#1
Old 05-28-2014, 10:09 AM
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Car question - P R N D

Why do cars with automatic shifts always have the gears in the exact same order?

Park
Reverse
Neutral
Drive
Low Gears

Was there ever a time when this was not the case? Why not put them in order of most to least used - Park, Drive, Reverse, Neutral?
#2
Old 05-28-2014, 10:13 AM
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I can't answer about history, but Neutral is between Drive and Reverse so you can't go directly from one to the other. If you did, your transmission would be in several tiny pieces all over the road..
#3
Old 05-28-2014, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VunderBob View Post
I can't answer about history, but Neutral is between Drive and Reverse so you can't go directly from one to the other. If you did, your transmission would be in several tiny pieces all over the road..
...and so would you.
#4
Old 05-28-2014, 10:17 AM
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The order is specified by US government regulation.

In the past, there were different orders, but many weren't such a good idea (hence the regulation).

There are some restrictions that are a good idea. For one, putting neutral directly next to drive. Should something go wrong, you want to minimize the effort in putting the car in neutral. So, you need D-N or N-D at least.
#5
Old 05-28-2014, 10:18 AM
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You definitely don't want Drive and Reverse next to each other, so it makes sense to put Neutral in between. Park needs to be at one end, so there's very small chance of a mistake when you put it in Park. That leaves you with switching Reverse and Drive, but then you get PDLNR, since you want the low gear next to Drive, if you have multiple low gears it's now PD21NR.

Since R is always just one gear, having PRNDL means the first 4 gears are completely standardized across makes and models.
#6
Old 05-28-2014, 10:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Great Antibob View Post
The order is specified by US government regulation.
Not arguing, but do you have a cite handy for that?
#7
Old 05-28-2014, 10:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Great Antibob View Post
The order is specified by US government regulation.
What regulation? The order is the same on vehicles built for other markets, and there is always variation in the low ratio options anyway.
#8
Old 05-28-2014, 10:36 AM
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I had a PNDLR - '63 Lark. Everybody switched to PNRDL because it made it less likely to accidentally go from N to R instead of L, or to go from R to D whilst the car was still going the opposite direction.
#9
Old 05-28-2014, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amateur Barbarian View Post
Not arguing, but do you have a cite handy for that?
http://nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/FMVSS/#SN102

Although the Big Three at least had all gone to the standard PRNDL layout on their own before that rule went into effect in 1968.
#10
Old 05-28-2014, 10:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amateur Barbarian View Post
Not arguing, but do you have a cite handy for that?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
What regulation?
http://law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/571.102

Specifically, you're looking at S3.1.1 and S31.1.1
#11
Old 05-28-2014, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreasyJack View Post
Thanks.

If anybody is interested, here's the full text of the standard.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
What regulation? The order is the same on vehicles built for other markets, and there is always variation in the low ratio options anyway.
The US was and remains the largest consumer base for automobile purchases. Whatever goes in the US was always going to have a major impact on other markets. It's less of a problem in Europe, where the majority of cars are manual. In Asia, the big ramp up in auto sales took place in the last few decades, well after the US set the standard, and there's little reason not to go with a sensible standard.

For low gear, options, the standard only specifies that you have to have a neutral between reverse and forward gears. Also, that if you have a P setting, it has to be next to R. So you can set the gears P-R-N-L-D if you want, but that doesn't seem sensible, either.
#12
Old 05-28-2014, 10:58 AM
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Is there a law for the H pattern on a manual, too?

Seems to me this is a silly thing to put into law. The PRNDL pattern just makes too much sense, as mentioned above, to need to be regulated.
#13
Old 05-28-2014, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by learjeff View Post
is there a law for the h pattern on a manual, too?

Seems to me this is a silly thing to put into law. The prndl pattern just makes too much sense, as mentioned above, to need to be regulated.
Considering there are at least the following configurations, for just a 5-speed manual transmission (not counting 2, 3, 4, 6, or 7-speed manuals), I would assume not.

Code:
1 3 5 R 1 3 5 R 2 4
|-|-| |-|-|-| |-|-|
2 4 R 2 4 1 3 5
#14
Old 05-28-2014, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Learjeff View Post
Seems to me this is a silly thing to put into law. The PRNDL pattern just makes too much sense, as mentioned above, to need to be regulated.
A huge amount of trouble comes from not codifying such things, however trivial or obvious they might seem. Read through the national electrical code sometime.

