Low Gear Explained: When to Shift Down for Optimal Performance

Putting your vehicle in low gear is ideal for going up a steep hill or down a steep downgrade. It can be tricky to know when to get into low gear when driving an automatic car because the gear shifts according to the engine’s RPM.

When you shift manually to low gear, it improves the vehicle’s performance by increasing the engine’s power.

What is Low Gear

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In a manual transmission, low gear is the first gear that you use when starting the car when it is parked.

But in an automatic transmission, the gear moves automatically from park to first up to fifth, depending on the engine’s speed.

Shifting into low gear makes the car stay in first gear, although the engine is being turned into a higher gear. The engine works hard, but the wheels are moving slower than when they are in high gear.

A low gear provides more torque while reducing the engine speed. This is because the engine takes in less fuel. You boost torque, making challenging tasks easier on the engine than on high gear.

How to Get into Low Gear in Automatic Transmission Cars

When driving automatic transmission cars, you have to create the vehicle’s right conditions to get into low gear.

You will need to:

  • Ease off the gas pedal to slow down when getting ready to ascend or descend. This process helps the vehicle to shift into low gear automatically.
  • Make sure that you are at the recommended speed for low gear. If you are still going fast, the gear may not downshift.
  • Leave enough time to slow down before you reach the ascent or descent.
  • When you reduce the speed to a suitable level, stay in low gear by braking.

When to Use Low Gear

A low gear will help significantly because of the improved torque. Here are the situations when to take advantage of a low gear.


1. Towing

A low gear helps when towing heavy cargo. Whether it’s a trailer or another vehicle, the added engine power will make the task easier. Naturally, you are inclined to drive slower, which will get the vehicle into low gear.

Remember to look up the recommended speed limitations for low gear for your car.


2. Steep Inclines

When climbing, gravity works against cars and they require more torque. First gear makes the climb less stressful to the engine.

3. Long Declines

Driving downhill on low gear allows the car to maintain a slow and steady speed. It also takes stress off the brakes when slowing down. Especially on a long descent, brakes can overheat and possibly fail. It also reduces wear on your transmission.

4. Off-road driving

You’ll enjoy the extra control that a low gear affords when off-roading.


A low gear allows you to enjoy a significant improvement in the engine’s power. Seeing that you will mostly shift into low gear manually, you must keep at the recommended slow speed for low gear according to the owner’s manual of your vehicle. You can then utilize low gear to better your vehicle’s overall performance and extend the life of your car’s transmission.