Driver Must-Knows: Automatic Car Gear Letters, Numbers, And Symbols!

July 1st, 2022 by

Driver Must-Knows: Automatic Car Gear Letters, Numbers, And Symbols!

What do the letters and numbers on your car’s gear shift mean? You might know that R is for ‘reverse’ and D is for ‘drive,’ but what about the other ones?

Lakeland Hyundai will teach you everything about your car’s gear shift. We’ll explain each letter and number, so you can feel confident while driving your car.

The Letters on an Automatic Car’s Gear Shift

Most automatic cars have these letters on the gear shift: P, R, N, D, and L.

Let’s break down each for you!

P stands for ‘park.’

When your car is in ‘park,’ the transmission is locked, and the vehicle cannot move – even if you step on the gas pedal. When you’re stopped and need to get out of your car, or when loading/unloading passengers or freight, you’ll use “park.”

R stands for ‘reverse.’

You’ll use this gear when you need to back up. Remember to look over your shoulder before reversing, as it’s easy to misjudge distances when backing up.

N stands for ‘neutral.’

In this gear, the car’s engine is disconnected from the wheels, and the car will coast. You’ll use neutral when you’re stopped and don’t want your car to roll forwards or backward – think of it as a “resting” position for your car.

D stands for ‘drive.’

D is the gear you’ll use most often. It means the car’s engine is connected to the wheels, and your car will move forward.

L stands for ‘low.’

This gear is designed for low speeds and more power. You’ll use this gear when you’re going slow but still need power (like when towing something).

Numbers & Symbols

Apart from letters, you may see other numbers and signs on your shifter. Here’s what they mean:

The shift up and down gear symbols are + & -:

These marks indicate the shift up and down gears. In other words, the ‘+’ sign means to shift up a gear, while the ‘-‘ sign means to shift down a gear.

The double arrow symbol ->||:

This mark indicates the ‘neutral’ position. In other words, the engine is running when your shifter is in this position, but the car is not in motion.

O/D (Overdrive):

This is the last gear on your shifter. It’s designed to be used at high speeds, allowing you to save money on gas.


These are the digits that appear on some automatic gearboxes. They indicate the various gears that you may engage while driving.

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