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Changing from a manual car to an automatic: how to ensure a smooth transmission

It wasn’t that long ago that an automatic car was something of a rarity for most people. Automatics are becoming more common and more popular. If you have never driven an automatic before, and are thinking of moving from a manual, here are some important things to consider.

Before you start

The most notable difference between a manual and an automatic car is the extent of driver engagement required to drive the car. As most people are aware, manual cars have three pedals, clutch, brake and accelerator, and the driver has to change the gears as the car goes faster or slower.

An automatic gearbox changes gear for you, as such it only has two pedals, a brake and an accelerator. It does still have a gear stick, but rather than gears it has a Drive, Reverse, Neutral and Park setting and moving between the setting doesn’t involve a clutch.

Drive will select gears automatically and allow the car to move forwards.

Reverse acts the same as a reverse gear in a manual and should be selected when you need to drive backwards.

Neutral is the same as knocking a manual gearbox out of gear. It can be used (along with the handbrake) if the car is stopped for a short period of time (for example in stationary traffic).

Park should only be used when the car is stopped, and the driver is getting out of the car. This ‘locks’ the transmission, preventing it from rolling away, but the handbrake will still need to be applied when the car is parked.

Automatics are certainly simpler to drive and just involve pressing the accelerator pedal or brake when needed — the gearbox will do the rest.

Adjusting to the pedals

It may seem logical to use your left foot for braking and your right foot for acceleration. However, this is not recommended unless you have adaptations on your car or an impairment, which means you must do this. Try to get used to just using one foot to move between the pedals because pushing both down at the same time can be dangerous.

It is also worth keeping in mind that a car with an automatic gearbox will move forward or “creep” when you remove your foot from the brake pedal. This can be a very useful function in stop start traffic in comparison to a traditional manual gearbox, where using a clutch pedal over long periods of time can become tiring.

Taking time to learn

Automatics are great — they can be greener, easier to drive and hassle-free. They can also be great for people with limited mobility because they don’t require the use of a foot-operated clutch pedal. The key in moving to an automatic is taking the time to get used to how it works. It may take some practice to learn how to take advantage of the “creep” function and to remember to put it in Park and engage the handbrake when the car is parked.

Automatic cars available on the Motability Scheme

There are many automatic cars available on the Motability Scheme. You can browse the full list using the car search tool.


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