Switching to an Automatic car


Driving an Automatic

Suzanne Keane shares tips for manual-transmission drivers, faced with the challenge of driving an automatic car 

Most of us in Ireland learn to drive cars with manual gearboxes and although it may seem easier, the first time you sit in a car that’s automatic can be daunting for some.

It may seem simple – D for Drive, R for Reverse but what exactly are the rest?

N stands for Neutral – this is for when you don’t want the car selecting any gear (if you needed to push it for example)

P is for Park – This can only be used when you’re completely stopped as it locks the gearbox (similar to leaving a car in gear when you’re parking)

You may also have the option to manually select 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear – although beware some cars will override you on this if the computer thinks you’re in the wrong gear!

These options are usually only used if you were struggling to move using the automatic selection – such as on a steep hill or under heavy load.

Now that you’ve checked out what the different options mean lets get going!

  • Before starting the engine, ensure the car is in Park, and press the brake firmly.
  • Keeping your foot on the brake change gears to either Reverse or Drive, depending on which way you’re going, then slowly ease off the brake to move off.
  • If this is your first time driving an automatic check out the brakes before going out on the open road – they can often be more severe than in a manual. Also remember that with light presses of the brake pedal in traffic the brakes can creak and that that is normal so there’s no need to be alarmed.
  • Always use your right foot for the brake and the accelerator as you would in a manual car. There may be a footrest for your left foot – use it!
  • When stopped at traffic lights or a roundabout, keep your foot firmly on the brake pedal. You don’t need to change gears into Park. For safety, engage the parking brake to make sure the vehicle stays in place, but remove it before attempting to move again.
  • If you do need to accelerate quickly, to avoid a hazard, for example, press the accelerator fully to the floor momentarily. This will make the car drop a gear giving your engine more power and acceleration. This action is called a Kick-Down.


Suzanne Keane


16th March, 2021




Author: Suzanne Keane

A confirmed petrol head with a penchant for Retro VW’s, Suzanne has been taking apart (and sometimes putting back together) her own cars for years! You can follow Suzanne on Twitter at @_suzannekeane

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