What does D3 mean in automatic cars?

Updated Mar 11, 2021 | Same topic: Let's Drive Smart!

It can help you save money in the long run.

What does d3 mean in a car?

Since most car manufacturers are scrapping the manual transmission in their production vehicles, it is best that you know the different gears you can choose in an automatic transmission. Cars with an automatic transmission are given the P, R, N, and D as standard gears.

What Happens if you Shift Gear from D to 3,2 L while Driving Automatic Car

However, other automatic transmissions include other gear options including S, L, and D3. The D3 you see in an automatic transmission means Drive 3. This gear engages and locks the third gear so it won’t shift automatically to other driving gears.

There are plenty of advantages in utilizing D3 that will highly depend on the road condition that you are driving on. If you have a D3 on your car’s automatic transmission, then read on as we have listed when you should use the gear. We have also listed down the three advantages D3 can bring for your daily drive.

An automatic transmission with D3

The D3 mode can provide many benefits in driving

How to use D3 gear in automatic cars?

  1. Start your car that is in a standstill using the D, or drive, mode first. Your car will use the lowest gear possible to provide high torque which is ideal for moving slowly.
  2. You should make sure that you have enough speed before hitting the D3 in your AT car. Around 30 to 40 km/h would be a great speed before shifting to D3.
  3. Once you reached the said ideal speeds, you can press the button on your gear selector and put the car to D3. The reason why car manufacturers install a button is to avoid drivers shifting to D3 or other gear options that can lead to accidents.
  4. If you are about to slow down, shift the gear back to D. Gain speed first if you decide to use the D3 again which should depend on the road condition.

how to use d3 gear

Some cars with an automatic transmission come with a manual mode instead

>>> Related: Top Tips for Pinoy Drivers When Driving Uphill in Automatic Cars

When should I use D3?

Car manufacturers did not put the D3 just to provide drivers with a versatile driving experience. The D3 can be handy in various road conditions that will help you become safer on the go. One of the main reasons for using D3 is when you are driving downhill.

Driving downhill using D3 can help you achieve engine braking. Engine braking is completely safe for your powertrain and will help you refrain from running at high speeds on a downhill road. It restricts the airflow that causes a high manifold vacuum causing your car to decelerate.

Driving on an uphill road is also another scenario where using the D3 mode is ideal. Shifting to D3 will help your car avoid slipping since it keeps the transmission at the same gear or just the third gear. Automatic changing of gear can also lose traction, especially at higher gears so utilizing the D3 is the way to go up. On the other hand, if the road is too steep, you can use the L gear to get through an uphill road.

D3 should be used on roads where you need to pick up a little bit of speed. On the other hand, D2 and L, or low gear, should be used in low-speed runs or towing a car from getting stuck. D3 is generally used for city driving, while D2 or L is generally used for off-road driving or when you need to drive through a steep road.

An automatic transmission with a D3 function

Go give your car's D3 mode a try

>>> Related: Top 6 common mistakes while driving an automatic car

Advantages in using D3

#1: Saves maintenance cost

Since shifting to D3 will cause your car to engine brake, you won’t need to step on the brake pedal to slow down on downhill roads. It will save you money from replacing your brake pads from time to time especially if the road is too steep where a hard braking application is required.

Even if brake pads are relatively affordable to replace, you still have to visit your local automotive shop to have them replaced which could take some of your time. A simple shift to the D3 mode will save you some money on maintenance, your time, and keep you safer when going downhill.

#2: Better throttle response

As said earlier, the D3 mode is ideal to use for city driving. This is because you get higher RPM at lower speeds when your step on the gas pedal at third gear. Plus, you can use the D3 if you are about to pull to a high speed since you can rev a high RPM at third gear before shifting to the next.

If you are about to slow down, shift back to D mode so it can select the right gear depending on your speed and RPM. 

#3: Safer drive

When the D3 mode is engaged in your automatic transmission, you tend to get better control of your car. As such, you can avoid slipping to other lanes especially in rainy weather when your car is in D3. Running at high speeds with high gear will cause your car’s wheel to spin too fast which can cause loss of traction.

The engine braking mechanism will also help you maintain a certain amount of speed in the event of you suddenly stepping on the acceleration. 

An automatic transmission in a car

Not all cars with an automatic transmission come with D3

>>> Related: Traffic in the Philippines & your automatic transmission

FAQs about D3 in automatic cars

Q: When should I use the D3 mode?

The D3 mode is ideal to use on city driving with speed limits of around 60 km/h.

Q: What is S mode in my automatic transmission?

The S in automatic transmissions means sport mode which enhances the throttle response and gear shifting.

Q: What are some of the benefits of driving in D3 mode?

Using D3 mode when going downhill provides engine braking which can help your brake pads rest.

Q: What is L mode in my automatic transmission?

The L mode means low gear which is ideal to use when driving through a steep road.

Q: Do all cars come with a D3 mode?

No, it still depends on the manufacturer. Some AT cars come with S mode instead.

Here at Philkotse.com, we value your interest in the automotive industry. Visit our website to find out more.

Rex Sanchez

Rex Sanchez


Rex Sanchez grew up in Saudi Arabia where he saw and got into the automotive scene. He started his career for an aviation company in the said region, writing about turbines and rotors which are later distributed for educational purposes. And now, he joined Philkotse.com as a staff writer. Currently, he is the youngest on the team and is more than ready to grow in the field.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rexsanchez09

View more