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Driving an Automatic Car

Our top tips for driving automatic cars

If you have never driven an automatic car (or van) before, you will find it rather strange when you first get behind the wheel. However, driving automatic cars is actually quite easy, and you will quickly adapt to the new set up and come to enjoy the simplicity of automatic driving.

The benefits of driving an automatic car

The biggest benefit of driving an automatic is that you don’t have to think about when to change gear, or about getting that all-important clutch balance right. This frees you up to concentrate on the road and focus on the traffic and pedestrians around you.

Many drivers find it difficult to relinquish control of gear changes to an automatic system, claiming that it takes the skill and fun out of driving, but others find it much easier and less tiring than a traditional manual transmission.

Things to be aware of when driving an automatic

In essence, driving an automatic car is much like driving a go-kart, with one pedal to go and one to stop. However, there are a number of quirks that you need to be aware of when driving an automatic vehicle, especially if you are not used to the set up:

  • Engine ‘creep’ – an automatic vehicle will start to creep forwards as soon as you start the engine, so you need to have your foot on the brake. Many automatic cars will not start unless you have your foot on the brake.
  • High gears on hills – an automatic car will change up to a higher gear on a steep downhill stretch as your speed increases. To avoid this, and benefit from engine braking, you should select one of the fixed gear settings (1, 2 or 3) using the gear stick.
  • Reduced engine braking – similarly, an automatic car will not offer the same engine braking you get from a manual car when you take your foot off the accelerator, so you will need to brake more heavily that you might expect.
  • Changing up at corners –automatic cars can change up a gear when you ease the pressure on the accelerator for a corner. You can avoid this by slowing down in plenty of time, which will make your engine change down a gear, then accelerating through the bend.
  • Slippery conditions – in conditions such as snow and ice, it is safer to use a higher gear to move off in an automatic car. To achieve this at low acceleration, you need to manually select a higher gear (2 or 3 on the gear stick).
  • Left foot braking – while it may be tempting to use your redundant left foot for braking, you should avoid doing this to reduce confusion in an emergency stop. Occasionally, you may need to use your left foot to brake when maneuvering on a hill as you will need a little acceleration to move the car.

If in any doubt, ask someone who has driven an automatic car before to give you lessons or some hints and tips. Never set off in an automatic car unless you feel completely confident, or you will put yourself and other road users at risk.

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