My Honda Civic has a D gear and a D3, which apparently prevents it from going into 4th. Why would I want to do this? What is it good for? Does it make my fuel efficiency better or worse? Does it make the transmission's job easier or wear it out faster?

9 Answers 9


This is analagous to down shifting in a manual. This is a lower gear for the transmission which means the engine revolves at a higher rate producing more back pressure at the same speed as a higher gear.

When going down a hill, if you downshift that will reduce the demands on the braking system, due to the back pressure. You will often see truck drivers downshifting on long hills so that their brakes do not overheat.

You would only use D3 while going downhill with a load so you can use your brakes less. Your mileage would be worse since the engine is running at a higher rpm. Only if you did a lot of using D3 would it make any appreciable wear on your transmission.

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    If by "mileage" you mean your fuel consumption, down-shifting on a hill will likely have little if any MPG difference because the engine is likely closed throttle much if not all of the time. My manual car with instantaneous MPG gauge, and the difference going down hill between 5 and 3 is negligible. Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 5:48
  • @Sean, on steeper grades, when throttle is closed, most FI systems shut off fuel altogether in the condition of over-run (higher RPM, closed throttle), so if car runs away from you, down-shifting and engine-braking is better fuel-economy wise.
    – theUg
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 22:18
  • @theUg: This is interesting conjecture, but I still stand by my statement that there will be little if any change. If it completely shuts down the fuel supply, that's likely not much of a difference from the very, very little amount injected if it doesn't. Certainly in my car, it says "MPG is off the charts high" in a higher gear coasting downhill. Commented May 29, 2012 at 21:58
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    @SeanReifschneider is probably right that the difference is small enough to be hard to measure and possibly insignificant to normal people. The actual fuel flow is easily measured with an OBD-II reader, though: that should be cited as the true answer to any specific situational fuel consumption question for a particular car.
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 19:57
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    @SeanReifschneider in my automatic car according to the real time fuel consumption on the dashboard, it is almost infinitely better to downshift. i drive down hill will use some fuel (about one quarter as much as cruising on flat), while 3rd gear uses zero fuel. I often drive downhill for 45 minutes, and I've had my brakes overheat — once I boiled the fluid and my brakes failed. Ever since then I downshift. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 12:22

In addition to what Patrick said, D3, or whatever else it's called in various makes and models, is also useful for those times when you're climbing a hill and the transmission keeps shifting back and forth between gears.

There may also be times, such as when driving on very slippery surfaces, when a gear shift could cause the car to lose traction. In such a situation the ability to hold the car in a given gear can be very advantageous.

  • Good explanation, but in situations like that (bar the unsafe one you described in the second paragraph) I prefer to either reduce cruise control speed, or, better, altogether turn it off and let the car lose a little speed to keep it in the same gear. Or, better yet, drive a manual. :)
    – theUg
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 22:13

Personally I use D3 in and around town, in built up areas (<50km/h or 30 mph) there is no need for D4. Use D4 on the open road (motorway/freeway) for speeds above 60km/h (>40 mph). Also use D3 for towing and hill climbing/descending for better engine braking and avoiding constant shifting between D3 and top. Worked mint for me (still very economical) and I have owned 3 Accords :D

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    Is there any harm in shifting between them while moving?
    – endolith
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 15:46
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    @endolith, no, shifting between D3 and D4 using the manual control is exactly the same as when the automatic handles it on its own. By moving the lever D4->D3, you're telling the transmission "please don't use fourth gear." Moving D3->D4, you're saying "go ahead and use fourth gear if you need to."
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 19:54

I use D3 in snowy conditions and climbing hills. In the winter, it helps prevent slippage from gear shifts. You can't slow down in the snow on a hill or you will get stuck.

  • This helps traction a bit. For better traction choose 2. This locks it into second gear which limits torque. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 15:55

Back pressure on a downhill will be greater - especially if the auto has overdrive, this should prevent the shift to overdrive. See other posts for reasons to prevent shifting.


Not sure if this is true or false but apparently in D3 you're hitting a higher rpm, around 3k at 40 kph which would be engaging VTech on most Hondas. Not sure if that would change gas consumption. If true, this could possibly be a good gear for quick take off?

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    Welcome to the site eric. When answering it's good to utilize facts. If unsure, you should back it up with a little research and utilize links/references. This will ultimately help your answer be received by the community. Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 20:44

Drive (D3) - This position is similar to D4, except only the first three gears are selected. Use D3 to provide engine braking when going down a steep hill. D3 can also keep the transmission from cycling between third and fourth gears in stop-and-go driving. For faster acceleration when in D3 or D4, you can get the transmission to automatically downshift by pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor. The transmission will shift down one or two gears, depending on your speed.

This is quoted from the Honda Civic owner's manual.


I think using D3 in areas that are signed 40MPH or less eliminates a lot of shift changes between the various higher speeds on your transmission. If the road is signed 40 MPH and under, I always use the D3 button. I also use it if there is ice or snow on the roadway, but the main thing is the wear and tear on a transmission trying to go up a hill or around a curve in a very high gear which is hard on engine and transmission.


The main reason that I use D3 is to hold the car in a lower gear while I squeal the tires taking some corners at 9/10s. D3 is also for when you want your car to remain 'on boil' while you wring its neck. For those who enjoy a car that handles well, Hondas are a great choice.

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    Surely if you liked to drive as though you were in a video game, you'd go for a manual transmission anyway?
    – PeteCon
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 5:48

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