P-R-I-N-D-L on automatic gear shift, what does it mean?


Posted by: Jane Osuagwu

Share this post:

Latest news articles

If you are one of those car enthusiasts who are yet to know the meaning of those letters and numbers seen on the automatic gear shift, now is the time!

Are you a car enthusiast and driver who has been wondering the meaning or interpretation of those letters placed on an automatic transmission gear shifter?

We know you aren't the only one who is oblivious to their meaning.

Every year, tons of automatic transmission cars are being imported into the country. This is an indication that many drivers are now leaning towards automatic transmission cars. An automatic transmission is a reliable system that channels the power that is generated by the engine to the drive wheels of a car. Each of the numbers or letters that are written on the automatic gear shift stands for a task or specific setting for the transmission.

Having said this, this article on Naijauto.com will be letting you on to know what these numbers and letters mean for better understanding.

1. PRINDLE - Is that correct?

Most cars you see on the road built with an automatic transmission have a set of letters spelled as P-R-N-D-L. If you are to pronounce it, do it phonetically, to sound like "Prindle". And that's the name many engineers use on the automatic gear shift configuration. Basically, it's just a technical term. Each letter you see in the automatic transmission has a separate setting. There are some vehicles that go as far as having an "M" or some sets of numbers ranging from 1-3.


Some gears contain "M" with numbers as well

To make it easy to understand, these letters found on automatic transmission will be split for quick understanding.

2. Decipher P-R-N-D-L with Naijauto experts!

  • The mysterious "P"

Those letters found on a transmission gear are always depicted as a single gear setting, however, this idea is misleading. It’s simply an activation setting. The gears built into the automatic transmission operates with the use of hydraulic fluid and has a variation of three to nine speeds when it's switched to the forward gear.

The "P" written on the automatic transmission represents the PARK setting. When you move the gear shifter into 'P', the car is parked and the gears now locked. This prevents the car wheels from rolling forward or backward. The park setting is being used by a lot of drivers as brake and it's the main objective of the transmission setting. However, for safety reasons, almost all the vehicles need the car started when it's in the park setting.

  • "R" for Reverse

The "R" represents REVERSE. It’s the gear that's selected when the vehicle needs to be driven backward. When the gear lever is shifted from P to R, you are engaging the reverse gear while it rotates the drive shaft backward. With it, the drive wheel gets to spin in reverse. You know it's impossible to start a car in reverse gear as it's risky.

  • Can you guess "N"?

The "N" letter stands for NEUTRAL. This automatic transmission gear isn't used often. The N position allows the car Tyres to rotate freely when the gear is released forward and reverse. Most driver's don't make use of the NEUTRAL gear except their engine refuses to start and then the car has to be pushed or towed.


The design may vary but PRNDL stays with the same meaning

  • "D", we have one "D"

The "D" means DRIVE. It’s activating the transmission gear for driving. As your speed increases, the drive transmission gear will wield power to your car's wheels and then continuously move into a higher gear as your engine revolution per minute gets to the desired level. When the car starts slowing down, the drive gear will come down to the lower gears. The "D" letter is widely known as overdrive. Drivers make use of this gear in highways.

If you notice your own automatic transmission having some numbers after the letter "D", know that they are manual gears used when the gear needs to be shifted forward. The lowest gear has the number 1, while larger numbers connote higher gears. You can use them if your D gear isn't functioning. And again, whenever you are going up a hill or coming down to give you more engine braking.

D1: When you are driving on difficult terrains like sand and mud, it will increase the torque.

D2: It helps the car to climb uphill roads and boosts the engine just like its work on the manual transmission.

D3: This gear sometimes appears with OD (overdrive) button. The D3 increases the running speed the engine to enable it to overtake.

  • And the last comes "L"

This is the last letter that can be seen on an automatic transmission. The "L" means LOW drive. It can also be substituted with "M" in some cases. The M means MANUAL shift. The low drive gear is applied when climbing hills or driving through poor roads.

Each automatic transmission car has its own uniqueness and will come with different numbers and letters placed on the car's gear shift lever. We recommend you read and examine the car owner's manual (you may find it in your glove compartment) to help you make use of the correct gear when applying it on the road.

If you are a visual learner, you might need to watch the video

>>> Wondering whether to buy an automatic or a manual car? Check pros and cons of driving automatic transmission car here!

Jane Osuagwu
Jane Osuagwu

Jane Osuagwu

Car prices

Jane Osuagwu is an automotive writer at Naijauto.com. She's a car enthusiast who loves creating educative and informative topics on cars, ranging from maintenance tips to updates on the latest trend in the auto industry in concise and friendly writing. 

Jane is also a blogger and loves reading, inspiring people and getting involved in personal development projects.

Related Articles

See more
Covid 19
Covid 19