Automatic cars are becoming increasingly popular – but how do you do about driving one? You may well find that driving an automatic is a more pleasant driving experience than that provided by a manual – but how do you get started? We’ve rounded up the basics below.
Once you’re in the car and you’ve checked the seat and mirrors are in the right positions, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the controls and pedals – remember in an automatic you just have a brake (on the left) and an accelerator (on the right).
It’s also crucial you familiarise yourself with the gear box. You’ll find the gear selector where a traditional manual gear stick is placed, between the driver’s and the passenger seat, or to the side of the steering wheel. As you’ll see, it’s quite different to a manual gear stick; you’ll usually have four choices where to put the gear selector: ‘P’, ‘R’, ‘N’ and ‘D’, denoting park, reverse, neutral and drive.
That might seem a lot of choice for a car that’s meant to be ‘automatic’, but you’ll see the choices soon narrow themselves down, making them much less onerous. Here’s how they work:
- Park is only ever used once the car is stationary and safely parked, only then do you choose ‘P’. So you use it when you’ve finished driving, as you do the handbrake, ensuring your car doesn’t go anywhere until you next need it.
- Reverse, as you would expect, for driving backwards. Neutral on the other hand can be used when you’ve stopped for short periods, in just such instances when you would apply the handbrake too. ‘Drive’ of course allows your car to move, and this is when an automatic comes into its own, as you don’t need to select a gear.
Some automatics also come with an additional first or second gear, which can be helpful in some circumstances, like negotiating a steep incline or preventing your wheels from spinning in inclement weather conditions. Moreover, some automatics give you the option to control gears either from paddles on the dashboard or via the gear selector.
But how to go about driving it? First, check the car has been left in the ‘park’ position. Then put your foot on the brake, put the key in the ignition and turn it clockwise. While keeping your foot on the brake, move the gear selector to ‘Drive’ or ‘Reverse’, as you require, and take off the handbrake.
As you lift your foot off the brake, you’ll find the car begins to move gently. If you are on a hill, you may need to add some acceleration, but otherwise, the car will choose the right gear for your journey. If you are ever stationary for more than 5-10 seconds during your journey, then apply the handbrake. Once you’ve reached your destination and are safely parked; then select the ‘Park’ option, put on the handbrake, turn off the ignition and exit.
Driving an automatic car may seem strange at first, but the key is to get to know your new car well and give yourself time to practise driving it. Learn to slow down and apply the brake sooner than you would in a manual car, for instance when you are approaching a corner. Also familiarise yourself with the different use of the accelerator, using it to give your car ‘oomph’ when you’d use a low gear in a manual car. However, once you’ve got used to these differences, you’ll find automatic cars make for a very relaxing driving experience.