First Time Driving an Automatic Car? Useful Tips For an Easy Ride
Anyone who has ever driven an automatic car knows that it is much more relaxing and hassle-free compared to a car with a manual gearbox. Especially in congested traffic. And while it is a “blessing” it can also be scary and weird the first time you do it. All of a sudden your left foot loses it’s purpose and you have to adapt to a new way of driving. Trust us, we’ve been there and we are here to help!
Letting go of your left foot
This is the first and the most important tip of them all. If you make a switch from a manual car to a car with an automatic gearbox you often step into the void with your left foot. Especially during reflexive braking manoeuvres. Suddenly, there is no third pedal on the left side and your right foot does all the work.
Even though it might feel weird to have your left foot completely unemployed, it is meant to be that way. Do not try and use your left foot for braking. If you have driven cars with a manual gearbox before, you are used to using your right foot for braking and it is better to keep it that way. You have developed a certain amount of control and feeling so there is absolutely no reason why you should break with your left foot once you switch to an automatic.
Experts also point out that people who have a habit to use their left foot for braking, tend to rest their left foot on the brake pedal. Even the slightest contact with the brake pedal forces the brake pads to come in contact with the brake disc which means they wear out accordingly.
Other things to consider
We prepared a few additional tips to help you out with your first miles in an automatic car. After a few days, we are sure you will start enjoying it as we all do.
Apply the brake while stopping
Since there is no clutch, make sure you always keep your right foot on the brake pedal when coming to a stop. Do not shift to neutral (N), just keep your foot on the brake and release it when it’s time to move. Most modern cars with an automatic gearbox come equipped with an auto-hold function. The auto-hold function engages when you firmly press on the brake pedal while in drive (D) mode. The auto-hold function holds the car at a standstill while you wait at a stop sign or a traffic light. To release the auto-hold function, just step on the gas pedal and off you go.
Brake a bit harder and earlier
When braking with an automatic car you have to apply a bit more pressure to the brake pedal. Cars with an automatic gearbox usually take less advantage of engine braking than those with a manual gearbox. Braking a bit earlier before a sharp corner is also advisable so that the gearbox has the time to complete a downshift smoothly.
Different gear shift levers
By now you surely know that the gear shift lever looks and operates completely different from the gear shift lever of a manual gearbox. However, there are also differences between gear shift levers of different cars with automatic gearboxes. While they all follow the same pattern (PRND), the gear shift lever can be placed either in the centre console or on the right side of the steering wheel as it is more common with American made cars.
Use the emergency parking brake
Some modern automatic cars apply the parking brake automatically as you shift into park (P) and turn off the engine. Some don’t. We recommend you make it a habit to use the emergency parking brake when parking your automatic car, especially on un-level terrain. This will release the tension on your automatic gearbox and add another layer of security when leaving your car.
Step by step recap
Let’s summarize! Here is a step by step guide on how to safely drive your first miles in an automatic car.
1. The first thing to do in an automatic car is to start it. Make sure the handbrake is released. If your car features an automatic handbrake it should release itself as you shift into drive and take your foot off the brake.
2. Next, shift the gear lever into the desired position:
- D, or drive if you want to drive off normally
- R, or reverse if you want to go backwards
- S, or sport if you want to engage the “sport” gear shifting mode
Important: Your car will roll away as soon as you take your foot off the brake and shift into any of the positions above. The gearbox won’t engage in neutral but the car can still roll away.
3. You are all set, take your foot off the brake pedal, step on the accelerator and off you go! All you have to do now is use your RIGHT foot to break or
accelerate. Let your left leg take a rest, that’s it. When your ride comes to an end, shift into park (P) and apply the emergency parking brake.
Many people have a hard time switching from an automatic car to a car with a manual gearbox. Do you know why? Because automatics make driving so much easier, especially in the city. You can fully concentrate on navigating or just relaxing and not being bothered with constant gear changes in stop-and-go traffic. In addition, thanks to technological advances, automatic gearboxes can now fully compete with traditional manual gearboxes in terms of fuel consumption and acceleration.