How to use overdrive more effectively

The overdrive button. Some drivers misuse it. Photos By Ismail Kezaala

What you need to know:

More than ever before, automatic transmission cars have become very popular and far the easiest to drive in the traffic jam congested streets.

Most of our Toyota automatic transmission cars have buttons associated with the gear shifting but we have never really gotten down to actually figuring out what they do. Many of us just do not care. Usually there is a button for over-drive and Electronic Control Transmission Power (ECT PWR)button.

What happens is this. When the O/D button is out and the light off, the transmission will go through all the gears including overdrive, which is the highest gear. The O/D button is not actually to engage it, but to lock it out. It is used for overtaking, climbing hills or towing. It means that when the button is pressed and the “O/D Off” light comes on, the car will not go into top gear which is gear four for most automatics from Japan. So if your transmission is four gears, and the overdrive is set to off, the car will be limited to three gears and won’t shift into the fourth. This is why when doing high speeds and you press the overdrive button, there is a downshift from the highest gear.

The ECT button
The ECT PWR button does not necessarily make your car accelerate faster, that is, there is no increase in power or acceleration, but it does change the logic of the automatic transmission to make it more “sensitive” to the throttle position.

You can try this: In ECT “Regular mode”, cruise along at some speed and then push the acceleration pedal down some distance (not fully). The car may or may not downshift to accelerate. Next, activate the ECT “Power” mode and cruise along as before and depress the gas the same distance as before. The transmission will probably downshift immediately to bring your speed up quicker. This has nothing to do with the engine output, only gear selection

ECT PWR will make your car feel more “lively”, whereas “Normal mode” may be more comfortable to drive since the car will not change gears as readily. Most Toyota automatics also have an “ECT Power” button.
This button holds the transmission in a lower gear to a higher RPM, giving you more power for faster takeoff

This button can also be used for gear kick down.
Let us say you need your car to drop down a gear quicker, then just activate the PWR button and you will find the car will drop down as soon as you accelerate. The ECT-MAN button’s Job is to enable the drive to shift like a manual transmission. You shift the gear lever to the L position. Set the button to on. So L position shall be gear one, two shall be the second gear and D shall be the third and fourth. It is like a sporty mode making it more hard hitting.

Some cars on the opposite end of the ECT PWR button there is snow. This is usually for rear wheel drive cars as they are usually prone to drivability problems in snow in Japan of course. For Uganda’s case it would be a problem on muddy roads. When engaged it limits the revs to depending on your speed, however much you accelerate. That way the car is less prone to slipping. While all these buttons have either been phased out or replaced on newer models, quite a number of cars still have them.


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