As I pulled up to the pay kiosk at my local drive-through car wash, I noticed a sign posted that read, “Tesla drivers, make sure you know how to put your vehicle in [N]eutral before entering car wash.” I smiled, assuming that many Teslas must have struggled to enter the wash before management decided to hang that sign. Fast-forward two minutes, and the 228i Gran Coupe and I were also struggling as we entered the conveyor tracks of the wash tunnel. The attendant motioned for me to put the vehicle in neutral, but try as I might, the BMW’s gear selector kept toggling from drive to reverse and back again. I got nervous, rolled the window down, apologized to the agent, and then told him I’ve found neutral before, but for some reason the secret sauce to dropping the transmission into “N” now eluded me.
As the conveyor tried to grab my back tire to move me past the various sprayers and brushes, its small-wheeled pusher device kept bumping the Bimmer’s left rear tire, lifting the sedan and causing my stress level to rise. After about three rounds of being jostled and jolted by the conveyor apparatus, and countless attempts to toggle from drive to neutral, the “N” finally lit up green, and a sense of relief washed over me.
A few minutes later, I exited the wash tunnel, parked in a vacuum stall, and reached for the owner’s manual. I began flipping pages to better understand what was happening during my foiled attempts to find neutral. It turns out nothing was broken or operating wrong; rather, I just didn’t know how to find neutral. Per the cryptic manual, neutral can be found by moving the gear selector from drive or reverse. This much I assumed, but what the manual fails to mention is that you can only find neutral by moving the gear selector with a sort of half-tap motion, not the full tap that is required to go from park to drive or park to reverse. Apparently, I was going full tap in all my attempts, which made the selector skip right past neutral each time—not lighting the “N” for even a split second.
I sat there practicing over and over again, making sure I seared the small tap movement into my memory. I’ve even adopted a habit of practicing whenever I’m stopped with the engine running. Should neutral be so challenging to find? Probably not. But rest assured, it’s there. BMW just makes you work a bit for it.