What Does The M Mean In A Car? [How To Use]

If you own an automatic vehicle, you may have noticed that one of your dashboard buttons says “M.”

If you’re wondering what that shift letter stands for, it stands for “Manual Shift Mode,” which is most common in automatic transmission vehicles.

What Does Manual Mode Do

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The manual mode does what its name implies: it gives you nearly complete control over the automatic transmission.

You shift to this mode if you want to drive manually or when you can’t rely on the automatic transmission. 

Typically, most people shift to manual mode when they believe manual control will be safer to keep them from accidents.

The manual mode should also enable on-demand up and downshifts without using a clutch. 

How To Use Manual Mode

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Move the gear lever to the +/- sign. What this does is that it simply increases and decreases your gear. 

The gear indicator on the instrument panel will then change from D to the gear you’re currently in. Here’s a brief guide on how to do it:

Step 1

Before driving with the semi-automatic transmission system, read the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

The manual will explain how your vehicle’s system works and where the necessary buttons are located. 

Keep track of the recommended shifting rpm for each gear.

Step 2

Start the car and select semi-automatic transmission. Find the gear change buttons, which may look like plus and minus signs or up and down arrows.

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Step 3

Keep your foot on the brake. To put the engine in first gear, press the shift-up button. 

Then let go of the brake and lightly press the gas pedal to move forward.

Step 4

Shift your gear lever up to increase the gear as you accelerate to the rpm listed in your user manual.

When you slow down, shift your gear lever down, or let the car do it for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will happen if you shift to manual mode while driving in an automatic transmission?

Simply shifting your automatic transmission to manual mode will give you more control over your vehicle.

If you do this, it means you have doubts about your automatic transmission and need to be able to control it. 

Manual modes are usually preferred when climbing a hill because they give you more control over your brakes.

To return to automatic mode, return the shifter to D.

Can driving an automatic car in manual mode constantly cause damage?

No, frequently driving your automatic car in manual mode doesn’t overall add wear and tear to your car.

The internal shifting mechanisms are the same regardless of your car’s gear mode, so you will not abuse the transmission.

However, do not accidentally shift the gear shifter back into another mode, such as reverse, while driving.

When should I use the manual mode of my automatic car?

There’s a reason automated vehicles have a manual mode. This feature provides the driver with increased control over their vehicle from controlling the brake and speed. 

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In most cases, you can use this feature in situations for safety measures such as:

  • Climbing up and down a steep road
  • Slippery road
  • Doing a quick turn
  • The vehicle is fully loaded

What are upshift and downshift?

Downshifting is shifting your vehicle into a lower gear (from 4th to 3rd gear). Upshifting, on the other hand, is a higher gear shift.

When you step on the gas pedal at high speed in a car with an automatic transmission, it will downshift into a lower gear for faster acceleration.

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