What Does L Mean in a Car? (When to Use It)

The gearshift on your car has a variety of letters that indicate different settings in the transmission. 

You’re likely to know what most of these letters mean, but your vehicle may also have some letters in the gearshift, such as the letter “L”, which could make you wonder – What does L mean in a car?

In this article, we will answer the question what does l mean in a car’s gearshift? When you should use it and lots more!

What Does L Mean in a Car?

L stands for “low gear­” in a car, which means a gear setting of 1 or 2 in a manual gearbox. 

The L (Low gear) is the point where the transmission is fixed at the 1 or 2 gear, decreasing the amount of fuel pumped to the engine and increasing the torque.

If a car is operating in low gear, the transmission would not be able to shift normally. Instead, the transmission will remain in low gear, which means less fuel goes into the engine, thus lowering your motor’s overall power. In exchange, you’ll receive more engine torque.

When you press the accelerator, the engine essentially provides your wheels with more force than speed. This can be beneficial in certain situations.

An Overview of a Vehicle’s Gearshift

The gearshift in a car is a crucial component of the transmission. It is the main automobile component that produces the engine’s power and torque to be utilized by the car’s wheels to produce motion.

Nowadays, most drivers drive cars with automatic transmissions that can quickly determine, using sensors, the gear needed for the present circumstances and the driving environment.

These are further in-depth explanations of the transmission and its function:

  1. It is the crankshaft that turns your engine simultaneously as it operates.
  2. The crankshaft generates the power needed by your vehicle to propel its wheels.
  3. Your vehicle’s automatic transmission can adjust your gearshift and set the crankshaft’s power to different torque levels.
  4. The greater the torque generated (and the lower the gear used), the greater the power your wheels will have, and the slower they spin.

Your engine will become unruly in the absence of a transmission to control the power it supplies to your vehicle’s wheels.

Also Read: How Many Axles Does A Car Have?

P, R, N, D, and L – The Gears Of An Automatic Transmission

Gears of an Automatic Transmission
Credits: Lanski / Shutterstock

You’ve probably seen that many vehicles come with a gearshifts component that has the letters “P, R, N, S,” and “L.”

These all represent various states for your transmission and are correlated to different operating modes.

  • P stands for Park.
  • R stands for Reverse
  • N stands for Neutral
  • D stands for Drive
  • L stands for Low Gear

All of these options are commonly used in various ways.

Park is used to maintain your vehicle’s position, Reverse is used to help back up your vehicle, Neutral is used when you need to pull or push your car with no engine operating, and Drive is employed to move your car around daily.

So, What does the “L” mean in a car?

L is the abbreviation for “low” gear, which refers to a gear setting of 1 or 2 (in a manual transmission) in some automobiles.

The L (Low gear) is the gear setting in which the transmission is set at gear 1 or 2, decreasing the amount of fuel that flows to the vehicle’s engine and increasing the torque.

If you change your car’s transmission to L mode, you’re causing it to operate in the lowest gears mode.

This means that your vehicle won’t consume the much amount of fuel and won’t generate a great deal of power, so at the same time, it consumes less fuel and also generates less power.

If you’ve attempted to press hard on the accelerator, you will not gain more power; instead, the engine will be sending a bit of raw force.

Many experts have suggested that raw force could be extremely useful in many specific circumstances.

Does Your Car Shift Into Low Gear Automatically?

Yes, the switch to low gear is done automatically if you’re driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

The benefit of shifting into low gear is that the car being automatic would, on its own, prevent your engine from turning the wheels at high speed to ensure safety.

Imagine that you slow down your vehicle or stop at an intersection without shutting off the engine; what happens when you step on the gas pedal if gears aren’t set to low gears?

It could be disastrous because your car could accelerate very quickly and increase the risk of being involved in accidents.

According to experts, the car shifts into low gear mode each time you decrease the speed to an amount.

It also operates in low gear when you first begin driving and changes gradually engage higher gears later on.

When Should You Drive In Low gear?

Even though your vehicle will automatically shift the gearbox to the L gear whenever it requires the feature, there will be occasions where you will need to adjust the transmission to the low gear manually.

If you’ve never done this, let’s have a look at some most common scenarios where the L gear is useful when driving:

1. When Towing Another Vehicle

Because the low gear mode permits an additional push and pull power, it’s an excellent option for towing a boat or another vehicle. However, you can refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for further details.

Furthermore, some automakers offer information on when not to use the L gear in certain circumstances since it is not able to meet a particular safety threshold.

2. When Driving in Snow

Driving in snow is difficult as your vehicle cannot hold the road and could be thrown off the road.

This is why you may need to switch on the low gear mode in situations like this to allow your vehicle to move slowly while also providing additional power to allow you to control the car safely without slipping on the snowy roads.

3. When Driving Downhill or Uphill

If you prefer to drive through the mountains, where the roads are extremely steep, having your car set to low gear can be extremely beneficial.

This way, you won’t need to worry about breaking hard unexpectedly, especially when you’re on the road travelling downhill and not putting too much pressure on the engine to create the required power to push uphill.

Is Driving In Low Gear Bad?

As we have mentioned before, driving with the L gear is not necessarily dangerous if used in the right circumstances. But, if you continually drive in low gear, that could cause problems.

