i just bought a used toyota matrix. it has overdrive. I have had a car with od before but that was some time ago and i never really understood it completely. So…I went on an internet search to see when I should use it…found lots of information…unfortunatly it was conflicting information. So, because i listen to you so often and you guys sound soooooo smart… I thought I would ask. At what speed should it be turne on/off…when should I and shouldn’t I use it. I do a lot of in town driving and occational interstate driving. I live in West Virginia, which is very hilly especially on the interstate. So…when do I and dont I use this little button on my shifter? I dont want to mess up my nice car. Would like to have it for the 200,000 miles that I hear toyotas live to. Can you help. As a side bar. Tell anyone who asks never to buy a Dodge Intrepid. They are beautiful…and real fancy, but the engines suck!



Adding to my above question…is there a min/max speed. For example…when on the interstate going say 75…should od be on? I am asuming it should…but what if the conditions are hilly?


Leave the O/D on almost all the time. Essentially, it provides an efficient gearing for highway cruising, and the transmission will shift into overdrive, in most applications, as soon as it can. About the only time you’d want to turn O/D off is when pulling a trailer or going up (or down) steep mountain roads. So you can safely leave it on pretty much all the time and not worry about it. And if the transmission needs more power, it will shift into 3rd automatically (assuming an auto tranny.) If you have a manual transmission car, a good rule of thumb is to shift down when the engine starts to lug, if not slightly before.

By the way, almost every car readily available today has an overdrive gear.


This information, along with a great deal more information, can be found in the owner’s manual in the glovebox of your Toyota.

Consider reading the manual.


I agree with lprocter. Plus, I cannot think of one car sold today without an overdrive gear. Just put it in D and forget about the button- I will assume that you do not tow with it.



Shelly–The preceding posts have given you excellent advice.

In summary–don’t “overthink” the use of the Overdrive on your car. Leave it activated at all times, unless you are driving in mountainous conditions. For merely hilly terrain, the automatic transmission will sense when it is appropriate to downshift to third gear.

And, perhaps the most important advice is to read that Owner’s Manual. If you really want to be able to keep this car through the 200,000 mile mark, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the operating advice and the maintenance requirements contained in that manual. However, if you are asking about the operation of Overdrive, it is clear that you have not read the manual.

Those who do not read and heed the information in the Owner’s Manual invariably live to regret that oversight. Read the manual and you will be able to enjoy your car far longer than if you continue to ignore the information in that little book.


About the only car I can think of without O/D over the past 15 years or so was the first generation Dodge Neon (well, Plymouth Neon, whatever) which only had a 3 speed transmission. Thank God there weren’t more.


Even in the mountains or pulling a small trailer, I leave the overdrive on, the transmission knows when to shift out of the highest gear. All the overdrive off button does is locks out the highest gear in the transmission.
The only situation I can think of where locking out high gear is useful is if a certain grade has your transmission constantly going in and out of its highest gear or on long steep downgrades where you may want to use the additional engine braking. The majority of mountain roads were built to follow natural rivers and creeks and as a result, they snake side to side a lot but don’t really go up and down that much.