What Does D/S Mean in a Car? [All You Need to Know]

If you have driven an automatic vehicle, you may have seen that its gear lever has to go through several markings such as PRNDS to move it either forward, backward, or simply park it. Each of the letters mentioned will have specific functions to do. 

Today, we focus more on the D and S letters to understand their functionalities. 

What Does D Stand For In The Transmission Of A Car?

D stands for Drive mode in your car. When you have the gear lever on D, it allows you to move the car forward. Simply move the lever to D and release the brake to start moving.

The car will accelerate even more when you press your accelerator or throttle at this point. 

Being an automatic car, it will shift through several gears while still in D. Some cars have a 4-speed, 6-speed, and more based on transmission type. The car can shift all through these gears while in D-mode, depending on the terrain. 

Close to 98% of the vehicles will have three main D gears. They include;

  • D1: This gear is engaged when there is the need to increase the torque, especially when driving over a rough road or bumpy terrain.
  • D2: This is beneficial gear when on bumpy roads or climbing uphill, and it is slippery. This gear gives the engine a quick boost to get out of those tricky situations. 
  • D3: This is also known as the overdrive gear. It is an important gear to give you a boost while overtaking. It generally makes the car move faster. 
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What Does S Mean In A Car Transmission?

S does not mean Speed, as you may have heard other people claiming. S, in this case, means the Sport mode of the car

Millions of cars right now use the CVT gearbox. The advantage of such a gearbox has many gear ratios because of how it is designed. So, when S mode is engaged, the car will adjust the transmission to offer the best acceleration. 

All you have to do is press the accelerator or throttle hard and enjoy quick acceleration. 

You will always feel the car is sportier and faster while driving in S mode; however, this might also hurt your fuel economy.

That is why people only engage in it if necessary. Let us say you want to overtake and you need more boost; then, this can be a nice gear to engage

Below is a quick video with more details. 

YouTube video

What Do The Other Letters Mean?

Now that you know what D and S mean, what do P, R, and N mean?

P: In an automatic transmission, P stands for Parking mode. It will restrict the car from moving. You engage in parking when you are done driving and ready to shut off the car. Its job is to lock the transmission to keep the car from moving. 

R: The R letter means Reverse. As we all know, once you engage it, the car will start moving backward. Always have your foot on the brake before engaging it. 

N: This is a common term used in cars to mean Neutral. This will keep the car from moving as no gears are engaged at this point. The same can be used to start the car if the car would not start while in park mode. 

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Can you shift from D to S while driving?

Yes. You can change between the two modes while driving without damaging your transmission. 

Does S mode use more gas?

This mode is likely to use more fuel because it is set up for fast acceleration rather than normal driving. You may notice also the RPMs are higher in this mode. 

Is sport mode bad for your car?

The sports mode will not hurt your car in any way. Its job is to improve the acceleration that you experience. The only thing you might notice falling is the fuel economy.

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