Making sense of newer vehicles’ low gear positions

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who is unsure of his new car’s shift positions.

The 2022 Toyota Corolla. Toyota

Q. I recently bought a new 2022 Toyota Corolla to replace my 2004 Corolla. On the ‘04, the gear shifter had positions of 2 and L (besides for the usual P, R, N, D).  The ‘22 has B instead of 2 and L. Are these all similar gear positions? On the ‘04 I used 2 and L for driving on snow and ice. Was this the correct usage for those gear settings, and can B be used in the same kind of driving situation? 

A. There was a time when some vehicles would have position 2 that would allow for second-gear starts. Starting in second gear would minimize wheel spin in slippery weather. The L, or low gear position, would keep the transmission in the lowest gear position and would have limited use in normal driving. Your new car uses a continuously variable automatic transmission with what amounts to an infinite number of gears. The shifter should be left in drive for the best performance and fuel economy. The B position will apply some engine braking, which could be useful when you want to slow the car without using the brakes, for example, down a steep hill. 


Q. I purchased a new car for the first time in 20 years and it has a key-fob to lock and unlock the doors. How long can I expect the battery in my remote key fob to last?

A. Based on my own experiences, I would say a key-fob remote battery will last five years or so, although I’ve had some last much longer. The only time I have seen shorter life is when the button is held down for long periods. This could be if the fob is in a purse, bag, or even in a pocket. Replacing a fob battery is simple and inexpensive, and as a preventative measure you could replace it every four to five years. Also keep in mind that nearly every car with push button start and a key-fob has a key built into the fob in case of emergencies. 

Q. I am considering buying an electric car but would need to rely on public charging. Using an EV charging station found at some store parking lots, how do you use them, and could you give me a dollar-and-cents cost for a charge in the city? 

A. Public charging stations can range from free to a few dollars per hour or per kilowatt charge. Most EV drivers will use a smartphone app such as ChargePoint, EVgo, or Electrify America. The exception is Tesla, which has its own charging network. I use Chargepoint. It’s tied to a credit card, I look at the app for available charging, park, and then authorize the machine and plug in the cord to the car. Depending on the vehicle (most that I have tested had a range of 200-250 miles) a full recharge could cost $20-$25 to “refill” the battery. As a comparison, looking at gasoline at $4.25 gallon, it would cost $10-$15 more to refuel a similar gasoline car. 


Q. I would like to know if it’s necessary to change the timing belt on my 2014 Honda Pilot. Changing the belt is not mentioned in the maintenance booklet that came with the car, and my neighbor’s mechanic told him it’s not necessary unless you do heavy towing or live in a hot climate.

A. The 2014 Honda Pilot is a little confusing because it lists both a timing chain and timing belt in the engine description. There is, in fact, a timing belt, and the maintenance minder system will display a 4 when the timing belt needs replacement. Your shop is correct that if the vehicle is driven in extreme heat, cold, or towing a heavy trailer, the belt should be replaced at 60,000 miles.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at


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