Question is pretty well summarized in the title.

If we were to order gears in terms of power provided, where would reverse fall between gears 1-5 on a manual transmission vehicle?

Does it vary by vehicle?

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    Great question, and welcome to the site! – MooseLucifer Jun 8 '16 at 21:28
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    Thanks, @MooseLucifer! I'll be sure to look you up if I ever end up in moose hell hah – CaptainCalvert Jun 8 '16 at 21:31
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    Well, if you ever decide to see if you can go faster in 1st or reverse, I'll be waiting! – MooseLucifer Jun 8 '16 at 21:36
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    25+ Years ago, you had to be at a full stop to engage reverse gear. Otherwise you'd hear some nice grinding sounds. – Mark Stewart Jun 9 '16 at 2:06
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    As a interesting side note, reverse gears are usually straight cut, hence the wining sound when on the move... – RemarkLima Jun 9 '16 at 6:41

Reverse is pretty equivalent to first gear, for a ratio of around 3.2ish.

If it were any lower, it would be difficult to get started from a stop since the torque just won't be there. If you've ever driven a stick-shift, try starting from a stop in 2nd or 3rd gear and you'll see what I mean.

For example - ratios for my manual 5-speed 2007 Mazda6:

  • 1st: 3.307
  • 2nd: 1.842
  • 3rd: 1.233
  • 4th: 0.914
  • 5th: 0.717
  • Reverse: 3.166

Gear ratios vary somewhat widely from vehicle to vehicle, especially between vehicles with different numbers of speeds, but the reverse gear is always going to be pretty close to 1st for the reasons mentioned above.

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    Makes sense! I do drive a manual, and have noticed that it at least feels relatively like you can reach a higher speed in reverse than 1st, but maybe that is the psychology of going backwards :P – CaptainCalvert Jun 8 '16 at 21:12
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    Haha, that might be part of it! if your ratios are like mine you actually can go slightly faster in reverse than in 1st, since the ratio is slightly lower. This is offset by the fact you have slightly lower starting torque in reverse. – Dan A. Jun 8 '16 at 21:15
  • Really interesting details @Dan A, thanks for your answer! – CaptainCalvert Jun 8 '16 at 21:32
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    But please don't reach high speeds in reverse. Braking in reverse is surprisingly inefficient on some cars (especially when they have drum brakes on rear wheels). – magma Jun 9 '16 at 0:14
  • @magma +1 always upvote for safety! – CaptainCalvert Jun 9 '16 at 0:31

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