Car Maintenance And Repairs

When To Turn Overdrive Off?

Mike Cross
Updated Jul 4, 2021

Cars these days have all kinds of different features. Sometimes you might not even know what the feature is or what it does, but the vehicle still has it. One of those features is overdrive.

A lot of cars have overdrive, and you just leave it on because that is what is commonly told to do. You may not even actually know what overdrive is or what it is used for.

Well, after reading this article you will know what overdrive is, what it does, and when to turn it off. Keep reading to have all your questions about overdrive answered.


What is Overdrive?

Before getting into it or when you should turn overdrive off, you first need to understand what overdrive is. Overdrive is a feature on your car that controls your transmission and in the process also controls your engine.

When you have overdrive on it allows the car’s transmission to shift into the top gear whatever that might be for the particular vehicle. While in the top gear this allows the car to drive faster with less strain on the engine.

That is because the top gear is a smaller gear that spins faster than the engine reducing the engine RPM (rotations per minute) to provide the same power to the wheels. This means the car can go faster easier.

What Do You Gain?

So, now we can look at what you gain when you have overdrive on. The main thing you gain is more power at lower engine RPMs at top speeds. This means that the engine is running more efficient and with less wear.

That means a longer life for your vehicle. This gain is hard to measure though due to other factors that go into engine life. One thing you gain though that can be measured is better gas mileage.

This is because the engine needs less gas when going at lower RPMs. The better fuel efficiency at tops speeds is why most people say to leave overdrive on.

Another benefit of overdrive is that it helps with breaking. That is because the car can shift out of the top gear when you slow down which will help you slow down.

This means that the engine will break the car along with the brake pads helping you to stop quicker. This breaking benefit means that does overdrive help reduce strain on the engine, but it also helps reduce strain on your breaks, which is a good thing because it helps your brake pads last longer and saves you money.

What Do You Lose?

So, the next question is what do you lose with overdrive on. Well, the main thing you lose is towing power. That is because with less strain on the engine it loses the ability to apply force to something.

The lower RPMs means that the engine is putting out less pulling power. Also, having the overdrive on can lead to the car switching between the top two gears depending on the situation. A lot of times this happens on hills or when traveling at speeds right between the top two gears.

When To Turn Overdrive Off?

So, when should you turn overdrive off. Well, the main time you will want overdrive off is if you find that you are having trouble pulling a load.

You can tell if you are having trouble because the RPMs will get high and the engine will audible have a strain on it. If that is the, you should turn overdrive off, so that the engine can have more power.

The other time to turn overdrive off is if you can tell the transmission keeps switching between the top two gears. It is easy to tell this because the engine will rev up and have the RPMs jump when the transmission downshifts, and then the RPMs will drop when the engine shifts back into the top gear.

If the vehicle keeps doing this repeatable, then it is bad on the car, and you will want to make sure it stops this. This normally occurs when going up and down big hills, especially if your speed keeps changing.

Is It Better To Have Overdrive On Or Off?

Is it better to have overdrive on or off? If you know the basic purpose of what overdrive is, another question is to determine whether or not if it’s safe for the vehicle. The answer to that is it depends. It depends on if you’re using overdrive for the right reasons. Improper use of overdrive will do damage to your vehicle. In this quick article, we’ll answer the question to determine whether or not if it’s a better idea to leave overdrive on or not.

First, what is overdrive? Overdrive is basically the highest gear in your transmission. The purpose of it is to allow the engine to operate at a low RPM. This is designed to make the vehicle more fuel efficient. Additionally, overdrive is also designed for quieter driving. Overdrive also prevents the transmission from repeatedly upshifting and downshifting. That’s because when a vehicle is towing a load, both the engine and transmission are most likely to shift.

So, when is it safe to have overdrive on? Alternatively, when is it better to have it off? The only time you can turn off overdrive is when your vehicle is towing a trailer, another vehicle, or anything else that would need towing. Another situation is when you are passing through other traffic or preparing to change lanes.

A good time when you can switch your transmission into overdrive is when your on the highway or in long and steady driving conditions. Alternatively, if you are dealing with road conditions where are considered hazardous due to rain or winter precipitation like sleet or ice.

In other words, while there is no definite answer to whether or not if it’s better to have your car’s overdrive on or off, there are instances when you’ll need to use it. Likewise, there will be times when you won’t need it.

Overdrive is a good thing to have in your vehicle. But you should always use it properly in the situation where it is warranted. Improper use will cause damage to your transmission or other parts of your vehicle. It’s not a matter of whether it should be on or off at all times. It is a matter of knowing when to use it.

Overdrive today

Today cars are pretty good at determining your speed and if they should be in top gear or not. That means that a lot of times you won’t need to turn overdrive off with the button and instead trust the car with if it wants to use the top gear or not.

Leaving the overdrive on will help make sure that the car uses it when it is going at top speeds where it is beneficial and then not using it when it is not beneficial.

This way you get the gas mileage benefit, engine strain benefits, and all the other benefits that overdrive overs and by leaving it on you won’t have to worry about turning it back on.

The only thing that modern vehicles lack is knowing if you are pulling a load or driving a lot of hills. If you are pulling a heavy load, then you might want to turn overdrive off yourself with the button.

That will save the vehicle from getting confused. Also, if you live in an area with a lot of big hills, or are going to be driving on large hills, then you might want to turn overdrive off on your own to save strain your transmission.

you might want to turn overdrive off
If you are pulling a load or driving a lot of hills, you might want to turn overdrive off.


Overdrive is just one of many features that most cars have today. Sometimes the vehicle may have overdrive, and you don’t even realize it. That is because most of the time cars are good at using overdrive when it is beneficial and only shifting into the top gear at top speeds when it is needed.

Overdrive provides a lot of benefits. The easily measured one is better fuel efficiency, but it also makes breaking easier and reduces strain on your engine.

That is why you should only turn overdrive off if you are pulling a big load or if your driving conditions are causing the transmission to repeatable shift between the top two gears.

If the transmission is constantly shifting or the engine is straining to pull a load, then you can turn overdrive off for that trip. Otherwise, it is wise to just leave overdrive on and not to turn overdrive off.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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6 comments on “When To Turn Overdrive Off?”

  1. thank you nice to know about the overdrive, because my xpander mitsu has it. obe more qstn. if im loaded of passengers it is right to turn od off?

    1. I have the same model too. Better turn OD off if you're driving at less than 80 Kph and with full load. It's the same principle as towing weight

  2. When going down a step windy range and into second gear what will overdrive off do. Road wet and slippery don’t like to use brakes to much.

  3. My car keeps turning overdrive on and off by self without hitting button and causing driving problems anyone know what causes this I thought my OD button may be stuck but its fine

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