Low Gearing Vs High Gearing- What Are The Main Differences?

The gearshift process gives the car the impetus to adapt to the road conditions.

Thanks to it, you can overcome the most difficult passes or slowly plunge down a gentle slope without losing control.

If you are new in the field of automotive systems, knowing all the useful information about the parts and their functions will be a successful start.

So, what is low gearing? And what are the main differences between low gearing vs high gearing ratio in a car? Just scroll down; our article will give you comprehensive insight.

What Are Car Gears?

low gearing vs high gearing

Most modern vehicles today have reverse gears, and gears are numbered 1 through 5th gear (or 6). These numbers allow the driver to decide how much power is received from the car’s engine.

Here are the most basic gear states commonly found in a manual vehicle:

Gear stateCharacteristic
NeutralThe car is not in any gear
1Low gear- used to start moving the vehicle
2Medium gear
3Medium gear
4Medium gear
5 (or 6 in some cases)High gear

The driving force of the gear comes from a combination of gears of different sizes.

When gears are shifted, the speed of one gear changes, affecting the whole system’s performance, resulting in a difference in the amount of power generated.

Energy is transmitted through the crankshaft to the axles, creating energy for the operation of the wheels.

Low Gearing Vs High Gearing- What Are Their Main Differences?

Low and high gearing have certain differences in gear system and output torque, resulting in opposite uses.

A low gearing level is suitable for slow and steady walks, while a high gearing ratio leans towards a breakthrough in maximum speed.

Please scroll down; our article gives you a breakdown of the differences between lower gears vs high gears.

Gear System

Manual transmission cars specify the lowest number 1, then 2nd gear. The automotive transmission manufacturer often marks low gear depending on the vehicle type. Specifically

  • “L” symbol for “low gear”
  • The “+” symbol allows the driver to shift to a higher gearing
  • The “-” sign allows the driver to change to a lower gear

Shifting ratio gears is one of the most basic principles any driver must master. You will always start from low gear and turn to higher numbers until you reach the desired gear.

Meanwhile, the highest number of manual transmission cars is usually 5 or 6th gear in some cases.

In automatic transmission vehicles (especially modern 4×4 SUVs), the symbol “H” stands for “High gearing.” Some other cars have an “OD” icon representing “Overdrive.”


The principle for engine torque is that lower gear shifts mean more torque multiplication, resulting in more wheel spins.

On the contrary, a higher gear shift reduces the wheel torque and revs.

The torque index directly affects the RPM, which is the method that determines the vehicle’s noise level and absolute fuel economy.

Less torque indicates a higher gear ratio, improving noise and fuel efficiency.

In addition, the torque also determines the maximum speed of the vehicle.

The stronger the gear shift vehicle, the lower the speed achieved (in the red line in each gear) will improve acceleration and provide a sportier experience for the driver.

Time To Use

Drivers use low gearing in the following cases:

  • Start the vehicle and move out of the fixed position.
  • Navigate in slippery, muddy, and icy conditions thanks to low gearing’s good vehicle control.
  • Heavy lifting (due to low gear’s ability to provide breakthrough momentum).
  • Downhill or hill. A low gear can brake the engine and slow the vehicle down while reducing the required braking, preventing the default risk of overheating the brakes.
  • Go up a steep hill, or overtake another vehicle by one or two ratio gears.

Meanwhile, a high gearing ratio is more appropriate in the following cases:

  • Increased fuel efficiency requirements. The higher the number you use, the slower the engine works, thereby saving more fuel.
  • Travel at high speed on the highway (about 70 mph) or the main road (about 60 mph).

Which Gear Should I Use?

high gearing ratio

Depending on the terrain type and the situation, you will need to use different gear. For example, drivers often use low gear ranges on off-road terrain.

If you’re new and don’t know where to start, here’s information on gear suitable for the most common terrain types.


When going uphill with the right momentum, you must shift to a higher gear, such as 3rd in an automatic transmission. You only need less throttle, reducing torque and wheel spin.

For owners of vehicles with manual transmissions, 2nd and 3rd gears are suitable for overcoming steep inclines.

But keep in mind, never change gears until you’ve reached the end of the slope.

Using a high gear (such as 6) to get to the top of the hill is also a bad idea because it sometimes causes you to stop in the middle of the way.

If you continue this bad habit, your car will receive serious damage, reducing its ability to climb slopes.


Use 1st gear as the primary source of braking when going downhill instead of engine braking. This way, you can limit the brake pedal use while ensuring the wheels remain stable.

It also becomes safer to steer when going downhill without the default risk of the vehicle losing control.

Failed Climb

If you are unfortunate enough to slow down in the middle of a slope, immediately put the car in reverse. Natural engine braking can keep the spinning tires under control.

This method is safe for all vehicles, especially heavy vehicles. In the case of an unsuccessful climb, the momentum generated by their payload makes the downhill drift faster.

The lack of brake support can cause things to spiral out of control.


gearing ratio explained

Is Low Gear Better Than High Gear Downhill?

Absolutely! One of the principles of gear shifting is that, in low gears and more throttle, the number of revolutions of the wheel increases.

As a result, many people even use first gear when going downhill as a primary source of braking.

What Happens If Gear Is Too High?

Too high a gear means that the vehicle has to accelerate at a low RPM, putting ever greater strain on the engine.

Instead of overloading the engine, shift to a lower gear and allow the revs to increase.

Following our instructions, your vehicle should easily climb hills even under heavy loads.

What Happens If Gearing Is Too Low?

Drivers need to downshift to allow free revving if they drive at higher-than-normal speeds. But if you use the gearing too low, your vehicle can only move under control on dry terrain.

Adjust the gear shift higher so the car can adapt to the more extreme landscape.

Final Verdict

Determining the difference between low gearing vs high gearing is the first success on the road to studying how your car works.

A driver who understands the gear system’s operating rules can control the vehicle’s speed in any situation without causing any damage to the engine or the health of the passengers.

Through this article, I hope that you will not only gain useful knowledge about gear shifting but also be able to apply this useful knowledge in practice in the most effective way.

Good luck with your future trips!

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