What Does M Mean On A Car: 6 Must-know Information

Cars have been evolving over the years, introducing a series of innovative features that provide enhanced driving experiences. One such feature is the “M” mode, which has raised many eyebrows recently. But what does “M” stand for in a car? In this article, we will provide in-depth information to help you understand clearly.

What Does “M” Mean On A Car and How It Works?

If you’re driving a car with an automatic gearbox, you may notice an “M” symbol close to your gear stick. This feature is commonly found in Toyota cars, but other car brands may also have it in some of their models.

The “M” stands for “Manual” or “Manual Control”. It’s a feature that lets you switch your car from automatic to manual gear changing. Additionally, If you want to switch your car to “M” mode, you can control the “plus” and  “minus” buttons on your shifter to manually select your car’s gears.

Being able to change gears manually might not seem that important, but for a driver who knows how to handle a manual car, it can make the car safer and perform better.

Car gear stick

Manual and Automatic Control: Detailed Comparison

Not too long ago, almost all cars and trucks came with a manual transmission. But with the development of better automatic transmissions, most vehicles are now automatic. A lot of people today have only ever driven an automatic car.

In an automatic car, the car itself changes the gears based on the engine speed (RPM) and the load on the car. In the increasingly popular continuously variable automatic transmissions, the car changes gears more frequently, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear options on your gear stick represent a range of gears rather than fixed gears like in a manual or a different kind of automatic transmission.

This means that drivers don’t have to think too much about changing gears while driving, as the car does this on its own. This can result in a smoother drive but might not always be the safest or most efficient, as the car’s computer might not always react correctly to the situation.

For example, your car might change gears a few times before shifting down on hilly roads, because the car’s computer is getting confused signals about what’s going on. It can take a moment for the transmission to adjust to the right gear.

In contrast, in a manual car, the driver controls the gears. This can give you more control in difficult situations but also means you need to pay more attention to your speed and engine speed, as you have to change gears yourself.

However, having manual control can be gentler on your transmission because you, the driver, have more information to choose the right gear.

For instance, when you are driving uphill, while an automatic car might change gears a few times to adjust, you’ll know that you need to shift down for more power when climbing a steep hill. Therefore, you can shift to the right gear quicker, which is easier on your car.

In summary, while automatic transmissions can provide a smoother and more convenient drive, the “M” mode provides you with the flexibility and control of a manual transmission when you need it.

Automatic transmission

The Way To Use Manual Mode

To start using “M” mode, how you activate it will depend on the model of your car. Generally, you will need to move the gear selector to “M” or press a specific button. When you’ve switched to “M” mode, so, now you can manually shift your car’s gears.

Moreover, once you’re in “M” mode, you’ll find that navigating is pretty straightforward. For most cars, you use the paddle shifter or the gear selector to shift up and down.

In some models, you will find these paddles mounted on either side of the steering wheel. The one on your right is usually used to shift up (increase speed), and the one on your left is used to shift down (decrease speed).

Why Would You Choose Manual Transmission Mode?

Changing your car to “M” mode can give you more control and drive safety. Because if you choose the auto mode, many things your car’s computer may not see, like changes in the weather, how much light there is, and other cars nearby.

Moreover, using manual mode can be really helpful when you’re driving on hard roads or in bad weather. For example, when you’re driving on icy roads or when it’s raining heavily, you may find that manual mode gives you control of your car better.

Another good thing about the manual mode is that it can help you control your speed better when conditions are dangerous. When you downshift, it can limit how fast your car can go, and the engine can slow down the car if it starts going too fast. This engine braking, along with your own braking, can help you keep control of your car, especially on icy roads or going downhill.

Besides, shifting manually is helpful when you need extra power, like when you’re pulling a heavy load or driving uphill. An automatic transmission might choose a higher gear, making it hard to go as fast as you want when you’re carrying a load or driving uphill because the engine loses power when going fast.

Normally, you should choose a lower gear that might slow you down a bit, but it gives your engine more power to carry the car’s weight and keep a constant speed.

When Should You Use Manual Mode?

Manual mode in your car can be really helpful in different driving situations. For example, if you’re driving up or down a steep hill, using lower gear can be good. This gives your car extra power to climb up or helps you slow down without using the brakes when going down.

If you’re trying to pass another car, this mode can be useful too. Normally, in automatic mode, there can be a little wait while the car changes to a lower gear for more power. But in “M” mode, you can change to a lower gear straight away, so you have extra power right when you need it.

In addition, it can also help in tricky weather. Like, when you are driving on snow or ice, you can use engine braking to slow down and keep from skidding.

Furthermore, if you’re pulling a heavy trailer, “M” mode can be really handy. Automatic cars might change to a higher gear to keep the speed, but this can be hard on the engine. With this mode, you can also keep a lower gear for longer, which makes it easier for your engine and reduces stress on it.

Read more: What Does DTE Mean In A Car: Detailed Information

Manual Transmissions Have A Longer Lifespan

Manual cars often last longer than automatic ones, with many running smoothly for more than 10 years. Automatic cars are built for comfortable and easy driving, but over time their gear systems can wear out.

To make your car last longer, all you need to do is drive carefully and use the right techniques. So, should regular maintenance and following the guidelines in your car’s manual. Additionally, try not to be rough on the clutch and remove your foot from it when you’re picking up speed. When you’re stopped at a red light, you should put your car to zero.

Also, checking the transmission fluid often and making sure it’s not leaking is essential, as a loss of fluid pressure can cause issues. Make sure to take good care of the engine cooling system, which keeps both your engine and transmission fluid at the right temperature.

Regular maintenance of your car


The “M” mode in cars offers an added layer of control and engagement for drivers who want to have a more hands-on approach to their driving. Whether you’re dealing with steep inclines, needing rapid acceleration, or simply enjoying a more engaging driving experience, this mode is a useful feature.


  1. Is it safe to use the manual mode in an automatic vehicle?

    Certainly, it's perfectly safe and something the car is designed to handle. Modern automatic vehicles that offer a manual mode are built to switch between the two even while driving. The automatic transmission has seen significant advancements in the past decade that accommodate this.

  2. Does manual mode contribute to quicker acceleration?

    While it's a common belief that vehicles with manual transmissions can accelerate more swiftly, the reality is that it's not necessarily the case. Many people believe that a stick shift enhances a car's ability to launch and accelerate, but this is not always true.

  3. Can manual driving lead to fuel savings?

    In slightly older vehicles, operating with a manual transmission can indeed be more fuel-efficient. The reason is that the engine doesn't need to labor as much as in an automatic to shift gears. According to Consumer Reports, this could result in a difference of two to five more miles per gallon as recently as 2015.

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