Auto Shifters 101: Understanding The Gear Letters

July 15th, 2022 by

Auto Shifters 101: Understanding The Gear Letters


Have you ever driven an auto transmission and wondered what the gears, “1” and “2” or “L,” were used for? If so, you are not alone! In this blog post by Eastern Shore Hyundai, we’ll explain what these gears do and how they can impact your driving experience. Stay tuned!


How Does Automatic Shifter Work?


Automatic shifters are a type of gearbox that uses gears and planetary gearsets to provide speed & torque conversions from a rotating power source.


In an automatic transmission, three main components work together to shift the gears:


  • The torque converter transfers the engine’s rotational energy to the transmission fluid.
  • The planetary gearset uses a series of gears to increase or decrease the speed of the transmission fluid.
  • The clutch engages and disengages the gears.


What Do the Numbers Mean?


The numbers on an automatic shifter indicate the maximum number of gears the transmission can shift.


For example, a “4” on an automatic shifter indicates that the transmission has four gears. The numbers also indicate the gear ratios of the transmission. The higher the number, the higher the gear ratio and the more torque that can be transferred from the engine to the wheels.


What Do The Letters Mean?

The letters on an automatic shifter indicate the transmission’s gear ratios. The most common lettering schemes are “P-R-N-D” and “P-R-N-D-L.”


1.   P – Park

‘P’ is the position to use when you’re stopped and getting in or out of the car. It locks the transmission so the car can’t move.


2.   R – Reverse

‘R’ is the position to use when you’re backing up. The car will move in reverse gear, which is a lower gear ratio than any of the forward positions.


3.   N – Neutral

‘N’ is the position to use when you’re stopped and don’t want the car to be in gear. It’s also the position you use when you’re starting the car.


4.   D – Drive

‘D’ is the position to use when you’re driving forward. The transmission will automatically shift through the pre-set gears as you accelerate.


5.   L – Low

‘L’ position is similar to Drive but starts in a lower gear. Use this position when going up a hill or towing a heavy load.


Now that we know what the letters and numbers mean, it’ll be easier to understand what position we need to be in for different driving situations. Keep this information in mind the next time you’re behind the wheel!


You deserve to drive a car that you love. That’s why at Eastern Shore Hyundai, serving Summerdale, AL; we offer you an incredible selection of new and used cars. We have something for everyone, and our team is dedicated to helping you find the perfect vehicle for your lifestyle.


Our dealership offers various services to ensure you’re satisfied with your new or used Hyundai. From financing to servicing, we’ve got you covered. Visit our car dealership in Alabama and find out for yourself!


View our inventory of new and pre-owned vehicles now!