What does L mean on a car? What’s the alternative to the low

What does L mean on a car? Your car’s gearshift has several letters that denote different transmission settings. You probably already know what most of these letters mean, but your car might have an additional setting you only rarely, if ever, use: “L.” Let’s break down what “L” means on a car’s gearshift.

Your vehicle’s gearshift

A car’s gearshift is a vital component for the transmission: the major car part that “transmits” engine power and torque can be used by your car’s wheels to create motion. These days, most people drive with cars featuring automatic transmissions that can quickly detect, through sensors, what gear is required for the current situation and driving conditions.

What does L mean on a car

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the transmission and its purpose:

  • Your engine runs and simultaneously spins a part called the crankshaft
  • The crankshaft produces the power your car needs to move its wheels
  • Your car’s automatic transmission will adjust the gearshift and transmit the crankshaft’s power at different levels of torque
  • The more torque that is produced (and the lower the gear), the more power your wheels have and the slower they turn

Your engine would become unruly if the transmission weren’t there to regulate the power it provides to your car’s wheels.

P, R, N, D, and L – The gears of an automatic transmission

You’ve no doubt noticed that most vehicles have a gearshift control with the letters “P, R, N, S” and “L.” These all indicate different states for your transmission and correspond to various operational modes.

  • D – Drive: This is the default position for most cars. When your car is in “D,” it means that you’re in drive mode and can begin moving forward.
  • N – Neutral: If you want to take a break from driving or need to coast downhill, you can put your car into neutral. Just be sure to shift back into “D” before you start accelerating again.
  • R – Reverse: You’ll only use this gear when backing up. It’s easy to remember because “R” is for “reverse.”
  • P – Park: Use this position when you’re parked and want to make sure your car doesn’t roll away. You should also engage the parking brake whenever you park.
  • L – Low Gear: This position is typically used for towing or driving on steep inclines.
  • S – Sport: Puts the car into a lower gear so you can have more power and control when accelerating.
  • M – Manual: This position allows you to shift gears manually, giving you more control over your car’s speed.
  • ‘+/-‘ – These symbols indicate whether you should shift up or down. When they’re right next to each other, it means to shift to the next higher or lower gear. If there’s a minus sign (-) in front of the plus sign, it means you should shift down.
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Why knowing these is important

Well, first off, it’s good to know what all the symbols and numbers on your car mean. But more importantly, understanding the different gears can help you drive more efficiently and safely.

What does L mean on a car

For example, if you’re driving in stop-and-go traffic, you’ll want to be in a lower gear so your car doesn’t have to work as hard. Or if you’re going down a steep hill, you’ll need to be in a low gear, so you don’t overwork your brakes.

Knowing when to shift gears is a skill that takes practice to master. But once you get the hang of it, it’ll become second nature. So don’t be afraid to experiment with the different settings next time you’re behind the wheel.

What does L mean on a car?

You must have noticed the alphabet on your automatic car gearshift, like PRNDL. Car owners identify P for Park, R for Reverse, N for Neutral, and D for Drive. Some drivers do not understand what L means on a car’s gearshift or when to use the L gear on an automatic car.

Are you wondering ‘what does L mean on a car’? L stands for ‘low gear,’ which refers to the transmission’s first or second gear position, increasing torque while limiting the amount of gas supplied to the engine. As you drive, the low gear gives your car’s engine more power rather than greater speed. With low gear, the car can overcome bad road conditions and uphill or steep hill movement.

Only a few cars have an ‘L’ on the automatic transmission gear selector!

What are the alternatives to the low gear?

So now you know what does L mean on a car! But most recent cars don’t have an ‘L’ mode on the car gearshift. On automatic transmissions, the following features have replaced the low gear.

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Manual mode

Drivers can shift gears manually in manual mode (the ‘M’ setting on the gear selector), either using the gear selector or a set of steering-wheel paddles.

Tow/Haul mode

Use of the tow/haul mode is meant for trailer towing. You can switch it on a dashboard button or lever; an indicator light will normally show on the instrument panel. The setting pauses the transmission’s shifts to increase engine revs, adding more power and preventing transmission damage from too many shifts. When you are not towing, it also functions in mountainous terrain by using engine brakes to aid over steep descents.

Hill descent control

When used with hill descent control, the Tow/Haul Mode holds the transmission in a low gear and applies the brakes to prevent the wheels from locking up while descending a hill.

Terrain management

Many SUVs like Range Rover, Jeep, Ford, and other carmakers provide a terrain management system. It uses low ratios and brakes to improve the vehicle’s traction, even if it’s not a transmission feature. You can select the mode of operation from options for sand, snow, or mud on most systems.

O/D off

You can find this mode in some vintage cars. It prevents the transmission from shifting into the highest cruising gear or gears.

Does your car shift into low gear automatically?

Yes. In fact, your car always passes through low gear whenever you first start the vehicle and slowly ramp up to higher speeds. Furthermore, your vehicle passes to and back above low gear whenever you park or stop at a street intersection without turning the car off.

What does L mean on a car

Low gear is necessary so that your engine doesn’t spin your wheels out of control and make you go too quickly for safe driving.

Cars with automatic transmissions take care of this process for you, so you don’t have to worry about shifting gears constantly while driving through city streets.

When should you use the “low” setting on your gearshift?

While an automatic transmission may shift you back down and above low gear without your input, some cars allow their drivers to shift into low gear manually. But why do this?

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There are some situations where you might need to use your lowest gear and take advantage of the additional torque it provides your wheels. For example, low gear can be beneficial when:

  • You need to tow trailers, vehicles, or boats. Remember, low gear provides additional pulling or pushing power to your car. Note that you should always consult your car’s owner’s manual before using low gear since it will indicate a maximum safe speed that you shouldn’t cross.
  • Driving through ice and snow. When you shift to a low gear, your car will always drive more slowly and with more power, which can help your wheels grip the road under slippery conditions and prevent you from spinning out of control.
  • Driving up and down hills, like when traveling through the mountains. Steep inclines can be difficult to surmount without putting too much stress on your engine if you don’t shift to low gear. Furthermore, low gear driving can be beneficial when descending a hill since you won’t have to brake as hard.

Wrap up

Ultimately, the “L” setting on your gearshift is just one more tool at your disposal to ensure safe driving and to make sure that you use your engine’s power appropriately based on your circumstances. You shouldn’t use low gear all the time, but you should familiarize yourself with your car’s operation under low gear settings so that, when the time comes, you’re ready to use it to its maximum effect.


Is it good to drive in low gear?

It is helpful when ascending or descending hills, towing, or driving in extreme weather. L mode is not something you would want to utilize when driving daily. You will have to at least drive in third gear if you wish to accelerate to highway speed.

Can I shift from L to D while driving a car?

Yes. While traveling at high speed, shifting from L to D could harm your car’s transmission. When driving, it is best to change from L to D slowly. If you were to move from a hilly road to a leveled road, you could slow down a little and shift from L to D without hesitation. Also, be aware that the O/D mode enables your car to shift into ‘overdrive.’ You can turn O/D off to return from overdrive at any time.

Can I drive in low gear in the snow?

You must drive in low gear in the snow because it is more challenging than a typical season without snow. Low gear permits you to maintain control of the car while the additional torque softly accelerates your car.

Above is information about What does L mean on a car? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of What are the alternatives to the low gear? Thank you for reading our post.

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