What Does S Mean On a Car Gear Shift?

Learn about its meaning and use, as well as the meaning of other letters on your gear shirt

Written by Camilla Moln. Updated on What Does S Mean On a Car Gear Shift

If you are an experienced car driver that spent years holding a wheel, then perhaps this article will not be very interesting for you.

But for those who have just started their driving “career”, the information we have prepared today will definitely be handy!

If you have a car, you definitely noticed that it has the letter S standing on the gear shift. And if you are a driving newbie, you might be wondering about what that S stands for.

And yes, we know that some of you may say that folks should learn this during their driving class, but let’s be honest: when you just begin driving, you can easily forget about some minor facts!

So for those who forgot (or those who are not quite sure) what S on a car stands for, we have prepared the article that can be found below.

In this material, we are going to explain the meaning of this letter, as well as familiarize you with a piece of historical information regarding it.

In addition, you will learn the meaning of other letters on your car’s gear shift and figure out how to make use of the S mode in your car. Finally, we will do our best to answer the most frequent questions of yours.

What Does S Mean On a Car Gear Shifter?

Unlike cars that come with a manual transmission, the vehicles with automatic transmission come with letters on their gear shifters instead of numbers.

For the most part, these letters or modes usually include P, R, N, D, and S. However, in some automatic transmission cars, you can also find gear shifts including letters B or L.

So what does that S letter mean on your car’s gear shift? The S mode in a car typically stands for Sport. Sport mode in cars provides drivers a more dynamic driving experience as the S mode varies the sensitivity of your vehicle’s throttle response.

As a result, you would feel that the RPM of your car will climb faster than it usually does as more fuel is injected into the cylinders as compared to using the D (or Drive) mode.

Another purpose of the S mode in cars is that it stays on a gear longer than usual.

This means that your vehicle will reach higher RPMs before automatically shifting to a gear. In general, the higher the RPM, the faster the acceleration in a car.

In addition, it is good to know that not only will the S mode help you reach higher speeds, but also enable the loud rumbling sounds of your engine!

As any driver can tell you, that all ultimately results in a way sportier driving feel when you are driving that “roaring monster”!

Typically, it is ideal to make use of the Sport mode on open highways since you need the power to overtake the car in front of you when driving there.

Using the S mode will hold a certain gear depending on your throttle.

Some cars may come with paddle shifters. Those are best to be used whenever you shift your AT car to the S or Sport mode. Paddle shifters are usually located behind the steering wheel and are used whether you like to downshift or upshift your vehicle.

Some AT cars are installed with manual shifters on the gear selector instead.

Nevertheless, even though there are quite many benefits in having the S mode in your car, there are also drawbacks in shifting to the S or

Sport mode. For example, your car will suffer in terms of fuel efficiency as it will require more fuel to hold a gear and reach a high RPM. So if some of you decide to save on fuel, then it is recommended to stay off the Sport mode and go for the D mode instead.

So you are now informed about the meaning of the S/Sport mode in your car, and you figured out that it does not stand for the Speed (as quite many people think).

Also, you learned that a car would behave slightly differently when this mode is on, so that must not surprise you. And with all that in mind, we guess it is time for you to learn a bit more about how this mode can be used in fact.

What Does S Mean On a Car Gear Shifter
Credits: VadimVasenin, via Crello.com

How Do You Make Use Of The S Mode In a Car?

Now you know what the S gear or mode does to your car, you can give it a try and see it for yourself as well.

Observe how different the throttle response and automatic gear shifting will be when the S mode is on, and when the D mode is used.

To get started, we have prepared a few steps you should consider when going to use the Sport mode in your vehicle:

  1. We would recommend every driver make use of the Sport/S mode in open highways only instead of the areas with traffic or when your car is parked to avoid sharp accelerations.
  2. Start by shifting to the D mode. This will help you drive as fuel-efficiently as possible. First, you should find a road where high-speed runs are less dangerous.
  3. To shift to the S mode, you need to press the button on your gear selector, and then bring it down to the Sport mode. It is the same button as the one you use to shift from P to D.
  4. Another thing you should take into consideration and keep in mind is that you should not press the button on the gear selector if you are going back to N mode or D mode! Just push it back to place after using the Sport mode. By doing this, it will help you prevent shifting to unwanted gears such as R and P which may end up with the damage of your transmission.

So now you are aware of how to make use of the Sport mode in your car, and what you should consider when doing this. And now, why not recall what other letters on your vehicle’s gear shift stand for?

