what do the +/- signs mean within the D setting of a car’s gear stick? In what situations should I use them?

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I’m sorry if this is a dumb question. I know virtually nothing about cars. I really am trying to learn but sometimes I don’t understand the way they explain some things… anyway, thank you 🙂

In: 24

Does it have M in it? It could be a manual shifter. I could be wrong tho.

Automatic cars now have a fake manual mode for people that want to pretend they bought a dual clutch paddle shifter. The computer will consider shifting when you tell it to.

This gives you a bit more manual control over the transmission than you otherwise would on an automatic. Times you might use it are situations when you want to keep the car in a low gear. For example: descending a long hill can overheat your brakes. Downshifting provides more engine braking and allows you to not ride the brake so much. Downshifting is also a really important skill to have if you drive in snow. When the road is ice, slamming on your brakes can lead to a skid. Downshifting and being a bit more gentle on the brakes helps you slow down more quickly and remain in control. One last situation I can think of: you’re towing something heavy and trying to maintain speed uphill. Your car may upshift and downshift at the wrong times. Keeping the car in a low gear will help it pull better. This is what “Overdrive Off” switches mitigate.

Some automatic transmissions have a “manual” mode where you can move the shift lever sideways typically and then instead of shifting by itself, you have to push the lever up or down to change gears

You never need to use that mode, but it can be useful sometimes if you want to stay in a specific gear

Do you own the car about which you are asking?

If so, operation of this will be covered in the owner’s manual.

D is a fully auto mode, the car will select gear for you.

The plus and minus are semi-auto mode, where you can select up and down shifts to maximise acceleration, or use engine braking when going downhill.

If I need to stop in an emergency like someone cut me off I’ll down shift the gear towards (-) to get a smoother “more powerful” stop. Instead of slamming the breaks. It puts pressure off the brakes and uses the transmission to help to slow down. Also as others have said it can be used for snowy weather or towing. Newer cars have a computer that decides if it wants you to shift gears manually. Usually if the computer deems it an unsafe move it won’t let you and will beep. Like trying to manually shift a car that’s going 70 mph down to 2nd or 1st gear.

It’s a nice to have feature on the cheaper cars. I haven’t noticed much difference in driving experience if I use it on premium cars.

Its basically letting you shift up or down the gear on you automatic gearbox. So, on cheaper cars, if you want to accelerate to overtake someone, most often the car just makes more noise when you punch the throttle and doesn’t really give you the acceleration you hoped for. But with this, you simply slide right on the stick from D and then pull back (-) and almost immediately get the lower gear, combining that with more throttle and voila Its a much better driving experience as the car becomes most responsive and sporty compared to the regular D mode. And when you are done with the acceleration need, just slide left on the stick and you are back in your regular old boring D mode.