When you’re driving around in your car, chances are you’ve noticed the L or LL on your gear selection indicator.
You may have even questioned what this means when the light comes on and why it matters, but the truth is that it plays an important role in how you drive your car and how long it lasts for you to drive. So, what does L mean in a car? Read on to find out.
P, R, N, D, and L – The Gears of an Automatic Transmission and Meaning
Just like in your gearbox, an automatic transmission has a selector that allows you to choose one of five different gears.
Those five gears are represented on your car’s shifter by P, R, N, D, and L. So what do those five letters mean? Let’s find out!
When you’re driving down a country road, there may be times when you find yourself up a steep incline and need to know that your transmission can handle it.
That’s when P comes into play. The P stands for Park, and it keeps your car from moving forward or backward, even if you press on the gas pedal.
The second gear you have available is called R. The R stands for Reverse, and it’s something that most automatic transmission drivers rarely use.
However, if you get used to driving with an automatic transmission, and then jump into a car with manual transmission for a long period, there will be times when you suddenly need to put your car into reverse!
That’s why knowing how to drive in reverse can come in handy. When you press on your shifter, you can feel a little bump as it moves from P to R which means you’re shifting gears from Park to Reverse.
N is Neutral, which means neither forward nor backward motion just like its name implies.
D stands for Drive, which allows forward motion only no going backward!
And finally, we have L, which stands for Low gear range. This gear gives you extra power for climbing steep hills or accelerating quickly.
If you are coming down a hill, however, make sure not to shift into L until you are completely stopped at a red light or stop sign because putting your car in low gear while moving forward could cause damage to your engine.
What Does L Mean in A Car?
If you’ve ever been baffled by what L means when used to denote a car’s gear selection, don’t worry you’re not alone. It seems that many of us are unaware of its meaning or importance.
So, let’s take a closer look at why L is included on your gearshift and why it is so important for safe driving…
L stands for low, and it is most commonly used when first starting a vehicle.
When a car is left sitting for some time without running, it can run poorly or even stall out.
To avoid stalling on start-up, some cars have a mechanism known as an idle-stop system and this is where you’ll find that L designation.
What Does L Mean In A Car Engine?
The L in car engine simply stands for liters. In the automatic engine, “cc” refers to the total volume of its engine displacement in cubic centimeters.
For instance, a 1.3L diesel engine stands for 1300cc engine swept volume.
When To Use L Gear In Automatic Car?
The L stands for Low, as in low gear. The idea is that with your car in a lower gear, you’re providing less power to your wheels and more power to your engine.
This gives you greater acceleration and more efficient fuel consumption.
So why would you want to shift into a lower gear when you aren’t stopping or going downhill?
When you’re driving on a highway and need to accelerate, such as when another car merges into your lane or you see an accident up ahead, shifting into a lower gear gives you greater acceleration without having to step on your gas pedal as hard.
Also, if you’re on hilly terrain and not using cruise control, shifting into a lower gear will make it easier for your engine to handle inclines since it can work more efficiently with less power going to your wheels.
Another reason to use your car’s low gear is when you’re driving in bad weather.
For instance, on slippery roads, you might need to slow down and shift into a lower gear so that you can apply more pressure to your brakes without spinning out of control.
The same goes for driving up steep hills. Lower gears make it easier for your engine to handle inclines since it doesn’t have as much work going through your wheels.
ALSO SEE: What Does 2 Mean In A Car?
Does Your Car Shift Into Low Gear Automatically?
If you’re driving a car that shifts into Low gear automatically, you have no say over when to shift gears.
These automatic transmissions use a series of sensors and actuators to determine when your car needs additional power.
If you find that your transmission is shifting into Low without reason, it may be time for service this can cause expensive repairs if left unchecked.
A vehicle with a manual transmission, on the other hand, requires you to shift into Low manually.
These transmissions feature three pedals on your floorboard: an accelerator, a brake, and a clutch.
When you release pressure from your foot off of your car’s accelerator pedal, you can engage your car’s clutch, which allows you to switch gears without turning off your engine.
Newer Alternatives to Low Gear
It used to be that your car would have three or four gears, with the low being its lowest setting.
Nowadays, some vehicles have as many as seven.
Low gear still has a place in most cars’ transmissions but it has been joined by lower-low and even lower-lower gears for optimal fuel efficiency.
In some cases, your vehicle may even lack low gear altogether it all depends on how you drive and what other features it offers.
