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When should you use high or low gear?

Certain circumstances necessitate the use of higher gears, while others call for lower gearing. But what is high or low gear and when should you use it? The driver can give their car either more power or more speed by varying between high and low gears. Here, we define high and low gears and describe their functions.

What is a Car’s Low Gear?

In a manual transmission vehicle, the first and second gears are the lowest. Lower gears on an automatic car typically have the following markings, which vary depending on the vehicle:

  • Number one for first gear and two for second gear
  • “L” stands for low gear.
  • a plus and minus sign; The driver can switch to a higher gear by using the plus symbol, and a lower gear by using the minus symbol.

When an automobile is in low gear, the engine is running more quickly, but the vehicle is traveling more slowly. This indicates that the engine can provide greater power, or “torque,” at the wheels as opposed to speed.

The plus and minus symbols indicate high and low gears on an automatic gear selector lever

When Should You Drive in Low Gear?

Low gear is used in a car for:

  • leaving a still position and starting to move
  • changing from high gear into low gear by one or more gears to overtake another vehicle.
  • climbing a steep hill, since doing so would provide you with more power.
  • going down a hill; The lower gear offers more “engine braking,” which uses the engine’s friction to slow the car down. As a result, the risk of the brakes overheating is reduced when the driver reduces the amount of braking necessary when traveling downhill. Brake fade is a result of overheated brakes.
  • towing a large load because the lowest gear produces greater power.
  • driving in slippery, wet, or muddy weather because the lower gear gives the car more control.

What is a Car’s High Gear?

The fifth gear, or sixth if one is available, is the highest gear in a manual car. However, not all manual cars have a sixth gear. When a car is automatic, the gearbox often chooses the highest gear based on the speed of the car.

An “H” that stands for “high gear” may be seen on some automatic vehicles; this symbol is frequently seen on 4×4 SUVs. Overdrive, or ‘OD,’ is seen on some other vehicles. This is a high gear as well. Automatic cars can have up to 10 gears.

A car with manual gears usually has a maximum of 6 gears

When Should You Drive in High Gear?

High gear is used in a car for:

  • traveling at fast speeds on dual expressways, highways, or main roads.
  • conserving petrol; Driving in a higher gear causes the engine to operate more slowly, which helps to increase fuel efficiency.


Generally, higher ratios and easy throttle mean less torque and the least amount of tire spin. More torque and wheel spin is produced by using a lower gear ratio and more throttle.

Now that you know when to use high or low gear, Seaways LTD can assist you with importing a quality manual or automatic vehicle to suit your needs. Seaways LTD is the leading car importer, logistics provider, freight forwarder, and customs broker in East Africa. 

Seaways Ltd has been in operation for over 30 years and is offering you over 30 years of professional experience in the car importation and logistics industry. We have trusted dealers all around the world and a track record of importing quality cars. 

For car imports, please visit: www.garimoto.net, For car clearance and other logistics services, kindly visit www.logistics.seaways.net.

For assistance, you can contact us via email: [email protected] or call/WhatsApp our office number: +254 709 925000

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