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Automatic cars: 10 things NOBODY tells you about

There is no denying the fact that automatics are slowly displacing manual gearboxes. While enthusiasts might still want to stick to their stick shifters, the majority of new car buyers are now looking towards buying an automatic gearbox equipped car. However, the majority of the market share is still held by manual gearbox cars in India and hence many new automatic buyers find driving an automatic a bit too different from driving a manual car. Therefore, here are some tips that should help you adapt better to an automatic gearbox.

Always remember, left foot should remain on the dead pedal at all times

The dead pedal is a non-depressable pedal that is placed on the left-hand side of the driver’s footwell. It serves the purposes of resting the driver’s foot on it so that the driver does not ride the clutch and the response times are better. Now AT cars don’t have a clutch pedal but still, when driving an automatic car, make sure to not use your left foot for operating the brake. Only the right foot should be used for both accelerating as well as braking in order to avoid the habit of ‘left foot braking’. Engaging in left foot braking means that sometimes your right foot will still be on the accelerator while using brakes and under some conditions like emergency braking, this can be disastrous. If your automatic transmission car does not offer a dead pedal, simply keep it aside and forget about using it.

Not going downhill in neutral

Doing so takes some control away from you. This is because you can’t accelerate in the neutral mode and can only slow down using the brake pedal. Also, you’ll need to first come to a halt before shifting into ‘D’ to start accelerating, which will become too complicated on a slope. Modern-day automatics are wise enough to cut fuel supply on a downward slope, so you really don’t need to shift to neutral to save some fuel.

Shift to N only after car stops

Neutral Coasting

It is highly recommended to shift to N (Neutral) or to R (reverse) in automatic transmission only and only once the car has been brought to a complete halt. This is because shifting to Neutral while the vehicle is moving causes quite a lot of wear and tear of the automatic transmission band. Hence, it’s best to shift the gear lever only after you’ve come to a complete halt.

Always park car in P mode

Gearbox Transmission Automatic Neutral

That’s right. When driving an automatic car, make it a habit to put your car in P (Park) position on the gearshift mode selector level. This is quite important as it prevents the vehicle to roll off in case the handbrake becomes loose or ineffective.

Make sure you always use handbrake

The best solution to keep your car in place when parking it is to apply the handbrakes, be it a manual car or an automatic car. This is because of the fact that the stopping force of a handbrake is far greater than what the Park mode in automatic cars offers. Therefore, leaving your car in P mode on a slope might not only cause your car to roll away, but it is also not good for the longevity of the automatic transmission.

Be careful about the change in performance

It is quite natural that manual and automatic models of the same car behave in a different manner altogether. Further, there are good chances that the AT version of a car would be marginally quicker and even faster than their manual counterparts. This is due to the advancements in auto transmission technologies. Some Dual Clutch Transmission-equipped automatic cars are actually quicker than their manual variants. Hence, it’s certainly not a good idea to get into the car and floor the accelerator as soon as you put the gear lever in D mode. Almost all sports cars and supercars now feature automatic gearboxes and this would not have been the scene if auto boxes were sluggish.

Automatics now offer better mileage

There was a time when automatic gearbox equipped cars had poor fuel economy compared to their manual counterparts. However, modern auto boxes have bridged that gap to quite an extent and some automatic cars even deliver better mileage than their manual counterparts. The dual clutch transmission- and AMT-equipped automatic cars are usually more fuel efficient than their manual siblings. The Toyota Fortuner and the Honda city are a good example of this case.

Not all automatics are alike

One generally refers to all types of auto boxes as automatic transmission but that’s not the case. In fact, there are several different kinds of automatic gearboxes and they all have different natures. Basically, there are three types of ATs – AMT, CVT and DCT/DSG. All of them have a different feel as well as a slightly different operation. For instance, AMT cars need to be put in neutral while at a traffic light while on other automatics, no such action is required. Another good example is the CVT type automatic box which has a typical rubber band effect that’s not found on other kinds of ATs. So, it’s best you understand the nature of the automatic tranny on your car before you start planning to explore it to the fullest.

Understanding the difference between MTs and ATs

Manual Gearbox

If you are switching from a manual gearbox car to Automatic car, it will take sometime before you get used to the change in torque delivery/acceleration. While some ATs aren’t as quick as the MTs, others like some DCCT boxes are quicker. Therefore, overtaking might require some planning during the initial days of transition from MT to AT.

The properer way of towing an AT car

Yes, cars with automatic transmission can’t just be towed like anything. In fact, even manual cars should not be towed if the gear is engaged and the powered wheels are in contact with the ground. For automatic cars, the powered wheels should never be on the road while the car is being towed. In a Rear Wheel Drive car it should be vice verse. Towing your car with the powered wheels on the ground can cause abnormal and excessive wear and tear of the transmission.