Which is the use of the S and B gear shift positionsWhich is the use of the S and B gear shift positions

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The Meaning Of Other Letters On Your Car’s Gear Shift

Of course, we understand that all of you who have driver licenses have surely learned this information during their driving classes!

However, we find it useful to remind you folks about the meaning of the letters that you can find on your car’s gear shift.

Like this, if you are a freshman, you will recall this information that will anyway be handy for you. And in case you are an experienced driver, well, it is always good to refresh your knowledge!

1. Parking Mode (P)

Drivers typically make use of the P mode each time they are done using the car, but not when they are sitting in traffic (as quite many of us believe). In those situations when you are sitting in traffic, you should use the Neutral Mode mode instead.

When you make use of the parking mode, it will lock your car’s transmission by placing a rod in between the vehicle’s transmission gear’s teeth. As a result, your car will not be able to move.

This is why it is recommended to always use the parking mode with the parking brake being on in order to achieve maximum braking power, especially in sloped areas.

2. Reverse Mode (R)

As you can guess from the name of the mode, the reverse mode makes your car drive backward.

When you are in neutral mode or drive mode, you cannot just push the gear selector back to the reverse mode for safety reasons!

You should press the button on the gear selector before shifting back to the reverse mode or parking mode.

3. Neutral Mode (N)

In a neutral mode, your gears are not connected to the engine. As a result, the wheels of your car will not be driven.

This is why drivers often find the neutral mode being similar to the parking mode to a certain point, by the way.

The main distinction between these two gears is that the parking mode engages a rod that locks the transmission gears, while the neutral mode does not.

4. Drive Mode (D)

The drive mode is needed to engage the transmission gears to the engine so that the wheels of your car can spin.

In an automatic transmission, the car’s ECU will determine which gear should be used depending on your throttle and the speed of the vehicle.

This mode is suitable in most daily driving conditions.

5. Brake Mode (B) or Low Gear Mode (L)

As for this one, you should keep in mind that some cars label their vehicles with L mode, or low gear mode, instead of B mode. Anyway, both are the same, but it differs based on the manufacturer.

The brake mode retains a low gear for various reasons. A low gear provides more torque but less speed.

You need a high amount of torque in situations such as uphill drives and towing. You can also use the break mode or the low gear mode for engine braking while going down the hill.

All these gears are listed on your car’s landau bars that are the metallic ornaments used to identify a foldable roof structure on vehicles or a landau carriage.

The Meaning Of Other Letters On Your Car’s Gear Shift
Credits: IgorVetushko, via Crello.com

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What Do S-Shaped Landau Bars Mean On a Car?

Some of you might definitely notice that certain cars have s-shaped bars being installed either on their windows or the doors.

And we are pretty sure that most of you would wonder what those bars mean at all. So here is a bit of history for you, ladies and gentlemen!

First of all, what are those landau bars at all? Landau bars are metallic ornaments that are typically used to identify a foldable roof structure on a vehicle.

Their name comes from the name of Landau city in Germany where the first convertible carriages were invented.

You surely know those carriages: they had a foldable top made of cloth that a driver could lower or raise.

Later, car manufacturers adopted the name Landau in order to identify vehicles with closed body types and a foldable rear. S-shaped landau joints were used for this purpose.

What Do S-Shaped Landau Bars Mean On a Car
Credits: mynoemy, via Crello.com

In the United States, fabrics like leather were used on the quarter part of the rear roof to make them look like they are convertible.

They would also make use of S-shaped landau bars, however, they were no longer used to open and close fabric tops. In fact, they turned into decorative elements only.

Today, these ornaments are also used for decorative purposes only.

You can find shiny and polished s-shaped bars made from different materials, like stainless steel, vinyl and others going as far as installing gold landau bars!

What Do S-Shaped Landau Bars Mean On a Car
Credits: alfexe, via Crello.com

So, today you learned more about the meaning of the S gear on your car’s gear shift, and some of you used this information to refresh your own knowledge about cars and gears.

In addition, we told you some curious facts about landau bars and the meaning of other letters on your gear shift.

With all that in mind, we are pretty sure that you will find it simpler to figure out which letter stands for what type of mode in your “iron horse”!

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ How to use sport mode in AT cars?

Press on the button on the gear selector and push it down to the S mode.

⭐ What’s the meaning of L on automatic transmission?

It means Low Gear mode when a car is either in 1st or 2nd gear. In this case, the transmission won’t shift and less fuel is injected into the engine resulting in low speed.

Written by
Camilla is an experienced Consultant with more than 20 years of preparing professional articles for numerous online resources. She has done a tremendous job and has learned a lot during her career. Camilla will advise you on the latest trends and give amazing tips on how to decorate a house.
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