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How to Drive an Automatic Car

Automatic transmission

Automatic cars don’t enjoy as much popularity as their manual counterparts. But with advent of modern technologies these cars are expected to attain their popularity in the coming days.

If you don’t own an automatic car yet but fancy the idea, here are the basic aspects you should think of before you make a purchase:

  • You will be spending more on fuel
  • An automatic car is more expensive to buy
  • These cars don’t allow you to control gear selection precisely

However, as technologies advance, these vehicles also become more economical. Therefore, the situation can change in significant leaps. Because the automatic transmission is evolving so rapidly, many have said that it will become the norm sometime soon. Ultimately, it comes down to the driver’s skill as well – one has to make the most of an automatic gearbox and this can be learnt.

Manual vs. Automatic Transmission

We know you are anxious to get straight to the ‘driving lessons’, but in order to be successful at that you have to understand how an automatic transmission works in comparison with a manual one.

When your car has manual transmission, you are in control and decide when to change the gear. Once you know it’s time, you press the pedal and then move the gear stick to select the proper gear.

Automatic cars don’t require the driver to do all that; their gearbox is able to change the gear automatically. You will not have that gear stick to grab. The car receives signals from the engine – it interprets its ‘effort’ and also notices the current speed on the road; then, it makes the change by itself. Note that when you drive uphill, although the engine load is increased, the system will turn to a lower gear. There is also the possibility for the driver to make changes. Gear 1 and 2 can be selected in specific situation when the driver has to interfere and can’t just rely on the car alone. One such situation is when confronted with a steep hill. Select a lower gear in spite of the car wanting to switch to a higher one – it’s a must for increased safety.

The Queer Habits of Automatic Cars

There’s nothing too weird about them – only that at first you will find their behaviour quite different from what you’re used to. These do have some ‘strange’ habits and you will learn about them right away:

  • Creeping – It’s common for automatic vehicles to creep forward without any input from the acceleration pedal. If the car is stationery but the engine ticking, you need to action the hand brake or the brake pedal. They never really stop unless you do this.
  • Difficulty slowing down – This kind of gear boxes don’t have the capacity to respond so quickly, and hence you must give them more time. It takes a little more time for the engine break to slow down the vehicle. Break sooner than you normally would, and in a more progressive manner. It’s a good thing though, because it gives you more time to adjust your driving and pay attention to safety.
  • P is only for parking. It may be confusing when needing to stop the car in various circumstances. However, keep in mind that one must never use the P position when in motion. P locks the transmission and the vehicle won’t be able to move at all.

Driving an Automatic Car – The Importance of Gear Selection

While you may be hearing from other automatic car owners that they never change gears but only leave it in the D position, we advise you not to do this because you compromise the control you have over the vehicle. At the same time, you improve its flexibility when you choose gears. There are many benefits to it. We will show you how to handle the different situations and how switching gears keep you in control.

Downhill driving requires the car to be in a locked gear position, such as 1, 2 or 3. This will avoid excessive breaking. If you don’t do this, the automated system will just push it to a higher speed.

Wheel spinning on ice or wet surfacescan be avoided by selecting a higher gear. If your car has a special setting for such roads, then go ahead and use it. Otherwise, positions 2 and 3 will ensure enough traction even when you have to drive slowly.

Maneuvering at low speeds is easily done, because the ‘creep’ is on and you don’t need the acceleration pedal. The car just moves by itself. On hills, however, you will find that a combination of break and acceleration pedal helps you keep going.

Overtaking cars and similar situations require you to accelerate suddenly. The kick-down feature will help go past the automatic gear selection and have more accelerating power in the lower gears. Kick-down is activated when you press the acceleration pedal hard and keep it pressed to the maximum until the car has the desired speed. Once you’ve done this, slowly release the pedal.

Stopping the car at its destination (parking) always asks of you to put it into the P (Parking) gear. This maneuver is actually easier with an automatic car. Use the hand brake, and then choose P (Park) from the gear selector. Only then release the foot brake.

Roundabouts and bends can be negotiated in D (Drive). This is the most appropriate position, but if you’re already going slower than that then you won’t have to increase speed.

Automatic gearboxes may be enhanced with additional modes, such as ‘Sports’ or ‘Economic’. Also, the gear change system can occupy different places in a car – for instance in the steering wheel area or mounted on the car floor. The owner’s manual will reveal all about optimal use of the gear selector on that specific car model. Please bear in mind that driving an automatic car doesn’t mean you can relax and do nothing about the gears. As shown above, there are situations in which it is strongly recommended to override the automatic gearbox. Do this in moderation, to avoid overusing the mechanism.


Author’s Bio:
This article is contributed by www.motordepot.co.uk, one of the popular Car Supermarkets in Scunthorpe.

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