Does the Odometer Work in Neutral? (Explained)

When it comes to your car, the neutral gear serves a lot of purposes even though it was never intended for driving the car due to how it separates the engine from the wheels.

So, because of how the neutral gear works in a different way compared to the other gears on the car, you might be wondering what happens to the odometer when you are in neutral.

So, does the odometer still work when you put your car in neutral gear?

The odometer will still work on neutral for both mechanical odometers and, in some way, electronic odometers. For mechanical odometers, because the odometer is connected to the transmission, it will still work in neutral.  In electronic odometers, the odometer will only run if the ignition is on.


It might be silly to think that the odometer still moves when your car is neutral.

After all, the engine is not being used here and is most likely stationery without any acceleration.

However, because of the very fact that “miles” will still be put on the wheels and the different gears that allow them to move even when you are in neutral, it makes sense that the odometer should still work as the odometer counts the miles accumulated not only in the engine but all of the car’s components as well.

What happens when your car is in neutral?

At this point, you already understand how to use the different gears on your car.

You already know how to use the neutral gear. But, do you actually know what happens to the car while you are in your neutral gear?

Basically, when you put your car in neutral, what happens is that the engine is separated from the wheels.

So, in such a case, your wheels won’t be powered by the engine as stepping on the gas won’t allow the wheels to move.

However, the wheels can still move especially if the car is powered by an external force rather than its own engine.

So, when you are in neutral, you are basically allowing your car’s wheels to move when something is allowing them to move without the help of the car’s engine.

This could happen if you are going downhill as you are allowing the force of gravity to propel the wheels forward.

However, in most cases, the natural gear is used when the car is being towed (for example behind an RV) as the towing vehicle is now the one responsible for providing that external force that will allow the car to move.

Basically speaking, the neutral gear prevents the engine from propelling the wheels forward or backward as this gear can be useful in a lot of different situations that don’t require the engine’s power for the car to move.

Does the odometer still work when you are in neutral?

Now that you basically know how the neutral gear works, you might be wondering about something else.

Considering that the neutral gear essentially doesn’t use the car’s engine, what happens to the odometer when the car is in neutral and it is propelled or pulled forward by an external force. Will the odometer still work when you are in neutral?

In a way, yes, the odometer will still work when you are in a neutral gear position.

However, this could depend on the type of odometer you have as there are some odometers that may or may not work when your car is in neutral.

Mechanical odometers will always allow the odometer to move forward regardless of whether or not it is in neutral.

That’s because mechanical odometers are connected to the final drive of the transmission. Because of this, the odometer will still move as the final drive of the transmission will still move when the vehicle is in neutral.

Meanwhile, things are a bit more complicated when it comes to electronic odometers as these odometers work in a way that is different compared to mechanical odometers.

This is why those who have cars that use electronic odometers may or may not have odometers that will run when the car is in neutral gear.

For one, there are some cars with odometers that will still work even when they are in neutral as long as the car’s ignition is on.

That’s because the sensors that are used for mechanical odometers are turned on when the ignition is on as you are basically providing the sensors power.

But this isn’t always true in most cars as there will be some vehicles that have odometers that are already functioning on digital technology and will not move in neutral.

So, in the other cases, some cars that use electronic odometers won’t have their odometers working when they are in neutral and the car is moving forward.

That’s because the odometers rely on the Engine Control Unit or ECU, which is essentially the computer of the car.

In that case, even if the ignition is on, the ECU is smart enough to know that the engines are not turned on.

As such, the odometers will not move even when the car in neutral gear is moving.

However, even if your odometer is moving when you are running in neutral gear, it is easy to understand the logic behind why the odometer should still move when your car is in neutral. This goes back to the basic function of the odometer.

The purpose of the odometer is to not simply count the mileage or the total accumulated miles of the car’s engine but all of the other components that make the car run.

So, even if the engine is turned off and is not in use when the car is moving in its neutral gear, it still makes sense for the car’s odometer to still move.

That’s because, again, the odometer measures the mileage for all of the components of the car.

If you think about it, the other components of the vehicle are still in use when the car is in neutral gear.

Miles will still be accumulated on the wheels and the gears that will allow the car to move forward when it is in neutral.

As such, even when the car is in neutral and is not using the engine, the other components are still in use and will end up deteriorating slowly due to wear and tear.

In short, your odometer will still work in neutral depending on certain circumstances.

And that is something acceptable considering that you are still essentially using the car in neutral gear despite the fact that the engine is turned off and is not propelling the car to move.

Click here if you want to know if the odometer works while driving in reverse?


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