Driving an automatic car

How to Drive an Automatic Transmission Vehicle

Sankul Nagpal GUIDES Leave a Comment

With constant traffic jams haunting almost the entire nation, driving is becoming quite cumbersome and tiring with each passing day. The only respite however, that still makes driving pleasurable are automatic transmissions. With the need of constantly depressing the clutch out of the way, driving an automatic transmission can be fun, effortless and totally stress free! But if you are new to driving an automatic and wondering where to begin, we might just have all the answers you need. So without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about driving an automatic transmission vehicle.

Understanding an Automatic Car Layout

Before you begin driving an automatic transmission, it is crucial for you to understand the basic layout, and components of an automatic transmission. Unlike a manual transmission which comprises of the accelerator, brake, and clutch pedal, the only pedals on-board and automatic vehicles are the accelerator, and the brake pedals, because the absence of clutch is what an automatic is all about!.  And much like a manual, there is also a gear lever, which however, is a bit different. Now that you know about all the major components, let’s see what each one of them does:

VW Polo GT TSI interior
A conventional automatic car layout: Two pedals and a gear stick

The Accelerator: The Accelerator is a pedal that is used to accelerate or get the vehicle in motion from a standstill and also to maintain speed and/or speed. The more the pedal is pressed, the quicker the vehicle accelerates.

The Brake: As evident from the name, the brake pedal is used to decelerate/slow down the vehicle and also to bring the vehicle to a standstill. The more force you apply on the brake pedal, the harder and more intense the brakes are applied.

The Gear Lever: The gear lever is what engages the gears on-board a vehicle. It is a stick which when directed in a defined motion, engages all forward moving gears as well as the reverse. However, the gear lever on-board an automatic vehicle is a bit different from the manual stick. Unlike the manual shift, automatic shifts usually have the following markings:

Maruti Suzuki Celerio AMT gearbox Spinny
  • Parking (P): The park position on-board an automatic vehicle locks the gears in such a way that the wheels can’t move. As the name suggests, the Park position is used to park the vehicle still. It should also be used before your start the car, and turn the ignition off.
  • Reverse (R): As evident, the Reverse position is employed for or going backwards.
  • Neutral (N): Much like the neutral in a manual transmission, the neutral position is used when stopping at signals or amidst traffic.
  • Drive (D): This is what you employ when you want to move forward. However, unlike a manual shift, this is the only position you need to put on to go forwards. The higher and lower gears would be automatically employed, unless you drive your automatic in the manual mode.
  • Manual (M): Even though an automatic vehicle changes gears automatically via software algorithms, you can still have a control over when the gear change occurs. This is what the manual mode is for. Complemented by + and – signs, the shift can be moved in the 
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Starting and driving an automatic transmission car

Now that you are thorough with the major components of an automatic transmission, here’s how you can get your automatic transmission vehicle up and running 

Step 1: Start by adjusting your seat to a comfortable seating position, and adjust your IRVMs and ORVMs so that you can have a clear view of the road behind. 

Step 2: Press the brake pedal, and turn the ignition on with the brake pedal still depressed. Doing so will make sure your vehicle does not move forward as soon as you start it.

Step 3: Now that the engine is turned on, it’s time to engage the driving gear and get the vehicle running. To do that, depress the brake pedal and move the gear stick from the Parking (P) position to the Driving (D) position. Once you’ve done that, slowly release the brake pedal to get your vehicle moving.

How to drive an automatic car efficiently

Now that you’re thorough with how to drive, the next step is to be an efficient driver. And doing so can be simple. You just need to engage is efficient driving habits. And to do so make sure to: 

  • Plan your route to avoid traffic congestions: Go for routes that are usually congestion free even if they are long.  If you are not time bound to reach a particular place, make sure you visit during the non-rush hours. And if you happen to be a daily commuter, make sure to leave 10 to 15 minutes before rush hour to achieve better mileage on the trip.
  • Engage In Efficient Driving Habits: This can be done by going easy on the brake, since an automatic vehicle shifts gears based on pre-defined RPM ratios. Thus, if you repeatedly press the brake, the system will downshift and upshift repeatedly leading to lower mileage. Thus, try to drive in a constant speed, accelerating only when you have to. Do not over burden the accelerator as well, as it can have a negative impact on the accelerator.
  • Keep Tyre Pressure In Check: When you drive your vehicle with low tyre pressure, the contact area between the tyre and the road increases. As a result the friction between the tyre and the road increases, resulting in higher fuel consumption. Similarly, overinflated tyres would surely lead to a better economy, but at the cost of tyre grip and safety.
  • Use the cruise control feature if your car is equipped with one, as cruise control can ensure that your vehicle remains at a constant cruising speed, which will help you achieve the best mileage.
  • When driving an AMT, try to maintain a steady throttle/accelerator input, since irregular inputs can confuse the gear ratio algorithm leading to frequent gear changes, jerks, and also a low mileage.
  • Engage the neutral gear, when stopping at signals and otherwise. If left in Drive, the engine keeps on idling, consuming more fuel than it does on neutral. Thus, engage the neutral gear and employ the handbrakes as well.
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How to drive an automatic car in traffic

