How to drive an automatic transmission car?

The automatic transmission cars weren’t never so popular as the manual transmissions’.
These are 3 reason:

  • they give less driving control (because we can’t control the strong of the vehicle with the gearbox, so we can feel that the car is self-go, we can’t drive it)
  • they consume more fuel
  • they are more expensive

During a long trip they mean more comfort for the drive. It’s huge advantage that they completely fits into the different driving styles.

In a manual transmission car the driver can decide, when he would like to switch the gearbox in a way that he presses the clutch and moves the gearbox to the desired position.
In an automatic transmission car there is no clutch pedal. If the gearbox is in position D, the car automatically choose the correct status based on engine and speed.


The gearbox

Almost all automatic gearboxes contain the following stages:

  • P – parking (lock the gearbox, we must choose it if the car is standing)
  • R – rear parking
  • N – neutral (the same as in manual transmission cars)
  • D – driving
  • 2 – second stage
  • 1 – first stage

We max wonder it, why there are 1 and 2 stages, if the gear shifting is automatic? Sometimes the drivers needs to override the automatic system, for example if he is going down on a steep hill. In this situation the automatic gearbox try to switch up to higher stage, even though that for safety reasons we have to move in lower gear.


automatic transmission gear shift


How to start, move and stop?

We have to do 2 things: the gearbox must be in position P, and we have to depress the brake pedal. Most automatic transmission cars won’t start as long as we don’t make these steps. So right foot is on the brake, the gearbox is in P, turn the key and start the car. To move we switch from P to D.

Automatic cars have been designed to move ahead without we press the accelerator pedal. Because of this, if we would like to reach standing position, have to use the brake pedal or the hand brake.

Slow down and stop
These are easier things with automatic transmission cars than with manual transmissions’. But we have to remember that the automatic gearbox doesn’t react so fast to the recovering of the accelerator, so there is less chance to slow down with engine brake.
To slow down, we take off our foot from accelerator and put on brake. Because of the weaker engine break we have to brake earlier and harder, the gearbox automatically switches back to a lower gear. This is a good help at junctions or in other situations where we need to slow down, because we can pay more attention to the external factors so it may be safer.
At the end of the trip we switch the gearbox to P and pull up the hand brake, before we stop the car’s engine.

Parking and waiting
We always use the hand brake, if we are standing in traffic jam. If there is a little stop, then the brake pedal can be enough.
At parking, we use the hand brake and switch to P position, before we release the brake pedal. Just if we go again, then press the brake, release the handbrake and switch to D.

The automatic gearshifts is often switched up, when we reduce the accelerator pedal’ pressure at turning, which can cause, that we drive faster in the turn that we would like. To avoid this, before we reach the bend, we have to gently accelerate. So the automatic gearshift will switch to a lower gear. If there are a lot of bends on the road, put the gearbox to second or third position.

Park distance
Put our leg to the brake pedal, switch the gearbox to R. Release the brake slowly and press the accelerator pedal gently.

Because the automatic transmission cars move automatically and slowly, we don’t need to press the accelerator pedal if we maneuvering at low speeds.
If we do this at hilly place, of course we have to press a little gas.
Most of the automatic cars allow manual shifting. This is marked on the gearbox with numbers according to manual gearbox. The first gear is often marked with L (low).
These low gears can be very useful in slow motion (traffic jam), and if we need the engine brake (downhill).

Kick down
If we have to accelerate suddenly, use the kick down. By using it we can force the automatic gearbox that is stay in lower position for a long time.
To activate this we have to press hardly the accelerator pedal and keep it there until we don’t reach the desired speed. If we reached this, remove our foot from the accelerator.

Starting uphill
If we want to move forward at steep place, at starting isn’t sufficient to remove our foot from brake pedal. In some automatic transmission cars have a feature, which can prevent slippage back, but we haven’t got this, make the following:

  • check that the hand break is unplugged
  • carefully press the accelerator pedal
  • we can feel that the nose of the car begin to rise
  • release the brand brake and let the car sliding forward a bit until we press the accelerator.

If we move downhill, choose a lower gear position (1,2 or 3) to control the car’s speed. This keeps the car at lower gear and prevent to switch into higher gear.

Driving in snow, ice
To prevent the wheels for spinning on slippery road, switch into higher gear. Some automatic transmission cars have a feature to these conditions, which we can manually choose, but if we haven’t, select position 2 or 3 to reduce the car’s speed.

How does the automatic transmission work?

The automatic gearbox is a masterpiece of car technology. The device is connected with the car’s computer, hydraulic and mechanic system so it shifts when it is needed.

automatic gearbox

The gearbox have to make sure that the engine rpm keep and remain on safe level, while provides enough torque to the drive shaft, so the car can move as fast as needed.

  • At lower gear, the engine works harder, while the wheels rotate slowly. We need a lower gear when the wheels in under higher pressure. (for example when the car accelerate first, when we overtake an other car or move uphill.)
  • At higher gear, the engine is closer to neutral position, while the wheels rotate quickly with little torque. This works until the car can easily roll on highway or downhill, because in there the car needs a very little force to move.

The gearbox’s job is measuring the pressure, for example if we go uphill or want to accelerate suddenly, it compares the current speed and the pressure of the wheels. If the difference is large, then the computer system decides, than it switches to a lower gear to get more power to the wheels in order to increase the speed.



  • Don’t switch to P or R position while the car is moving!
  • Avoid driving to slowly and idle speed.
  • If we have to pause at a short time (traffic jam), it isn’t necessary to switch from D to P. Pull up the handbrake that the car will be immobile.
  • If we are standing in jam, switch to neutral (N) and keep our foot on the brake. This interrupts the drive at the wheels and prevents the motor overheating.
  • If we get stuck in the mud and the wheels don’t go further, do not press the gas because it can damage the transmission. Call for help instead.
  • Just like in a manual transmission car use the right leg for braking.
  • The automatic car’s engine braking is less efficient, so use with caution.
  • The maintenance of the gearbox is important – we should regularly check the level of the transmission fluid.