Are you driving an automatic and you are asking yourself what does the S mean on a gear shift? If this is the case, you are at the right place because we are going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to this issue and more.
- What Is Transmission?
- How Automatics Work
- What The Letters Mean
- When To Use S?
- How To Drive Automatic?
There are a ton of letters on gearshifts and they can confuse you big time. That’s why you need to learn what do they mean if you want to avoid making an error and possibly causing an incident. That’s why you have to learn what the letter means. For example, what does the S mean on a gear shift?
But you shouldn’t worry because we are going to help you out. Some automatics contain a number of settings that will confuse you more than help you out with understanding the transmission and adjusting the shifts in the way you prefer. Similarly with the S letter on a gear shift. But we will cover more about the S letter later in this article. First, let’s cover some basics when it comes to transmissions and more precisely automatics.
In this article, we are going to learn what is transmission and how do automatics work. Then we will cover the letters that are on the gear shift. Later in the article, we will cover what does the S mean on a gear shift and then we will cover some maintenance advice when it comes to automatic transmissions. So, let’s get started.
What Is A Transmission?
Transmission or also called gearbox it’s the component in our cars that allow cars to move on the road under their own power. The transmission is crucial when it comes to delivering the right amount of torque to the wheels. But what is torque? Let’s elaborate.
The torque is the pulling power that your vehicle has. The rotational energy of the crankshaft is converted into torque by the automatic transmission. This conversion is mandatory if you want to have the right amount of power every time.
If we didn’t have transmissions, cars would have been undrivable and will become a huge effort to keep the car at the right speed since the crankshaft is usually spinning at 2000 RPM. That’s why transmissions were invented to help this power delivery to be smoother and no energy be lost during the shifting process. This aided the cars to become more eco-friendly and also quicker in a straight line.
Modern transmissions keep getting better and better. It doesn’t matter if it’s a manual or an automatic. Companies are trying to perfect these transmissions and add different mods to them. You probably have wondered what does the S mean on a gear shift? Well, we are going to cover that later in this article and first, we need to learn how these automatic transmission works.
Since you have the S on the gear shift you must be driving an automatic. Manual transmissions do not have modes on them since on a manual transmission you can basically shift whenever you like. But if you have an automatic, there are special modes that you could choose from and adjust your driving settings like the S button. But before we get deeper let’s see how automatics work.
How Do Automatics Work?
Automatic transmissions are working with the help of the transmission fluid or hydraulic fluid as it is also known. Based on the user input on the gas pedal, the hydraulic fluid is pushed in the hydraulic lines of the transmission and the gear shifts are made possible.
Having a clean transmission fluid is key if you want to deliver clean and smooth shifts. Automatic transmissions are extremely sensitive when it comes to the transmission fluid. If you use old or dirty fluid it will greatly affect the smoothness of the shifts and the work of the transmission.
Problems like slipping gears, shudder, transmission light and other unpleasant symptoms can appear when the transmission is not maintained right. That’s why you need to check your transmission fluid always and later in this article we are going to explain how you can perform this work to keep your transmission in good and healthy working order.
Unlike manual transmission where the driver is engaging the clutch by pressing the clutch pedal, in automatic transmissions, things function in a different way. For the engaging and disengaging of the transmission from the engine the torque converter is in charge. The torque converter is a complex component that is filled with transmission fluid and it acts as a connector between the transmission and the engine.
We learned how automatics work and how all this magic of shifting is made possible. But you are probably wondering what does the S mean on a gear shift? If this is the case, we are going to answer that question and more in the next chapter where we are going to explain everything you need when it comes to these letters on the shifter and we will learn what all of them mean.
Letters On The Gear Shift What Do They Mean? What Does The S Mean?
Now let’s discuss gear selectors and what do they mean. You are probably are confused with all that lettering on the gear shifter and all of the signs. If you are new to automatic transmissions this can be pretty scary but you shouldn’t worry. We are going to break it down for you and will elaborate on every setting in great detail for you to learn and clearly understand all these functions and settings that are on your automatic transmission. So, let’s get into it.
P-R-N-D Positions, What Do They Mean On A Gear Shift?
Let’s start from the basics and learn more about the basic automatic transmission layout which is also known as P-R-N-D. The most basic automatic transmission only has these positions and they are enough to accomplish the tasks that the transmission was designed to perform. Let’s start and cover each of them in the same order.
Park (P) – The Park position is the position where you start when you enter the car. So, what does park mean? Park means that the transmission is disengaged from the engine. This is the case when the car is turned off and the car is basically stuck in Park gear. In this situation, the car is unable to move forward or backward. The only way to make the car move is to shift it into gear or neutral that we are going to cover a bit later.
