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What Is the “B” On a Prius Shifter?

What Is the “B” On a Prius Shifter?

When most people drive their Prius, they tend to stick to the basics of “D” and “P” on their shifter, but what is the “B” mode used for?

The “B” on a Prius shifter stands for “braking.” This feature activates engine braking, which uses the car’s engine power to slow down the vehicle instead of the brakes. Driving in “B” on long steep grades and icy roads decreases the strain put on your brakes and lowers your chances of hydroplaning.

We will be taking a closer look at the Prius shifter in more detail so that you know when to use the “B” shift position while driving.

What Is the “B” On a Prius Shifter?

To put it simply, the “B” on a Prius shifter stands for “braking.” This is a feature that you will find on many automatic cars like the Prius, and it’s used to activate the vehicle’s “engine braking.” 

In the past, all manual transmission cars were equipped with engine braking to slow the car when driving downhill. Instead of the brakes doing all the work, the engine kicks in and begins slowing the car down as well. 

Engine braking has since been reintroduced to automatic transmission vehicles like the Prius so that drivers can activate the feature when needed. However, unlike manual transmission cars, engine braking needs to be engaged manually on the Prius by sliding the shifter into the “B” gear.

When Should You Use “B” Gear in a Prius?

When used properly, shifting into “B” on your Prius can be very useful. This feature encourages gradual and balanced brake wear, and it also improves safety while driving. These are the situations where the “B” gear is most effective.

When Should You Use B Gear in a Prius

Downhill Driving

You should use the “B” gear in a Prius when you are driving down long, steep hills. This feature is intended to prevent your brakes from getting overheated and worn out by engaging the engine braking system to do most of the work.

This does not imply that you should switch your Prius’ shifter to the “B” position for every hill that you drive on. Instead, the “B” gear should be used when you are driving downhill for a prolonged time, such as when going downhill on a steep mountain. 

The reason for this is that relying solely on your Prius’ regenerative braking system and brake pads puts excessive strain on your brakes. This can lead to your brakes getting worn out considerably faster, and it could potentially cause them to overheat while you are driving, creating a safety hazard.

Driving on Icy Roads

Icy and snow-covered roads present a lot of safety concerns for drivers. When roads are slippery and standard braking is unreliable, this can easily result in hydroplaning.

In this situation, the “B” gear on your Prius can be quite useful. The car’s engine will automatically start slowing itself down while you are driving, lowering your chances of hydroplaning and slipping on icy roads.

Prius owners who find themselves regularly driving on icy and snow-covered roads should consider using the “B” gear on their shifter more frequently, especially when going downhill in these conditions.

How to Use the “B” on a Prius

Whenever you find yourself driving down long steep grades or on icy roads, you should consider switching your Prius’ shifter into the “B” position. 

Doing so is very simple and you can activate this mode whenever you are driving. You can use the “B” on a Prius by following these steps.

Step 1: Put the Gear in “D” 

The first thing that you need to do is start driving your Prius before you can put it in “B.” Naturally, this implies that you need to turn your car on and be in the “D” (Drive) gear position. 

Put the Gear in “D” 

Once the car is in motion, wait until you encounter a scenario where it’s appropriate to put the car into “B.” This should ideally be when you are driving down steep, long hills and when you are on an icy road. 

Step 2: Slow the Car Down 

Keep in mind that activating the “B” mode on your Prius’ shifter will automatically engage the engine braking system. This will not cause your car to come to a complete halt, but it can slow it down dramatically. 

That is why it’s best to slow your car down a bit if you are driving at a fast speed so that the engine braking is less abrupt when you switch over to the “B” gear. 

Step 3: Put the Gear in “B” 

Once the car is driving at a stable speed, you can change the position of your Prius’ gear to “B.” Unlike manual transmission vehicles that require you to use a clutch and often downshift to activate engine braking, the process is simplified with the Prius.

All you need to do is switch the gear position to “B” and your Prius will automatically start using its engine brakes to slow the car down.

Can You Shift from “P” to “B” on a Prius? 

Engine braking is generally used to slow a car down when it’s already in motion. For this reason, you cannot switch from “P” (Parking) on your Prius directly to “B.” 

The only way to switch to the “B” gear on your Prius is to do it from the “D” shifter position. The car must be in “Drive” before engine braking can be activated to avoid any issues with the Prius’ transmission.

Toyota designed the Prius to be as simple and safe as possible. Changing gears unnecessarily, especially when changing them in the wrong situations can have damaging effects on your car’s transmission. For this reason, the “B” gear can only be used from “D” and not “P.”

Do You Need to Use the “B” On a Prius Shifter?

Technically, no. Many people drive their Prius’ for years without even noticing the “B” gear exists, and when they do, they often don’t pay much attention to it. 

The “B” gear on a Prius is a very useful feature that enables you to decrease the strain put on your brakes in certain situations. With that said, the Prius is an advanced hybrid car with superior safety features, which is why most drivers can operate their vehicles without ever having to pay much attention to the additional gears in their transmission. 

In general, you should actually avoid using the “B” gear unless you need it. This feature is only useful when you want to activate engine braking, which should be used for steep long grades, and icy roads.

Is Driving in “B” Bad For Your Prius?

Driving in “B” is by no means bad for your Prius. When engine braking is engaged on any vehicle, there is no damage caused to the engine, transmission, brakes or any part of the car. 

However, driving in “B” unnecessarily may make driving less efficient, especially in a hybrid car like the Prius. The reason for this is that the Prius uses braking power to recharge its battery so that you can have a better mpg rating. 

Driving in “B” wastes energy and it does not benefit the battery life of your Prius, which is why you should only drive in the “B” gear when you need to.

Key Takeaways to Driving in “B” On Your Prius

The “B” on a Prius shifter stands for “braking.” 

The “B” gear activates engine braking, which uses the car’s engine power to slow down the vehicle instead of the brakes. 

Driving in “B” on long steep grades and icy roads decreases the strain put on your brakes and lowers your chances of hydroplaning.

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!