Answer-Why start in 2nd gear?

In last week’s written column, “Click & Clack,” someone wrote in; Her father taught her to drive by always starting in 2nd gear. Tom and Ray don’t know why.

Here’s a possible answer: On some pickups, first gear is very, very low, made for starting with heavy loads. When you drive a pickup like this, under normal, no-load conditions, you start in 2nd gear. The pickup starts fine in 2nd gear, it must be geared low, like a first gear on cars and other pickups.

My guess is that dad had a pickup like this. Or maybe grandad had a pickup like this and taught dad to drive with it. Then dad moved off the farm, drove automatics the rest of his life and didn’t realize that, with most cars you start in first gear, that with all other cars, first gear is not geared so low.

Tom and Ray, that’s one explanation, that with certain pickups, you really do start in 2nd gear, in normal driving.



I had a 1948 Dodge which had Fluid Drive, a fluid coupling between the engine and the clutch. As I remember, the owner’s manual did suggest that one could start in high gear. However, the manual suggested for faster getaway, one should start in second gear. I think I almost always started from a stop in first gear. I did have a 1954 Buick with a standard transmission. It could easily pull away from a stop in second gear. I also had a 1950 Chevrolet 1 ton pick-up truck. It was a 4 speed and I always started in second gear. First gear was for heavy pulling. I used first gear to stretch wire fence, and I was able to stretch the fence so tight with the old truck that I could play tunes on the fence.

It wasn’t dad or grandad that had the low geared pickup it was grandma, thats why when you use this gear it is said you are starting off in granny gear.

Really if the truck is so equipped then your idea has merit. In reality I think father was insisting daughter start off in second gear in vehicles that are not so equipped, which would be very wrong.

I remember a 1960 Rambler that my parents owned that had two drive positions: D1 and D2. D2 started the car in the second gear of the three speed automatic. D1 allowed the car to start and accelerate through all three gears. The owner’s manual said that D2 gave better economy, and that D1 was for faster acceleration from a start.

When I was growing up, I remember a lot of drivers would start off on level ground in second gear. I think cars had a higher gear raio (lower gearing) back in those days (late 1940’s–early 1950’s), that did allow one to start in second gear without excessively slipping the clutch. I was taught to get the car into high gear as soon as possible without lugging the engine. I often started in first gear and would skip second and shift to high as soon as the car was rolling. The cars we had when I was a kid could pull in high gear really well above 10 miles per hour.

What was that FORD automatic transmission design that had that oddd symbol around the PRNDL indicator? Wasn’t that a second gear start trans? (Dad had one is his 66 T-Bird) I really liked that car but the 390 was kind of wimpy for its size.

I had a 1/2 49 Chev. pickup so I know what you mean when you describe your four speed. I pulled out a threed speed and put in the 4 speed,no clutch or driveshaft change (and it had that enclosed driveshaft)Amazing that it fit with no-mods.

Yes, I think the Ford did have an automatic that allowed a second gear start. The original version was called Cruise-o-matic. There was a Ford-o-matic that didn’t have this feature.

The old Chevrolet pick-up trucks were wonderful. They were meant to do work. I doubt, however,that my 1950 Chevrolet pickup could ever go over 60 mph in high gear–they really were geared low.

My 94 f250 has such a low first gear I always start in second. In snow it helps prevent the wheels from spinning in toyota 2wd precursor to tacoma (small truck) and ford ranger but those were geared well enough to start in first and not have to shift to second at 5 mph? My answer is a vehicle and weather conditions would be the factor in determining a second gear start. It is not a universal rule in my book. As far as an auto I have had cars that in snow have found it better to start in second but other than that never worried about it.

Well, I’m sure the Saturn Vue they’ve got now doesn’t have a really low first gear, so they don’t have to start in second.

One thing I remember about many cars of the 1940’s and 1950’s is that the engine developed its maximum torque at a lower rpm–often around 1200 rpm. This coupled with a lower gearing in the differential (higher ratio) would allow second gear starts on level ground. In these cars you could turn a corner without having to downshift from high gear. Of course, these cars didn’t have as high a top speed. One interesting note at this time is that off the line up to about 50 miles per hour the flathead Ford 6 could beat the Ford flathead V-8. Beyond 50 miles per hour, the V-8 would leave the 6 in its dust. This was because the maximum torque of the 6 came on at lower rpm than the flathead V-8. There were all kinds of bolt on accessories (dual exhausts, etc.) for the flathead V-8 to boost its power that weren’t available for the flathead 6. Perhaps the father of the OP drove cars in this earlier era. I do remember my mother would often start up from a stop sign in second gear in the 1939 Chevrolet my parents owned. My dad would start in first gear, then skip second and go directly to high gear. When they traded the car with 110,000 miles, it had the original clutch.