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How to Use Overdrive in Vehicles

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Every model of Vehicles with an automatic transmission comes with a standard overdrive (O/D) function on their gear shifter. Basic models are included in this list. The overdrive function in the Vehicles serves several purposes that help with both overall driving in different conditions and gas mileage, allowing you to drive further and use less gas. Although the overdrive in the Vehicles should almost always be left on, there are occasions in which you will have to turn it off.

Under The Hood:

 How to Use Overdrive in a Toyota Camry

How to Use Overdrive in a Toyota Camry

Turn your Toyota Camry on and make sure the gear selector is in the "Park" position.

Locate the Overdrive (O/D) button on the gear selector. It is almost always on the left side (side closest to you in the driver's seat), below the large button that allows you to shift gears. The button is much smaller, but works the same way as your gear selector button. Push it in to turn the O/D on. You will notice the O/D light come on on your dashboard. Push it again to release it: This turns the O/D off, effectively turning off the dashboard light as well.

Turn the Overdrive on and drive forward. You will notice that with the O/D on, the car drives as it normally does, gradually shifting at certain speeds. Leaving it on is better for gas mileage because it is using all four gears to operate, reducing stress on the RPM (revs per minute). The O/D should be left on for normal driving conditions.

Turn the Overdrive off and you will feel the Camry suddenly jerk and the engine rev up. The RPM will also shoot up. This is because you are now limited to only three gears, forcing the Camry's engine to work harder. Having the O/D off is useful in certain conditions: driving up a steep hill in order to gain more power, driving down a steep hill to refrain from heavy brake usage (you may also need to shift to second gear), in the snow to gain more traction (also shift into second gear), and when you want to accelerate quicker.

Turn the O/D back on and drive as usual. Remember to check your dashboard to ensure that the Overdrive is indeed in the "on" position.

Items you will need

  • Toyota Camry with automatic transmission

 How and When to Use Overdrive on a 700-R4 Transmission

Turn the overdrive off when driving in town. This transmission, in stock form, is an enterprise design that was used in just about anything equipped with rear-wheel drive. It had to satisfy a long family vacation drive as well as the cattle rancher pulling a trailer. There was no difference in the basic transmission build out. In stock form, shifting will become soft and sluggish and can chatter in and out of overdrive at low speeds.

Turn the overdrive on and off in hilly country, especially when towing a trailer. Turn the overdrive on when driving on flat roads and off when going up an incline. Overdrive is not enough to pull up a steep hill and the vehicle will slow until it shifts down automatically. The overdrive's design is not that strong and is engaged during normal driving. Undue stress shortens the life of the transmission.

Turn off overdrive when pulling a trailer and operate the gears manually. When the transmission is manually placed in second gear, an additional band is applied inside that prevents the transmission from shifting up. It also helps stop slipping. Use this feature to your advantage by applying brakes when traveling downhill.

Turn off overdrive in icy, wet weather. Throttling down the engine is a big advantage when conditions are prone to make the brakes lock and tires skid. Even though the engine will rev up, the transmission slows the car with internal gear brakes, making driving more ideal in inclement weather.

 How to Use the Overdrive on a RAV4

Locate the overdrive (O/D) button on the gear shifter. The overdrive button can be found on the left side of the shifter, below the button used to shift gears. It is much smaller but functions much in the same way; push it in to turn the overdrive on, push it again to release it and turn the overdrive off.

Turn the overdrive on before driving. Your dashboard will have a light that comes on, usually orange (though it depends on the model year you own), that will let you know that the overdrive is indeed on. Once you have ensured that the overdrive function is on, drive as you normally do and you will notice that the RAV4 operates as it typically does. When the overdrive is on, the RAV4 is using all four gears the automatic transmission comes with. This also helps conserve gas because the vehicle is allowed to use less power when operating.

Turn the overdrive off once you have come to a complete stop. You never want to switch the overdrive from on to off or vice-versa while in motion, except in extreme instances. You will now notice that the RAV4 can accelerate much faster but can not operate well at speeds above 40 mph. This is because with the overdrive off, the RAV4 is only using three gears instead of four.

Turn the overdrive off when driving up a steep hill in order to use more power. You will notice that the revolutions per minute (RPM) goes much higher before the vehicle shifts gears. Having the overdrive off will help the RAV4 drive uphill with more ease and without switching to four-wheel drive. Also turn the overdrive off when driving down a steep hill to avoid riding the brakes and wearing them out. You can turn the overdrive off in snowy or icy conditions, and also switch to a lower gear (1 or 2) to help gain traction.

Turn the overdrive on in most driving conditions to conserve gas and to keep the car from overworking the engine.

Items you will need

  • Toyota RAV4 with automatic transmission

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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