Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Using the 3 2 1 Gears in an automatic.

asked by on

I've been curious to know what the 3 2 1 are actually there for. It doesn't seem right to use them in an automatic car without risking damage to anything. I guess my question is if you use them for engine breaking, will it damage the vehicle in anyway? I've read things that say, they're there for a reason, but others say that you shouldn't use it.

My car has 54000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: They are there for a reason. The transmissi...

They are there for a reason. The transmission is controlled by a computer. It will not let you cause damage. You have to look at it from a perspective that it’s there to prevent shifts, and not to force a shift.

For example, if you are driving in hilly terrain, using position 3 will prevent the transmission from bouncing back and forth from 3 to 4, and back to 3. If you are in stop and go traffic, using 2 will help you brake and prevent 1,2,3...3,2,1 over and over.

Using 1 to descend a steep grade in snowy conditions is the best way to maintain control, better than any ABS. Engine braking will not hurt your drivetrain. It is a natural occurrence if you have ever driven a car with a manual transmission.

Automatics disengage engine braking in 4th to let the car coast for better fuel economy, but it doesn’t make sense if you have to ride the brakes. If you are cruising at a steady 45 mph or higher, use 4, (drive). You will have to experiment with your car to see what feels right under the conditions that you are driving. Your owner’s manual will also give you information specific to your car.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: I keep getting a "no key" warning

This is typically a situation that requires reprogramming the key which is done at the dealer. Generally, inserting the key in the slot below to the left of the steering wheel will do this, however this does not always work...

Q: Is my blower motor broken?

If you switch the blower "on" and there is voltage at the terminal under the dash that supplies power to the motor (you would be probing the wiring harness with a voltmeter), then the blower motor is probably dead. Some...

Q: What does the front passenger’s seat belt reminder Warning Light mean?

The front passenger’s seat belt reminder Warning Light is located on the center panel, and is accompanied by a buzzer sounding. This light illuminates when the front passenger has not properly latched their seat belt. When the belt is securely...

Related articles

What Causes Hoses to Leak?
While the largest part of your engine is mechanical, hydraulics plays a significant role. You’ll find fluids at work in a number of different areas. Your car's fluids include: Engine oil Transmission...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...