How do cars idle at such a high speed but the brakes stop the car?

Asked by Jun 11, 2017 at 11:05 PM about the 2016 Bentley Continental GT W12

Question type: General

I have learned a lot about cars from my Bentley mechanic mom and
whatever she couldn't answer I used the internet to find out. I asked her
this recently and she didn't have a response so here I go:

How come cars will idle at lets say- 700 RPMS but when you stop at a light,
I understand the brakes stop the car but if the engine is connected to the
transmission, to the driveshaft then to the differential then to the wheels,
how does the engine stay spinning at such a high speed but the wheels
don't move? I understand the brakes hold the car in place at a light but
what does the engine spin when the wheels aren't moving? Does it
disconnect from the transmission and just spin the flex plate, flywheel or
torque converter? Please explain that would be great!

4 Answers


lets say if you took a clear plastic tube about five inches in diameter , and had a five inch fan on each end facing each other, then capped the ends closed with the fans in the tube, filled the tube with a fluid , turned on the front fan, the engine fan ,the fluid would spin and turn the rear fan , the one connected to the driveshaft. and it would just swirl the fluid until you released the brakes and let er roll

Best Answer

A torque converter between the engine and transmission is such


Your torque converter transmits almost no energy at all at idle speed.


Good question but even better answer. Even I saw that in my head.

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