With a constant rise in traffic, our roads are marked with hour long traffic jams and slow driving speeds. While an automatic transmission makes driving in traffic more convenient, driving an automatic car is still a skill.  So here’s how to drive an automatic in traffic:

Lady driving car interior view
  • Don’t engage in sudden bursts of speed. It is true that traffic jams tend to take a toll on your mentality. The best way to deal with is by staying calm and composed. Whenever driving an automatic through traffic, take maximum advantage of the automatic idle speed. Just let go of the brake pedal and let the car crawl ahead. When you need to stop, just use the brakes. Let go off them if you need to resume again. Do not go harsh on the accelerator to move ahead. This will only lead to unnecessary jerks and a loss of control over the vehicle.
  • Don’t rev up your vehicle behind the car ahead and then eventually slam on your brakes to avoid hitting them. Drive as smoothly and gently as you can. Stick to the correct lane, and use turn indicator whenever you plan to shift lanes. Whenever possible, overtake from the left side instead of the right.
  • When cruising through city traffic make sure to check the IRVMs and ORVMs. Lightly press the brake pedal, every time you’re about to stop. By doing this you can be assured that your brake lights are up as you’re slowly stopping. This will indicate the traffic behind you that you are about to stop and prevent your vehicle from getting tailgated from behind.

How to drive an automatic car in hilly areas

Now that you are well versed with driving, it’s time to level up and learn driving uphill/downhill. Since driving on flat roads is fairly simple, make sure you are properly thorough before you take on the hills. To do that make sure you follow the below mentioned tips:

Car parked on incline
  • Use the Handbrake method to climb uphill: In normal situation, you would skilfully balance the brake and accelerator when driving on flat roads . For hills, however, you can use the handbrake method. Instead of depressing the brake, you can engage the handbrake. This will allow you to accelerate as you press the accelerator while simultaneously releasing the handbrake at the same time. When climbing uphill, press the accelerator a bit harder than how you would have pressed it on a flat road.
  • While going downhill, make it a point to make way for bigger/heavier vehicles like buses or trucks. Do not attempt to overtake any vehicle near hill bends or hill crests as it may create a blind spot. Also make sure to follow traffic rules more thoroughly when on hills. Press the brake pedal a little harder than you would have pressed when braking on flat roads.
  • When parking uphill or downhill, use the handbrake and leave your vehicle engaged in the P (Parking) gear.
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How to drive an automatic as a manual

Even though the biggest advantage of an automatic transmission is the fact that it changes gears automatically, the power delivery may leave you frustrated. This is because an automatic vehicle changes gear through a pre-defined torque ratio, which either causes delayed gear changes or lag in power delivery.

But fret not, because you can still experience the thrill of driving a manual, even when you’ve got an automatic transmission. Just turn your gear shift lever to the manual mode (M), and change gears by shifting the stick to the “+” and “-” directions to shift gears up and down. By doing so, you can decide when to shift the gear rather than the system. The best part about driving an automatic on manual mode is the fact that you still don’t have to press the clutch!

FAQ about driving an automatic car

Is it easy to drive an automatic car?

An automatic car is extremely easy to drive compared to a manual car. As automatic cars do not have a manual clutch, driving an automatic car only requires the driver to select the correct rive mode and apply the appropriate acceleration.

Do you have to press the brake when starting an automatic car?

Pressing the brake before starting an automatic car is essential to prevent unwanted forward motion when the car is started.

How do you slow down an automatic car?

Applying the brakes will help slow down the car. There is no need to manually change gears as the car will automatically shift down to first gear if you are coming to a complete stop.

Should you put your automatic car in neutral at red lights?

It is advised to put your automatic car in neutral at red lights as keeping the car in gear will lead to excessive fuel consumption, which will reduce the mileage you expect from your car.

How do you park an automatic car on a slope?

To park your automatic car on a slope or incline, first come to a complete stop. Then engage the handbrake and select the Park (P) mode on the automatic gear selector.

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