What Does Kickdown Mean For Automatic Vehicles?
If you’ve been looking into automatic cars, and especially older models, you might have come across the term kickdown. You may even have come across older model cars with a kickdown switch. So, here’s everything you need to know about kickdown and how it has changed in modern vehicles.
What Is Kickdown?
Kickdown is a term used to describe when your car’s transmission downshifts. This is usually in response to acceleration. Kickdown often happens automatically when it’s needed. However, in older cars, it was possible to use a switch to force a downshift on command.
Why Do You Need It?
Kickdown is vital for when you need to accelerate after travelling at a steady speed. The most common example is accelerating to overtake. For instance, if you’ve been travelling at 60mph for a while, and then need to accelerate. Without a kickdown, when you press on the accelerator, you’d only speed up very slowly. After a kickdown, you’ll get much more acceleration allowing you to pass another car safely.
How Has It Changed?
In older automatic transmissions, the only way to get a kickdown was to press the accelerator all the way to the floor. Once the pedal hits the metal, you get your downshift and your acceleration. This is why you sometimes had a kickdown switch. It saved you from flooring your accelerator.
Modern transmissions don’t require you to floor your accelerator to trigger a kickdown.
How Does It Work?
Modern transmissions are responsive. The computer-assisted transmission control will compare your speed to the position of your accelerator. If the car is not accelerating an appropriate amount for the position of the pedal, then this will trigger a gear change. It is not uncommon for these responsive transmissions to shift by more than one gear at a time.
If your automatic car has a sport or performance mode, then one of the things this change is the trigger point for a kickdown. In this mode, kickdown will happen more readily. This increases your acceleration but at the cost of your fuel efficiency.