All it would take is for some manufacturer to get cute and [have their marketing department] decide on a different pattern, in a car powerful enough to get in trouble with and aimed at a younger market, to result in needless deaths and accidents. It's important enough to standardize unless there is very good reason [not marketing brilliance] to do it otherwise.
#15
Old 05-28-2014, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Learjeff View Post
Is there a law for the H pattern on a manual, too?
As it happens, if you read that relevant regulation above, there's a brief mention of it:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Relevant Reg
Manual transmissions. Identification of the shift lever pattern of manual transmissions, except three forward speed manual transmissions having the standard H pattern, shall be displayed in view of the driver at all times when a driver is present in the driver's seating position.
Basically, you have to display the shift pattern where the driver can see it. That is, unless you have a three speed transmission, but those are pretty rare these days.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Learjeff View Post
Seems to me this is a silly thing to put into law. The PRNDL pattern just makes too much sense, as mentioned above, to need to be regulated.
Apparently it got to be an issue way back with a pattern of L-R at the end. You'd have drivers accidentally selecting the wrong gear and sometimes when the transmission got worn, you'd see the transmission jump from low to reverse leading to accidents.

As noted, the Big Three already moved away from this before the regulation came into play, but I guess an extra layer of safety wasn't a bad idea, especially for any newcomers to the market.
#16
Old 05-28-2014, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Learjeff View Post
Is there a law for the H pattern on a manual, too?
The law says that the shift pattern has to be displayed somewhere unless it's the old standard 3-speed H pattern.
#17
Old 05-28-2014, 11:48 AM
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My Dad had a 60's Buick Electra 225 (AKA Deuce and a Quarter) with a PNDR shifter sequence. Big mistake to slam it down into what usually was 1st gear and floor it!

Then there's push button automatics such as on old Ramblers.
#18
Old 05-28-2014, 11:52 AM
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[Crazy Vaclav]"Put it in H!"[/Crazy Vaclav]
#19
Old 05-28-2014, 12:22 PM
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60's Chrysler products had the push button selector as well. Not to mention the Edsel!
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#20
Old 05-28-2014, 01:41 PM
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I don't recall the situation, but I do remember driving a pushbutton shift once. Odd as heck, even odder than 3-on-a-tree (which is pretty damned odd). At least it was automatic so I didn't have to push buttons while driving!
#21
Old 05-28-2014, 01:47 PM
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I had a Chevy Corvair and it only had RNDL (no P), vertically on the dash with a lever that moved up and down.

To park you put it in N and pulled the parking brake lever conveniently located by your left ankle.

Last edited by August West; 05-28-2014 at 01:47 PM.
#22
Old 05-28-2014, 01:48 PM
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I don't know if it's still the case, but they used to teach kids in driver's ed that if the brakes failed on a car, that they should jam the shift lever as far upward as possible to try to engage Park. I was in a car where this happened. We came down a slight incline into a parking area, the teen at the wheel stepped on the brakes and they went to the floor. She reacted just as she was taught. Luckily, we were at a low enough speed that nobody went flying (no seat belts in that old Mercury), the car stopped and oddly enough, the transmission still functioned.

On reflection, it could have been something her dad taught her, as driver's ed wasn't common back then.
#23
Old 05-28-2014, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
I don't know if it's still the case, but they used to teach kids in driver's ed that if the brakes failed on a car, that they should jam the shift lever as far upward as possible to try to engage Park.
That doesn't work on most (all?) modern cars. There's usually a safety interlock that prevents the car from going into either reverse or park if the car is moving forward above some threshold speed.

When Mythbusters tried it on their show, the car they picked allowed the shift lever to go into reverse (I don't remember if they tried park) but the gears didn't engage and the car basically just coasted.
#24
Old 05-28-2014, 04:56 PM
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Dad's 1960 Dodge Dart had a push button auto. I don't remember the order.
#25
Old 05-28-2014, 05:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VunderBob View Post
I can't answer about history, but Neutral is between Drive and Reverse so you can't go directly from one to the other. If you did, your transmission would be in several tiny pieces all over the road..

That is just not true.

N does nothing. N for nothing, you could say.
It really does NOTHING AT ALL.


You can rapidly move it from R through N to D, when stopped, and the engine at idle.

Everyone Does.
The extra time from having N there is NOTHING - it really lives up to its name.

Its really only a sensibility issue - Have P at one end, so the driver knows it in P - a driver awareness thing -, and to have D-2-1 at the other end, so that the driver can try using 2, 1, (eg when stalling going up a steep hill.. ) without choosing other gears (like N or R.)
#26
Old 05-28-2014, 05:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isilder View Post
That is just not true.

