Updated at: 11-08-2022 - By: Lucas

The convenience of an automatic transmission versus a manual one cannot be overstated when comparing the two modes of transportation. Automatics have more speeds and are more fuel efficient than stick shifts, but drivers like the smoother, more convenient ride that automatics offer.

Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive are all modes of operation that most automatic owners are familiar with The 3, 2, and L positions, on the other hand, are so rarely used that drivers don’t even realize they exist.

For those who don’t want to go up to third or fourth gear in their vehicle, there is a low gear setting called “Low.” L gear mode, which is not to be confused with low range, can be utilized for a variety of purposes. We’ll look at how and why low gear mode works in this guide.

Understanding Engine Braking

What Does The L Mean On A Gear Shift

We need to study more about engine braking in order to grasp the function of low gear mode.

If you put your automobile in neutral while traveling down a slope, it will accelerate uncontrollably. Using the brakes can help, but they can quickly overheat and lose all of their braking effectiveness as well. Driving downhill in neutral is a bad idea.

When you let go of the accelerator, yet the vehicle continues to accelerate, you’re doing engine braking. The engine braking effect is caused when the throttle valve is almost entirely closed, resulting in a powerful vacuum.

This means when you push the gas pedal, the engine revs up and this speed is transferred to the gearbox, and then to the wheels. As you drive downhill, engine braking helps to keep the wheels from spinning faster than the engine. Most automobiles can descend at a speed of 30 mph in 2nd gear with no use of the brake pedal.

Selecting D, or driving mode, has varying effects depending on the vehicle’s hardware and software. Hill descent is activated while the vehicle is heading downhill in order to assist the driver in maintaining control of the vehicle. With an older automatic transmission, the engine will never get to help you slow down since it will keep shifting up as you accelerate.

You must drive in a lower gear and prevent the transmission from moving up while descending in order to force an automatic to brake with the engine. Utilizing the following gear lever settings will do this. Drive 3, 2, and L….

Whether or not Engine Braking is safe is the question.

In the automobile world, one of the most harmful misunderstandings is that engine braking will harm the engine. This won’t harm the engine at all, and even if it did, it’d be better than having your brakes fail and accelerating dangerously.

Is Engine Braking Safe?

Your engine will not be harmed by engine braking. When driving down a hill, engine braking should be your primary method of managing the vehicle, with the brakes applied before any abrupt curves. Countless times, when driving downhill, I’ve detected the smoking brakes of other vehicles even though I hadn’t touched my own.

As the engine revs up and makes a lot of noise, engine braking can be a little intimidating at first. The engine is consuming a relatively little quantity of fuel, and despite the high RPM, it is actually preventing the vehicle from accelerating.

What Does “L” Gear Mode Do?

What Does The L Mean On A Gear Shift

The L gear mode can be found in nearly every automatic transmission, and some even include the third and second gears. The 3 option prevents the transmission from shifting beyond the third gear, while 2 restricts it to the first and second gears.

It’s recommended that you always employ one of these two settings when descending a steep mountain road. When going uphill with a low-power automatic, maintaining the gears in 3 will keep the RPMs high and provide you the most power for a safe ascent.

Only the first and, in some gearboxes, the second gear are active in L mode, significantly reducing the number of gears you can employ. The car will be forced to go slowly as a result, and three is more than enough to keep it under control.

On the other hand, L can come in handy when hauling or pulling large objects. Because of the additional weight of the cargo, driving downhill becomes considerably more difficult because of the vehicle’s increased speed. The vehicle’s speed will be restricted by engine brakes if you put the gear shift into L.

When Should I Use “L” Gear Mode?

Lower gears can help you maintain control of the car while maintaining a modest speed when you’re on a steep incline or downhill.

Stepping on the throttle while in D will cause your vehicle to speed past the point at which it is regarded safe on a gravel road. Get to the summit faster by shifting into L gear and increasing the RPM to an ideal level.

L gear mode is essential while descending with big loads, such as a camper or tow vehicle. For example, if you’ve ever seen an 18-wheeler sluggishly crawl down a hill, you know what I mean.

Despite this, L is only used in the most dire of circumstances. In most cases, the first place below D, whether it’s 3 or 2, suffices.

PRNDL Meaning

What Does The L Mean On A Gear Shift-2

The Zack and Cody joke wasn’t the only time I heard this question, so I thought it was only fair to add it in the FAQ area of the site. While the majority of individuals are aware of the responsibilities of each position, a surprising number are unsure of what each of the letters on the keyboard means.

P stands for park, which is a parking-specific gear position that locks the transmission into first or reverse to keep the car from moving.

R is the reverse gear, which is used to go backwards at a reduced speed.

When the transmission is in Neutral, the vehicle can be pushed with little resistance.

All forward-moving gears are controlled by the D position.

This is the “Low” gear setting, which stops the transmission from changing up to the second or third gear without the driver’s input.


When should you drive in low gear?

When negotiating hilly terrain, using the L or “low gear” is a wonderful technique to keep the car under control. Modern cars lack the 3 or 2 gears, thus the low gear is the only option, with hill descent control meant to help with large loads..

Can you shift from D to L while driving?

On the fly, you can switch between drive and low gear, but it’s best to lessen your speed before doing so. It’s possible that your transmission includes a safety mechanism that prevents it from downshifting when the car is travelling too quickly, which means that low gears won’t be engaged right away. Lower your speed and then switch to L gear mode to familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s shifting and driving characteristics.

Is it bad to drive on L?

Even though driving in low gear isn’t inherently a bad thing, going quicker than the ratios on your car can handle increases your fuel usage. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to maintain the transmission in D and use L when necessary.


Once you’ve learned what the L low gear mode does, you’ll be able to use it to your advantage when riding up and down hills. We hope you’ve learned something by reading this article, and we’ve got a lot of useful guides for you to read and learn all about cars!