Updated at: 10-08-2023 - By: Lucas

In the United States, the number of people who drive manual transmission cars has steadily decreased over the years. According to CarMax’s 2020 data, 97 percent of the vehicles they sold that year had automatic transmissions.

An understanding of the various gear settings in an automatic transmission vehicle is critical, given the growing popularity of automatic vehicles among drivers of all experience levels. For example, not every driver of an automatic vehicle understands what the D3 button on the steering wheel signifies.

Do not worry if this is the case for you; we’ve covered everything you need to know about the D3 gear in an automatic car here.

What Do The Numbers Mean On An Automatic Car?

What Does D3 Mean In A Car

While the days of using a stick are numbered, new automated cars don’t all have the same set of gears:

  • N (Neutral) 
  • P (Park) 
  • D (Drive) 
  • R (Reverse) 

When it comes to the gearbox of modern automatic cars, there are a number of alternatives that may be utilized in order to ensure a smooth and efficient drive.

When speeding up or slowing down, a motorist using a manual transmission must push the clutch pedal and’shift between all the gears.’ When driving an automatic car, as the name implies, the gear changes are made automatically when you accelerate or decelerate.

Using the PRND gearbox is simple, and it’s even self-explanatory. If you’re learning to drive an automatic, don’t worry about stalling or not making it to the top of a hill.

The driver of an automatic vehicle does not have to worry about changing gears at precisely the right speed and number of engine rotations as is the case with a manual vehicle.

Automatic vehicles are unquestionably more convenient to operate, but what happens when your vehicle’s transmission offers more options than the conventional P R N D settings?

Gearboxes may have D2/3/4, a + sign, or just a L on them. Drivers can take advantage of the additional gears in their automatic automobile to get more control over gear shifts, but the car will continue to operate differently from one with a manual transmission.


You needn’t be concerned; the next paragraph will explain what D3 in an automobile implies in detail.

What Does D3 Mean In a Car?

What Does D3 Mean In A Car-2

Drive 3 is indicated by the D3 on the shifter. Your automatic car will only shift into the first three speeds if you select the D3 preset. If you’re in D3, your car won’t go past third gear. There are a few instances where the D3 mode comes in handy, even if you don’t think it’s necessary.

City driving

When stuck in metropolitan traffic, D3 can be a lifesaver. A smoother and more efficient journey can be achieved by driving in D3’s first three ratios.

In wet weather

Changing gear on a slick road might cause your automobile to lose traction, which can result in an accident. When you select D3, your vehicle will not attempt to shift beyond third gear, allowing you to drive at a slower, more controlled speed.

Driving up/downhill

Engine braking can save your brakes from unnecessary wear and tear, and it can also help your vehicle maintain a proper pace when driving up or down a hill. Using D3 will perform both of these things.

When towing

When hauling a trailer, the D3 setting can help with engine braking. When towing up and downhill, D3 comes in handy.

Reasons To Use D3 When Driving

What Does D3 Mean In A Car-3

Even if you may be used to driving in automatic mode, you may wonder if you need the D3 setting at all. When driving in the conditions described above, it is very beneficial to use D3.

You should utilize D3 when driving for the following reasons.


When driving in rainy circumstances, the D3 setting prevents you from going at excessive speeds and uses engine brakes to limit the risk of skidding. It is safer to drive from A to B in D3 than in D, because this setting allows you more overall control of the vehicle.

Quicker acceleration

Your automatic vehicle’s rpm can be increased while driving at a slower pace when in D3. The throttle response can be improved if you’re about to make a sudden move onto a busy route and are using D3. D3 allows you to rev at high RPMs, which might come in handy in a variety of driving conditions.

Save on maintenance costs

Engine braking is made easier with the D3 settings, as previously mentioned. Drivers may need to use the brake pedal more frequently when going up and down slopes in Drive, especially when going down a steep road.

Though new brake pads aren’t pricey, they’re still an unnecessary trip to the repair shop that you can definitely avoid. You can save money in the long run by using D3 in your car to take advantage of engine braking.

More interesting driving experience

Driving a stick shift is more exciting than driving an automatic gearbox, and some drivers enjoy it more than others. Driving a manual car can be tough to master, and an automatic with additional gear choices can be a reasonable compromise between a normal automatic and a manual transmission..


If you’re searching for a more adaptable driving experience, you may want to opt for an automatic automobile that has more than the normal PRND options, such as D3, D4, and L.


Does D3 make your car faster?

The speed of your car will not increase if you drive in D3. Automatic cars with the D3 option use the first three gears and, in some cases, do not allow the driver to select a higher gear.

Although D3 will not speed up your vehicle, it will allow you to drive more effectively in some situations.

Examples of this A car with an automatic transmission can benefit from selecting the D3 setting when traveling in a city with a lot of stop-and-go traffic, and staying in the first three speeds can make going up and down hills easier.

Is D3 gear good for snow?

When driving in poor weather, the D3 mode on an automatic car can be helpful. When driving in the rain or snow, drivers may prefer to select D3, which provides them better control over their vehicle.

It is possible to prevent drivers from going too quickly in harmful weather conditions by putting an automatic automobile in D3 mode.

By shifting between the three gears and using engine braking, you can reduce the amount of time you spend on the brakes by using D3. All drivers should be aware of the dangers of heavy braking on wet and icy roads.

Can you shift into D3 while driving?

When operating an automatic transmission, you have the option of selecting D3, 2, or 4 as your next gear. It is possible to change the gearbox setting from D to another one, however the results will vary according to the vehicle.

To match the engine rpm of the selected gear, an older automatic car’s engine may rev loudly and lurch while the driver attempts to transfer gears while driving. The latest automatic car models, on the other hand, frequently have a smooth transition between D and D3, and so on.

As a result, the gears will automatically shift down when the car is moving at an adequate pace because the system is digital. As D3 uses only the first three gears, you should be able to effortlessly change between the gears unless you are foolish enough to switch to D3 while traveling at high speeds.

Should I drive in D or D3?

Depending on your location and the current weather, you may want to choose D3 or D. D3 is the greatest choice for city driving, especially if you’ll be stopping and starting a lot.

When driving down the motorway at highway speeds, the optimum gear to have is normal D, which allows you to change into the higher gears more easily. To avoid speeding up and losing control of your vehicle when driving on slick or rainy roads, you can use D3.

Is D3 for uphill?

When going uphill, the D3 gear setting comes in handy. Keep your automobile in the first three gears and avoid shifting into fourth gear, which could make your uphill ride less efficient and affordable. To keep your car at a lower speed with a greater RPM, you should use D3.


In automatic autos, D3 stands for Drive 3 The automatic transmission of the car can now be tweaked even further with the help of this additional gear. When driving in cities, stop-and-go traffic, wet conditions, and up and down hills, the D3 setting provides a more efficient driving experience. The engine brakes can assist drivers when driving up and downhills.