N does nothing. N for nothing, you could say.
It really does NOTHING AT ALL.
I've read your post a couple of times and can't parse it.

Neutral is not "nothing at all." It's a position in which the transmission has no gear engaged (in most designs, it means no actuator is powered, clamping no band on any planetary gear set)... but the Park pawl is also not engaged.

Put another way, Park and Neutral are the same setting with respect to gear selection - none - but Park engages a locking toggle or pawl that prevents the rear output shaft from turning.

Neutral is not just a do-nothing space on the shift quadrant.
#27
Old 05-28-2014, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
I don't know if it's still the case, but they used to teach kids in driver's ed that if the brakes failed on a car, that they should jam the shift lever as far upward as possible to try to engage Park. I was in a car where this happened. We came down a slight incline into a parking area, the teen at the wheel stepped on the brakes and they went to the floor. She reacted just as she was taught. Luckily, we were at a low enough speed that nobody went flying (no seat belts in that old Mercury), the car stopped and oddly enough, the transmission still functioned.

On reflection, it could have been something her dad taught her, as driver's ed wasn't common back then.
That is definitely not anything they taught in driver's ed. Putting the car in park at speed will have essentially the same effect as putting it in neutral, which is pretty much the opposite of what you want to do if your brakes fail.

Like engineer_comp_geek said, newer electronically-controlled transmissions simply won't engage park if you're moving too fast. But even on old cars, the parking pawl is a spring-loaded ratchet gizmo that won't engage the notches on the output shaft if it's moving too fast. So putting the car in "park" would just cause the pawl to skip and chatter over the notches, not slowing the car in any meaningful way. It's not until the car is only moving at really slow speed (probably 10-5 MPH) that the pawl can engage and slam the car to a stop, possibly breaking the pawl in the process. So somewhat counter-intuitively, slamming the car into park at 5 MPH is actually a lot more likely to damage the car than doing it at 50 MPH (assuming you realize what you did and put it back in drive before it slows down.)
#28
Old 05-28-2014, 09:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by August West View Post
I had a Chevy Corvair and it only had RNDL (no P), vertically on the dash with a lever that moved up and down.

To park you put it in N and pulled the parking brake lever conveniently located by your left ankle.
My 65 Corvair is like that. Only there is no L, just RND.
#29
Old 05-28-2014, 10:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shinna Minna Ma View Post
Why do cars with automatic shifts always have the gears in the exact same order?

Park
Reverse
Neutral
Drive
Low Gears

Was there ever a time when this was not the case? Why not put them in order of most to least used - Park, Drive, Reverse, Neutral?
Prius arrangement.

Park is a separate button. I believe B is for engine braking, but I don't know if it's the (gear) equivalent of Low, as I do not own the car. I believe the Prius can use either regenerative braking or the engine to slow the car on long grades, depending on whether or not the battery needs charging.

Last edited by Chief Pedant; 05-28-2014 at 10:13 PM.
#30
Old 05-28-2014, 10:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayard View Post
My 65 Corvair is like that. Only there is no L, just RND.
Rollover, Nosedive and... Dance?

(Sorry, couldn't resist. I know the second gen 'Vairs were quite nice cars.)
#31
Old 05-29-2014, 09:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief Pedant View Post
Prius arrangement.

Park is a separate button. I believe B is for engine braking, but I don't know if it's the (gear) equivalent of Low, as I do not own the car.
B is an engine brake. It's not like a Low gear, because it just brakes. You wouldn't press the gas while you're in B, because you'd just be fighting the brake. About the only time you use B is if you're going down a long hill and you want to slow the car without riding the foot brake. Since I live in mid-Missouri, about 150 miles from the nearest hill of any size, I almost never use B.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amateur Barbarian View Post
Rollover, Nosedive and... Dance?

