Why are there so many speeds on an automatic transmission?

By Product Expert | Posted in Technology, Tips and Tricks on Monday, January 22nd, 2018 at 9:37 pm
person changing gears in a car, seen from the level of the gear shifter

In the past we’ve talked about the differences between a manual and an automatic transmission. For the manual, you get that visceral feeling of changing gears, and the effort to find the perfect one for every driving situation. Automatic transmissions take that challenge away. But that begs the question why we have more than drive, park, reverse and neutral on an automatic transmission. When do you use gear two or three when driving an automatic? We’re going to look at a few of the answers to these questions below.

Read More: Compare an Automatic Transmission to a CVT

When do you use gear two or three when driving an automatic?

When drivers are in an automatic vehicle, park and drive will get a lot of play, and reverse is important when parking, but what about the second and third gears? Or “L”? Each of these is designed for out-of-the-ordinary driving, including driving up or down steep inclines (think: mountains) or towing. If you drive a large SUV like the Chevy Suburban or Chevy Tahoe, or a hard-working truck, then you may already be more familiar with these gears.
The automatic transmission will not always know that you need to be in a lower gear to tackle a mountain pass, or that you need more power and less acceleration while towing a boat. But because you, the driver, know these things, you can adapt to them and use one of the lower gears.

When to Use Lower Gears

L/Low – Driving slowly on steep hills

Second – Driving on steep hills at a steady pace (somewhat faster than Low)

Third – For cruising at a slow and steady pace, especially while towing or in bad weather

side cutaway view of a car transmission on a white background

When driving around Austin, especially in urban areas, you aren’t going to need any of these very much. However, if you are taking a vacation with a trailer, or tackling a road trip to some mountains, then these could definitely come in handy and help you keep control of your vehicle.