CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

1992 Honda Civic - Shifting question

With my 4-speed automatic transmission, I set gear in D4 and don’t touch it unless I’m going downhill. Logic tells me car’s brain will sense drag for uphill and automatically set correct gear. I see no need to shift down manually unless I’m going downhill. Most friends who drive me around don’t seem to know this, busy themselves shifting when climbing hills, etc. ALSO. could it harm transmission if they lock it into D3 when it really needs D2 or even D1? Does D3 mean system is locked in to that? (Civic EX only 136K miles, runs great, orig owner, now old lady.

You’re doing it correctly. As far as D3, I don’t know on your Civic. You could test it yourself, put it in D3, if it accelerates normal from a stop, then it is not locked in 3rd gear. As far as your friends, some people just enjoy shifting automatics.

No

It means it will shift no higher than 3rd gear

In other words, you’ve got 1st, 2nd and 3rd, but it won’t shift into 4th

1 Like

Your friends shift their automatic transmission cars from gear to gear around town? And you shift your automatic going down hills? Which means you must then shift it back up. Why?

1 Like

I ONLY shift if going down a hill of any length. That adds “compression,” slows car down, saves brakes. Sensors in cars as old as mine don’t sense downhill, so driver does it manually. My only question now has to do with whether or not manually shifting down to D3, for whatever reason, “locks” transmission into that gear from helpfully shifting into lower gears if needed for a climb.

1 Like

Thank you. Sounds like what I needed to know. To be sure, I can try it out. My manual isn’t clear (to me) on this point–i.e., just how “locked” into D3 I am when I put it there myself manually, meaning e.g., it might not shift down as the drag increased going up a long hill–would stay in D3 and be inadequate. From what you say, and what I THINK manual says, NOT the case. Automatic still functions as it should, just won’t go back to D4 on its own. THANK YOU!!

1 Like

Does the car keep going back and forth between two gears when going up a hill? If so, that’s one reason to manually switch to the lower gear, as this can be annoying.

You’re doing it right. The friends aren’t really hurting anything. To each his own…

1 Like

No…car does fine when left to work on its own.

I think I got the info I need with 3 responses do now I’ll drop out of the conversation. Again, thank you!

Normal procedure on steep mountain roads in lieu of riding the brakes. Some vehicles the cruise control will downshift to control the speed.

D3 means it will start off in 1st and then upshift to 2nd and 3rd but not into 4th.

I remember the old GM dual range Hydramatic that was introduced in 1953. There were two drive positions. One position locked it out of the fourth speed and the car would start in first and only go through the lower three speeds. The other position would let the car go through all 4 speeds. However, if one had the drive position for just three speeds, it would go into 4th above 70 mph.

You are correct. And the L position provided 1st and 2nd only. There was no provision to lock it into 1st, which was a very low “granny” gear anyway.

On a car as old and under-powered as yours, your friends might be trying to coax a little extra horsepower or torque by manually revving the engine at a high speed, keeping the automatic transmission from using fuel-efficient shift points. I wouldn’t let them do it, even if it means you do all the driving.

As for harming the transmission, Click and Clack wrote a book called Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car without Even Knowing It. In that book, #13 “Shifting Into Neutral” says:

“What does more harm is shifting in and out of Drive all the time. Every time you go from Neutral to Drive, you jolt every piece of the drive train. Do you remember our discussion about the chain reaction from the engine to the wheels? Well, every time you put the lever in ‘D,’ you jolt one piece, then the next, all the way down the line.”

What your friends are doing isn’t like shifting back and forth between Neutral and Drive, but it is increasing stress on the drive train in a similar manner, although less traumatic. If you want your car to last as long as possible, I recommend against manually shifting an automatic transmission just for kicks.

@old_mopar_guy. I remember looking at a new 1953 GMC pickup truck equipped with Hydramatic drive. I was just out of 6th grade at the time. The shift selector had positions N for neutral, ,1-4 that would go through all 4 forward speeds, 1-3 that would go through the lower 3 forward speeds, 1-2 which limited the forward speeds to the lowest two speeds and R for reverse. 1953 was the first year any truck was equipped with a fully automatic transmission. Ford introduced its Fordomatic on its F-1 pickup trucks.
Chrysler did offer its fluid coupling probably in 1949 in half ton Dodge trucks.
The semi-automatic GyroMatic (lift and clunk) transmission made its way into Dodge trucks about this time. However, I don’t think automatic transmissions in pickup trucks became common until the 1970s.

I think you are correct about the pickup trucks, although I never had any personal experience with them. The lift and clunk just brought back some fond memories.

@old_mopar_guy When I was in high school, my parents had a 1952 Dodge 6 coupe with the GyroMatic (lift and clunk) transmission and a 1954 Buick sedan with the V-8 engine and a.manual transmission. Of course, the Buick was faster and accelerated more quickly, and, amazingly got better gas mileage.
However, I preferred the Dodge when I went on a date. Little Iodine could slide over right next to me, I could put my right arm around her and didn’t have to shift gears–just let up on the accelerator. I could tune the Motorola a.m. radio to Randy’s Record Shop out of Nashville TN.
I don’t think today’s cars with the bucket seats with the console and the fancy stereo sound would be as much fun as that Dodge when I was a teenager.

A 54 Buick with a manual shift was a fairly rare object. Most folks took the Dynaflow.

@old_mopar_guy The manual shift 1954 Buick was uncommon. Even more rare was the 1963 Buick LeSabtr my brother once owned that had a 3 speed manual transmission.

Sometimes I’ll manually downshift from D to 2 on my truck b/c I know it’s necessary due to the upcoming terrain and I don’t want to wait and slow down more before it happens automatically. So your friends may have a logical reason for that. My truck is a 3 speed automatic and the selections possible are D, 2, and 1.