(Sorry, couldn't resist. I know the second gen 'Vairs were quite nice cars.)
When I drive the Vair, I always say I'm "taking it out for a spin," which sets my brother up for the obvious joke about spinning the Corvair.
#32
Old 05-29-2014, 09:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreasyJack View Post
http://nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/FMVSS/#SN102

Although the Big Three at least had all gone to the standard PRNDL layout on their own before that rule went into effect in 1968.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
http://law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/571.102

Specifically, you're looking at S3.1.1 and S31.1.1
Thanks. Carry on.
#33
Old 05-29-2014, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayard View Post
When I drive the Vair, I always say I'm "taking it out for a spin," which sets my brother up for the obvious joke about spinning the Corvair.
I get the same yuks if I say I'm taking the Cobra out for a... well, you know. Also an old pilot's joke. Too old.
#34
Old 05-29-2014, 09:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayard View Post
B is an engine brake. It's not like a Low gear, because it just brakes. You wouldn't press the gas while you're in B, because you'd just be fighting the brake. About the only time you use B is if you're going down a long hill and you want to slow the car without riding the foot brake. Since I live in mid-Missouri, about 150 miles from the nearest hill of any size, I almost never use B.
That's not quite right. When you let off the accelerator on a Prius, it switches the traction motor into a generator which charges the battery and emulates the engine braking you would see on a normal car. Putting the car into "B" just makes the computer up the amount of regenerative braking it uses when you let off the gas, emulating having a normal car in a lower gear. If you use the accelerator in "B" mode the car accelerates normally-- it isn't "fighting" anything because the electric motor can't simultaneously propel the car and slow it down.

It's actually exactly the same as riding the foot brake because under light braking the car only uses regenerative braking. It only engages the regular "pads n' rotors" brakes after you really step on it.
#35
Old 05-29-2014, 09:52 AM
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Lame trivia: When I worked at a place that authored and printed the manuals for the Big 3, we called that the "prindle".
#36
Old 05-29-2014, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayard View Post
B is an engine brake. It's not like a Low gear, because it just brakes. You wouldn't press the gas while you're in B, because you'd just be fighting the brake. About the only time you use B is if you're going down a long hill and you want to slow the car without riding the foot brake. Since I live in mid-Missouri, about 150 miles from the nearest hill of any size, I almost never use B.

When I drive the Vair, I always say I'm "taking it out for a spin," which sets my brother up for the obvious joke about spinning the Corvair.
A Prius and a Corvair?
Add a Volkswagen Thing, and you'll have the complete "no, just no" collection.
#37
Old 05-29-2014, 10:20 AM
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Comment from the clueless non driver: I've seen, and understand, the troubles of both driver and transmission when the driver switches to a manual.

But I always thought that the pattern on a stick was an H. So manual drivers who switch cars can also be grinding gears and looking flustered--yes?

Ignorance fought.
#38
Old 05-29-2014, 10:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whiskey Dickens View Post
A Prius and a Corvair?
Add a Volkswagen Thing, and you'll have the complete "no, just no" collection.
I worked for a while at a garage that was a Daf dealer. These little cars, with their Variomatic fully automatic transmission were quite popular for a while. The gear lever had three positions - forward for forward, neutral, and back for, you guessed it.

The problem was that the drive belts were prone to failure. Later on, Ford offered the system in the Fiesta, but with a metal mesh drive belt. It was not a great success.

http://dafownersclub.weebly.com/brie...-daf-cars.html
#39
Old 05-29-2014, 10:29 AM
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Standardisation on the controls of cars is a good thing. Back in the early days, even the pedals varied - imagine getting in a hire car and finding the pedals reversed. Even in a RHD car, they are the same.

A common sight over here back in the 70s was people making a turn, on a sunny day, with their wipers wagging. Japanese cars had the indicator and wiper control stalks the opposite way around to European cars.

I remember going to collect a new car from a garage, and sitting in it for ages, finally resorting to the manual, trying to get it in reverse. There was a small collar under the knob on the gear lever that had to be raised.

Last edited by bob++; 05-29-2014 at 10:30 AM.
#40
Old 05-29-2014, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
I worked for a while at a garage that was a Daf dealer. These little cars, with their Variomatic fully automatic transmission were quite popular for a while. The gear lever had three positions - forward for forward, neutral, and back for, you guessed it.

The problem was that the drive belts were prone to failure. Later on, Ford offered the system in the Fiesta, but with a metal mesh drive belt. It was not a great success.
Nissan finally developed a high-power (good for more than 50 or so HP) CVT and released it on the Murano. I have no idea what kind of success it's been, technically or with owners. But for decades the CVT was limited to scooter-level horsepower and was cranky even then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
I remember going to collect a new car from a garage, and sitting in it for ages, finally resorting to the manual, trying to get it in reverse. There was a small collar under the knob on the gear lever that had to be raised.
Those were common on the bigger Ford manuals like the toploader. My Cobra has the T-bar reverse lockout, which... works but does not function. That is, it's the correct spring-loaded piece and you can lift it all you want, but the 5-speed uses a push-down lockout for reverse instead. Good for yuks with a new driver.
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