Reverse (R) – The next gear that you need to know is reverse. As the name implies when you adjust the lever into reverse. The car goes into reverse and when you apply the gas the car goes backward. In some cars, the rearview camera will turn on if you have this option.
Neutral (N) – The next gear that you need to know about is neutral. The neutral gear is essential if you want to be able to tow your car. That’s why many cars include neutral gear. You cannot tow a car when the car is stuck in park. It basically will not move forward or backward. That’s why this gear is essential.
Drive (D) – The last gear that we will discuss from the basic gears is the D or drive. When you put the car into drive it allows the car to move forward. It cannot get simpler than this.
But What Does The S Mean On A Gear Shift?
Now we came to the important bit and what does the S mean on a gear shift? The “S” simply means that the transmission is in the Sport setting.
Not all cars that have automatic transmission have this setting and most people don’t know about it. That’s why it can be confusing for some people who drive automatic transmission with a sport setting. But how does this work?
When you place the gear lever into the S mode, the transmission is restricted to the two lowest gear ratios. This setting improves the sportiness and delivers a higher RPM while keeping the transmission into a lower gear.
The upside of this setting is that the car will feel much more alive and sportier. You will have a similar feel to when you are driving an automatic with that increased responsiveness.
The downside of using the sport setting is that the transmission will run the engine at a higher RPM. This will demand more fuel. Resulting in poor fuel economy. That’s why it is not recommended to drive a car like this for a longer period. It could affect both the transmission and your pocket. Since you will have to pay more frequent visits to the gas station.
When I drive my automatic, I often use this setting, and I pretty much like it when it works as a manual transmission. The gear shifts are much punchier and the rev limiter goes almost to the redline and delivers the maximum torque from the engine.
Overall, an excellent mode if you want to have fun on the weekends and give your car a good thrashing on the highway. But, be aware not to drive yourself and other people in danger.
Other Settings And What Do They Mean On A Gear Shift?
There are other settings as well that can be useful when you are driving an automatic. The regular automatics do not have all of the settings. But if you have a sportier car then you probably have one of the following settings that you can use to enjoy your automatic more. But what are these settings? If you have a transmission that has plus and minus then you probably have the ability to use these settings. But what do they mean? Let’s find out.
+ and – – If you put the car into drive and then you move the lever towards the plus sign. Then you will be able to shift gears manually. When you go up, you will be able to shift a gear up. While you press the gear lever downwards you will be able to shift a gear down. Simple.
If you have paddle shifters, when you select the plus mode, you would be able to shift the gears with the paddles as well. And this might come in handy since you don’t have to shift the gears with the gear lever and you will be able to shift the gears using the paddles.
The paddles would be extra useful if you are on the racetrack and you want to get better lap times.
1, 2, 3 – If you noticed the 1,2,3 numbers on the gear shifter they probably mean something. Some automatics have these numbers and by selecting these numbers you basically are limiting the transmission to go up to 1 gear only. Which means that the car would be struck into 1st gear. Or if you select 3, the car wouldn’t go in a higher gear than third gear.
What Is The Best Setting?
When using an automatic, you need to use the best setting for the situation that you are into. For example, if you are cruising downtown. You don’t need to learn what does the S mean on a gear shift.
In this situation, you only need to know the D or drive function. Because you only need to go forward at slow speeds in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
That’s why you need to use normal settings if you want to get the most of your car when it comes to fuel economy and efficiency. Also, the comfort is improved when it comes to driving in normal mode compared to Sport mode.
When To Use The S Setting On A Gear Shift?
We have answered what does the S mean on a gear shift and now let’s discuss more about when you should use the sport mode and how?
With sport mode on the other hand compared to normal mode, you will be able to get harder shifts at the rev limiter. When you apply this setting, your car suddenly converts from a normal passenger car into a sport machine.
Also, if you have paddles, you can manually upshift or downshift at any RPM you want. Making your car even sportier. Some cars even have sport suspensions and when you press another button, the ride quality will stiffen up and the car will be even harder to drive. But more fun.
These settings are excellent if you are driving on some twisty roads where there is no traffic and you want to fully enjoy your car and drive it as it should be driven. Or if you have a local track and you want to test your car’s driving abilities and also improve your own racing abilities.
But when using the Sport setting, it is good to mention that the car will become more dangerous to drive and more power-hungry. It will drink through your fuel tank much quicker than in normal mode when the gears are shifted at lower RPM.
Personally, I enjoy my car when I’m using the paddles because they give me the freedom to shift whenever I want and feel the power of my vehicle. That’s why driving the car using paddles is recommended if you want to have that sporty feel.
How To Drive Automatic?
We have covered what does the S mean on a gear shift. Now let’s see how to drive automatic transmission. This chapter is specifically dedicated to beginners that do not know a lot about how to drive automatics and in this chapter, we are going to cover how you can drive one. So, how it’s done? Let’s find out.