Lower gears give your car more power, which is great for speeding up.
But if you’re looking to get from point A to point B with minimal hassle, they may not be necessary.
Most people drive at speeds within their cars’ lower-lower and lower-low gears most of the time and it isn’t because they don’t know how to drive or can’t handle a stick shift.
Most cars with six gears are sold with a lower-low gear that gives you more power but also delivers a loss of efficiency.
So if you’re more concerned about saving gas than getting to your destination faster, you might be better off buying a car with five or four gears instead.
Is Driving In Low Gear Bad?
One of many myths surrounding low gear is that it’s bad for your car. However, even if you think that driving in low gear will cause damage to your vehicle, it won’t.
If a mechanic says otherwise, don’t let them scare you off of driving in low gear. It just won’t.
One of my favorite sayings is low gear = high effort. If you are in a situation where you need to accelerate quickly, chances are your car won’t be able to do so very well if it’s being forced to do so from low gear.
The energy required to accelerate at full throttle from first gear or second gear is significantly higher than that of third, fourth, or fifth gears.
For instance, if you have a car that has a top speed of 120 mph and it’s currently going 60 mph and you floor it, chances are your car won’t be able to accelerate very quickly.
On top of that, accelerating from any lower gear than third will take significantly more effort on your part as well.
If you’re traveling on a flat and steady road and need to get to cruising speed as quickly as possible, it may be best to skip first gear altogether.
By driving in a higher gear initially, you can get your car up to cruising speed without putting much effort into accelerating.
That means that while you will likely spend more time on the gas pedal than normal, you won’t be fighting physics trying to move your car forward at full throttle.
Can You Shift From D to L While Driving?
Yes, you can shift from Drive to Low while driving, but it’s not a good idea unless you’re taking your car off-road.
As we explain above, shifting into Low while driving usually means your transmission will be in first gear which isn’t ideal for cruising on regular roads and streets.
In that sense, using Low when you don’t need it isn’t doing much of anything for your car.
Most automatics with automatic transmission shift directly from D to Low and you won’t see your RPMs fluctuate or hear a change.
Some vehicles have a slight delay between Drive and Low, but not enough of one to cause any issues on regular roads.
The only exception here is if you select Low when your car is already at a stop, which would cause it to go into first gear (the lowest gear) right away.
You can shift from Drive to Low, but doing so will result in your transmission shifting directly into first gear which means you’ll start slowly on streets or freeways.
In addition, your car won’t be able to maintain its speed up hills without slowing down.
This isn’t ideal for most driving situations but could come in handy when going off-road where high engine speeds and performance are necessary.
Should It Drive In Low Gear In The Snow?
As with most aspects of driving, there are plenty of myths about what gears you should use for different weather conditions.
Each manufacturer recommends a slightly different range for specific models, and that’s a good place to start when determining what gear will best suit your vehicle and its limitations.
But ultimately, it is up to you as an individual driver to determine whether or not a given situation calls for low gear.
If you don’t feel safe using it, then don’t.
If you’re in doubt, consult a driver’s manual for your car or ask a mechanic.
It may seem like an insignificant detail, but if you want to master your vehicle and drive with confidence, then mastering low gear is part of that equation.
Furthermore, if you are going to use it regularly, it helps to know its limitations and how to adjust accordingly.
If you do choose to use low gear, keep a few things in mind. For starters, remember that it’s primarily intended for tricky situations where your vehicle is struggling to climb up an incline or gain traction when on a slippery surface like snow or ice.
When driving at higher speeds, not only does your car have more momentum to help you avoid accidents and go around hills, but it also gives you much more control over your vehicle overall.
In general, if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and it is equipped with low gear, that’s likely what you should use to tackle difficult driving conditions.
If your car has four-wheel drive but doesn’t have a low range, or if it is rear-wheel drive and doesn’t have a low gear, then using it on snow or ice may not be recommended unless you need to get out of an area quickly.
When driving in snowy conditions, you need to determine if a hill is too steep for your vehicle to make it up without damaging its engine.
If so, there are a few different strategies you can employ depending on whether or not you have low gear.
If you have low gear and it’s not snowing, then you may be able to simply use your vehicle’s momentum to slowly make your way up a hill.
This is usually not recommended because it could lead to over-revving and burning out your engine, but if there isn’t much traffic around or emergency vehicles coming behind you then it could be worth trying.