What Does “L” Mean On A Car’s Gear Shift?

As a car owner with an automatic transmission, you might be familiar with most gear modes on the gearshift control. However, you’ve hardly used the L position to the extent that you’re unsure what they stand for. So, what exactly does L mean on your gear stick?

The ‘L’ on the gear shift indicates Low and is used for moving the vehicle at a low speed with high engine power. Though this additional gearshift setting is rarely used, it is useful when you need to tow a vehicle or drive uphill on rough terrains.

Low gear reduces the stress on the brake pads, enabling you to make the most of your vehicle’s full power in such situations.

Low gear mode has numerous benefits when compared with manual transmission. Keep scrolling to better understand the L position on your vehicle’s gearbox.

L Gear Mode: An Overview 

Whether you are a veteran or a new automobile driver, you might be more familiar with the P, D, N, R on the gearshift of your automatic transmission. But, not many, in most cases rarely, have shifted into the L gear mode while driving.

This gets you thinking, what does L mean on your gearshift, and when can you use it?

Not understanding how each gear mode works, you will not be able to enjoy a pleasant driving experience. While driving your automobile on D, the gear modes keep shifting automatically as you increase the speed.

It looks like, on L or low gear, the transmission does not shift on its own, making it suitable for driving steep hills or uphill.

The engine runs at high power in the L position, but only very little fuel is given to the engine. This allows you to drive the vehicle at low speed, but the engine torque increases to make up for the speed.

Compared to the other transmission modes, low gear works similar to the gear position 1 or 2 present on the manual transmission. 

When you press on to the gas pedal, the engine gives more raw force to the wheels. But, this does not mean an increase in speed, making it suitable to drive through even poor road conditions.       

Can You Shift The Car Automatically Into Low Gear?

Of course. When you start driving your car, it starts from the low gear before it gradually shifts to the higher speed modes. In addition to that, your vehicle shifts through the low gear anytime you park your car or halt at the intersection or red signal without turning off the engine. This indicates that even without any input from your end, your automobile regularly uses the L gear. 

Low gear is essential in certain circumstances to keep your engine from juicing up the wheels to spin uncontrollably. The transmission transports only the required power to the wheels to keep your car running steadily while going uphill or through steep areas.

If you are the proud owner of an automatic transmission, you need not worry about shifting the gear to L mode in such situations. Instead, the engine and the automatic transmission take care of it by working together to provide the right power and torque to steer through tough conditions.

On the other hand, if you own a manual transmission, you will have to manually downshift the gear to low gear while driving through steep hills or snowy roads.

Avoid shifting the transmission directly from a high-speed to the low gear, as it causes permanent damage to the engine and transmission. Also, make sure to drive at the lowest speed while activating the L gear mode.

When Can You Use The Low Gear Shift?

Whether you’re planning to drive up or descend a steep incline, driving on the low gear mode would be the perfect option to better control your automobile.

This position enables you to retain the low speed even while driving with higher torque. While the gear shifts on its own for automatic transmissions, drivers must manually move the gear stick to L for certain vehicles. 

Here are some situations when low gear is the best choice for your automobile.

Driving uphill

Driving your car through steep inclines can be challenging, as it adds too much stress to your engine if you don’t use the right gear position. After increasing the RPM to the optimum level, the low gear mode will enable you to reach the top with less effort. 

Driving uphill is inevitable while traveling through the mountain ranges, and you need high power delivery to climb hills. Using a low gear position, you will be able to climb steep hills safely.

Descending steep hills

Like climbing steep terrains, it is advisable to use low gear even while driving downhill. By shifting the transmission to the low gear, you will notice that you need not press down on the brake pads constantly.

Here, the engine and transmission take over to deliver low speed to the wheels, offering essential resistance to keep your automobile from slipping down. 


Are you planning to go on a holiday trip and would like to take your boat along? This is what you need to know. While towing heavy things like boats and trailers, it’s best to shift the gear settings to the L gear mode.

While the transmission is running on low gear, the engine provides more power and constant torque without stress on your brake pads. Failure to use the right gear position will result in permanent and serious damage to the engine.

To be more specific, go through the owner’s manual to determine the maximum safe speed you need to maintain if you are planning to use the low gear mode.

Wrap Up

Low gear allows you to drive safely using the right amount of engine power. Additionally, it gives you better control while driving through steep uphills and bad road conditions.

This does not indicate you should use the lower gear always. Get yourself familiar with the low gear mode settings to use it to the maximum potential when the need arises. 

Lastly, using the right gear mode while driving allows you to extend the lifespan of your vehicle and avoid unexpected engine breakdowns and maintenance costs.

Liam Dare

As CEO of ReplicarClub.com, my passion for the automotive world motivates me to build online businesses that provide information and entertainment to users. I am proud to contribute in a positive way to the automotive community.