Automatics are fairly simple to drive. The first thing you need to do when you enter the car is to press the brake pedal. If you are not holding the brake pedal you will not be able to start your car. This is added as a layer of extra security that makes sure that the car does not jump when you start.
The next step involves putting the key in the ignition and turning it halfway. Wait for the lights on the dash to turn on and the fuel pump to click in the rear. Then turn the key fully and start the car.
The next step will require putting the gear lever into drive and then releasing the hand brake. Then you are good to go. It’s that simple. If you want to put the car into reverse, you come to a stop and you place the gear lever into reverse mode. If you want to use the Sport mode, you select the S on the gear shift.
It is that simple, no shifting through all of the gears is required. That’s why it is called automatic. But enough for this and the question of what does the S mean on a gear shift. Now let’s focus on the types of automatic transmissions. Since it is useful to know them.
Types Of Automatic Transmissions
We have covered what does the S mean on a gear shift and now let’s get back to the automatic transmissions and learn more about what are the types of automatic transmissions out there. Since this is good to know as well for you to have a better idea of what type of transmission you are running.
Torque Converter Automatic
The torque converter automatic transmission is one of the most prevalent automatic transmissions out there and one of the most popular choices as well.
This is owed to the reliability of this transmission and the longevity. They also do not require a lot of maintenance except changing the fluid regularly. Because the fluid is essential for their operation and without the fluid, they cannot work properly.
They got the name torque converter because they are using a torque converted to connect with the engine and convert the rotational energy from the engine into torque. They also have interesting mods like the S mod that we have covered above in the previous chapter.
Automated Manual Transmission
Automated transmissions are one of the most interesting ones because the core of these transmissions is a manual transmission. They use the same clutch method of shifting gears. But what is different is the shifting process which is automated.
Instead of the transmission to shift with the clutch input of the driver. The automated manual shifts rather differently. Similarly, to an automatic transmission.
It’s either the clutch operation or the gear shifting operation that is automated. In most of the applications where these manuals are used, both processes of shifting and applying the clutch are automated.
Many believed that these transmissions would have replaced the torque converter automatic. But this wasn’t the case because they were clunky and didn’t deliver the proper shifts.
Also, they were rather expensive to maintain since the clutches were prone to failures if you drove them really hard.
Dual Clutch Transmission
The dual-clutch transmission is another interesting type of automatic transmission. These transmissions were firstly introduced for racing but they are also included in road vehicles and heavy equipment as well. How they work is pretty simple.
They have two clutches inside the housing. One clutch for the even gears and one clutch for the odd gears. This effectively makes the transmission deliver extremely snappy shifts and deliver quite a lot of performance.
The downside of these transmissions is that they often break and they are less reliable than the classic torque converter transmissions that are mostly used in the automotive industry.
CVT or continuously variable transmissions are another type of transmission that are extremely popular these days. Mostly because they are reliable and deliver a smooth shift.
You basically do not feel the gear shifts because there are no gears. The core of this transmission is the two pulleys and the belt with which they communicate. Having no gears makes them function very simple and are easier to maintain and repair.
Conclusion – What Does S Mean On A Gear Shift
In this article, we have learned a lot when it comes to automatic transmissions. First, we have covered what is an automatic transmission and how does it work. Then we have discussed the letters of the gear selector.
More precisely we have covered what does the S mean on a gear shift and also when you should use it and how it differentiates from the normal mode. We answered what are the ups and downs when you use the Sport mode.
Then we had more time and we covered the steps of driving an automatic and the types of automatic transmissions are out there.
Automatic Transmission and Gear Shift Positions Facts
- Automatic transmissions are critical in delivering the right amount of power and torque to a car’s wheels, without which it would be difficult to keep the vehicle at the right speed.
- Most automatic gear shifts will have standard positions, namely P for Park, R for Reverse, N for Neutral, and D for Drive.
- When the gear selector is shifted to S mode, the transmission is locked into the two lowest gear settings, and the car’s RPM increases, providing a sportier driving experience.
- The main benefits of using Sports mode are increased throttle response, quicker acceleration, higher RPM shifts, tighter steering, and increased torque and power output.
- Using Sports mode frequently can lower a vehicle’s fuel economy due to the engine running at higher RPM and consuming more fuel.
- Automatic transmissions have several operations, such as choosing appropriate gears based on speed and throttle position and downshifting when required.
- Without a transmission, it is not safe to drive modern cars other than a short trip to the mechanic’s shop.
- The neutral gear is necessary when towing a vehicle or using a drive-in car wash, while the Park position means the transmission is disengaged from the engine, and the car can’t move forward or backward.
- While Sports mode can be fun on highways, it is not recommended to use it liberally, and it’s important to be aware that the vehicle behaves differently when in this mode.
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