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What Does L Mean on a Car? Know in Detail!

  • Driving Tips
  • Gerard Stevens
  • 6 minutes

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A car’s gearshift ‘transmits’ engine power and torque so that your car’s wheels can use it to move. The automated gearshift has multiple letters that describe how it works. But, the drivers frequently get confused by one of the letters – ‘L.’ So, what does L mean on a car’s gearshift?  

The ‘L’ on your car’s gearshift represents ‘low gear.’ You can use this gear when driving at a low pace and requiring high engine power. For instance, you might wish to engage the L gear setting on the gearshift if you’re having problems climbing a steep hill while towing a large trailer. Using the L gear will enable you to maintain high torque levels and minimize fuel consumption while keeping your car in a lower gear. 

What are the conditions when you should use this gear mode? Continue reading to know more about what does L mean on a car! 

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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! 

When should you use a low gear? 

When you shift to ‘L,’ the car’s transmission will be in the lowest gear. It can be useful in the following circumstances.  

Ascending hills 

Use the low gear when you climb hills. Similar to how shifting into a lower gear on a bicycle makes it simpler to climb a hill, utilizing a low gear when driving uphill helps reduce stress on the engine. 


Descending hills 

Using the low gear will reduce brake wear while descending a hill. It allows the high-revving engine’s resistance to slow the car and the brakes, thus reducing brake wear! 


Towing trailers, boats, and other big goods frequently require using an L gear. The increased torque provides more pulling power, which also reduces engine stress. To avoid producing unnecessary engine wear, check your owner’s manual before towing to find out how fast you can go when towing a specific load. 

Extreme weather 

When driving over snow and ice, you need to drive with extra caution. Using the L gear, you can harness the engine’s power more efficiently for maximum safety. You can drive through extreme conditions without decreasing the speed. 

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Which are the other gears of an automatic transmission? 

PRNDL is the most typical configuration for the several gears on an automatic gearbox gearshift. Each of those letters stands for the following. 

P- Park 

R – Reverse 

N – Neutral 

D- Drive 

L – Low  

You can use P when you want to park the car or stop it. Use R for moving the car backward and D for driving forward. You can roll or push the car in N mode as the engine gets disconnected from the transmission. 

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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.  

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. 

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. 

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What does L mean on a car: The bottom line 

The ‘L’ gear on your gearshift assures safe driving while climbing or descending the hill or towing. It also ensures you effectively utilize your engine’s power based on your surroundings. Although you shouldn’t drive in low gear often, you should be familiar with its working so that you can fully use it when the situation comes. 

what does L mean on a car

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