Low gear mode can be beneficial for a vehicle driving downhill or uphill and also helpful to a vehicle towing another vehicle or driving through the snow.

Can You Shift From D to L While Driving?

You can shift from D to L when driving. But, if you’re in an auto transmission, the transmission isn’t able to help you shift into any gear if it’s lower than the designated number of revs per minute.

So, if you’re planning to switch from D to L, check that the engine’s rate of round per minute is sufficient to operate in low gear mode. In the event that it is not, you may be experiencing issues with your automatic transmission not working.

Do All Cars Have the L Letter on Their Gearshifts?

No, In fact, modern cars these days are not fitted with the letter L, and occasionally it is also the same for the letter S in their gearshifts.

Which Gear Is Best for Driving Uphill?

The L gear (low gear) is the best choice to drive uphill. This is because when driving uphill, your vehicle requires more force and an adequate amount of balance to do the climb, and the low gear is specifically designed to give you the necessary amount of balance and power to accomplish this.

If you choose to go uphill using the D gear, your car’s engine could stop mid-way, and you might encounter a situation in which the car would roll back down the hill.

The L gear gives your engine the ability to break and shift with stability as you drive uphill. Driving on D3 will also allow you to go uphill as it has a low gear function.

What Does the S Mean in a Car?

What Does The S Mean In A Car
Credits: Jomic / Shutterstock

Here is also a letter that may not exist in all vehicles, the letter S. This letter refers to what’s called “sport mode.”

As the name suggests, sport mode is suggested for driving on twisty and steep roads that are prone to curves. This will aid in maintaining your engine’s round per minute, particularly when taking a turn.

Setting your vehicle to the S mode causes the transmission to transfer more power and hold the lower gears, ensuring that your car has enough power to make it through the curve without losing speed.

Another benefit of putting your vehicle in the S mode is that it will aid your vehicle in accelerating quickly when you exit a tight corner without stressing about the gradual increase in the speed of your car.

Make Sure You Pay Attention to Your Vehicle’s Gearshift

If you think you’ll need to use two letters, L and S, for your automatic transmission, ensure that the transmission is working well and that there are no indicators of a flawed transmission.

Here are some bad transmission symptoms

  1. Your car will stall and may not be able to respond appropriately.
  2. There could be transmission fluid leaks under the vehicle.
  3. Your car won’t change into the proper gears fast enough
  4. You may hear high-pitched noises emanating from the transmission, particularly when you change to neutral
  5. In certain situations, there may be an unpleasant burning scent

If, for instance, you’re planning on driving uphill and you’re using the L gear to ensure that you would be safe, you should ensure that the transmission you have is operating in great shape at the beginning. Many indicators are warning that your transmission’s condition is in decline.

If you notice any of these warning signals, it’s imperative to look after the transmission to ensure that you aren’t surprised by things not working when you’re driving in your mountain of choice.

Also Read: Spoon Engine (Everything You Need To Know)

Frequently Asked Questions – What Does L Mean In A Car

When should you drive in low gear?

Low gears are very helpful in the event of a steep slope or an extended downgrade. This is because your brakes will be working overtime when you are descending as well as maintaining your speed and fighting gravity while you drive.
Under normal situations, this constant tension could cause your brakes to overheat, which could cause failure!

Is it bad to drive on L?

When your car is on Drive or D, the automatic transmission will shift between gears when you accelerate. If your car is low or L mode it won’t shift.
Low gears are also beneficial to drive when it’s snowy or on roads that are icy due to the fact that it decreases the speed of your car and allows you greater control over your vehicle.

What does l mean in a car?

L stands for “low gear­” in a car, which means a gear setting of 1 or 2 (if you’re able to operate a manual gearbox) in all automobiles. The L (Low gear) is the point where the transmission is fixed at the 1 or 2 gear, decreasing the amount of fuel pumped to the engine and increasing the torque.

Does driving high speed on low gear damage the car?

Always check the owner’s manual to know what is the limit of speed is for the low gear, since going over the limit could cause damage to the engine and transmission.
Towing using the auto transmission, set to low gear, will help keep the engine’s torque equal and constant, giving you the power you require.

What does D3 mean in the car?

The D3 that you see in an auto transmission stands for Drive 3. This gear helps to engage and secure the third gear so it doesn’t automatically shift to other driving gears.

What do S and L refer to in the car?

The S means “Sport mode,” and the L is for the “lower gear.” If you select the sport mode on your transmission, it will stay at a lower gear which will increase the rpm substantially.
The gear being put into L signifies that the transmission on the car will be steady in the first or second gear.

Conclusion – What Does L Mean In A Car

What does l mean in a car? L means “low” gear in a car, which refers to a gear setting of 1 or 2 (in a manual transmission) in some automobiles. “L” (Low gear) is the position in which your transmission will be set to gear 1 or 2—decreasing the amount of fuel that flows to the engine and increasing the torque.

Knowing the various components of your car and its definitions can be very beneficial to you as a driver. Additionally, you may find some features you did not know about that can prove useful in various situations.

If you’re thinking, “what does L mean in a car?” It indicates what’s called “low gear” mode. When you’re in this low gear mode, your vehicle is driven steadily and doesn’t put too much strain upon the engine.

This also generates an extra push and pulling power, which is useful in towing another vehicle or driving through icy roads.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

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