coin tray in the center console. 

If you can’t find the shift lock cover, you should look in your owner’s manual. 

Once you’ve found the cover, you need to remove it.  

In some cars, you can pull it up with your fingers. 

However, most vehicles require you to pry the cover off with something like a flat head screwdriver. 

Step Five: Disengage the Shift Lock 

Peer down into the hole where you just pulled off the shift lock cover. 

You should see another little tab, which is usually white. 

While pressing the brake, push this tab either down or over, whichever way it moves. 

Step Six: Shift Into Neutral 

While holding the brake and the shift lock in place, grab your gear shifter and move it into neutral. 

Step Seven: Push the Car to the Desired Location 

Now that your car is in neutral, you can put the shift lock cover back on, disengage the parking brake, and push your vehicle to another location. 

Is it Hard to Push a Car That’s in Neutral Gear?

People pushing a police car.

Under normal circumstances, it is not difficult to push a car that is in neutral gear. 

However, if the tires are flat or you’re pushing up a hill, moving the car may be more challenging. 


If you don’t have the key to the car, you need to manually put the vehicle in neutral by moving the gear selector. 

If you do have the key, you just need to disengage the shift lock to change into neutral gear.

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