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Iknow how to drive stick but please tell me about driving an automatic

BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
edited August 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I may have to visit the US soon which would then include renting a car so I foresee my self having to use an automatic gearbox. I think they have P=park, D=Drive and R=reverse but the ones I have seen i cabs also have some number slots so what is the deal?

And how do you go about starting on a hill without a clutch pedal. Left foot breaking or?


Also info on what to look out for driving in the US as opposed to Europe?

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  • DrZiplockDrZiplock Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    You're over thinking the whole "driving an automatic" thing.

    On a hill you just move your right foot from the break to the gas. Don't use your left. The car will only roll very slightly, nothing like you'll experience in a manual.

    You're forgetting neutral on the gearbox. As for the numbers, if you're just driving around in a rental, don't worry about it. They're lower gear settings that 90% of people don't use. Just throw it in drive and be on your way.

    As for what to look out for? Well, that depends on where you're from. Germany? Our speed limits are lower. Other countries? We have larger cars. England or Japan? You're driving on the other side of the road and we don't use that many roundabouts.

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  • YogoYogo Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Driving an automatic is just like it says - automatic.

    You have two pedals. One for breaking and one for speeding. The stick is used to designate what type of action you want the car to take (P for parking, D for driving, R for reverse).

    Starting on a hill is similar to driving with a stick. You hit the break pedal and press the gas to get momentum into the car. Once you believe you have reached the momentum to break the downwards momentum, you release the break pedal and go forward (and perhaps increase the pressure on the gas pedal).


    Compared to driving with a stick, you are only missing 1 pedal (clutch) and would have to move your feet faster between the break and the gas pedal (unless you are a "clutch-rider" and use the clutch and gas to keep the car still while on a hill).

    Edit: Meant to say "press the gas" - not "pass the gas" :lol:

  • DrZiplockDrZiplock Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    On a hill in an automatic there is no way you have to move faster than in a manual.

    Don't dawdle, but yea, the car won't roll nearly as much.

    snap02869.jpg "zip, i dunno what it is about you, but there's something very cat-like about your face. i can't really place it. like, a puma or something. you'd make a good mountain lion."
  • CBG BlenderCBG Blender Registered User, ClubPA
    edited August 2010
    Generally, most people don't use their left foot for anything when driving automatic. Right foot for break and gas just like a manual. As for starting on a hill just let off the break and hit the gas. I've driven some automatics that don't even roll backwards at all on hills as long as you're in drive.

    The Number slots are for when you need to stay in a low gear without automatically switching, some people use them for towing or steep hills. Probably won't see much use in regular city driving.

    As far as driving in the US, it can vary depending on what area you're in. The general rule is expect people to drive like crap. There will probably be giant SUV's and trucks all over the road. There will be teenagers driving those giant vehicles while talking on the phone, texting, etc.

  • ChanusChanus Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yogo wrote: »
    Starting on a hill is similar to driving with a stick. You hit the break pedal and press the gas to get momentum into the car. Once you believe you have reached the momentum to break the downwards momentum, you release the break pedal and go forward (and perhaps increase the pressure on the gas pedal).

    In 15 years of driving, I've never done, nor needed to do this. In fact, two-footed driving is a pretty good way to ruin your breaks in an automatic.

    A car with an automatic transmission in "drive" will always tend to go forward if the brake is not depressed. In most cars (and on most hills) this is enough to never make your car drift backward like it does in a manual transmission car.

    The only time this wouldn't be the case is on a very steep incline.

    The only thing you'll really want to worry about is practicing depressing the gas pedal slowly when you start moving (this applies on flat land as well). It's slightly different for every car (but not to worry if you don't plan on driving multiple cars)... and it's pretty easy to get the hang of it. You just don't want to stomp on the gas.

  • TavataarTavataar Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yogo wrote: »
    Starting on a hill is similar to driving with a stick. You hit the break pedal and press the gas to get momentum into the car. Once you believe you have reached the momentum to break the downwards momentum, you release the break pedal and go forward (and perhaps increase the pressure on the gas pedal).

    Yea...don't do this. As everyone else has stated, driving an automatic is super easy mode. If you are on flat ground, and you ease up on the brake, you will automatically (hah) start moving forward since the car is already in first gear. As was mentioned above me, this is also normally enough torque to keep you from rolling backwards if you are stopped on a hill.

    -Tavataar
  • McKidMcKid Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Just so that it's clear : just by being in drive, you will go forward, even though you don't press the gas.

  • CecilsanCecilsan Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Depending on the grade of hill and vehicle idle, you can actually let off the brake entirely and not move forward or back

    But as the others said, you're overthinking automatic. You pretty much hold the brake until you're ready to go, let off and push on the gas. Unless the person behind you is literally an inch from your bumper, you aren't even going to come remotely close to them

  • DehumanizedDehumanized Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    when driving an automatic, the left foot is for tapping in time with the bass of whatever you're listening to

    when parking, put the car in "P"ark

    when driving, put the car in "D"rive

    when backing up, put the car in "R"everse

    when going through a car wash, put the car in "N"eutral

    the numbers are not important for regular operation of the vehicle

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  • illigillig Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yogo wrote: »
    Driving an automatic is just like it says - automatic.

    You have two pedals. One for breaking and one for speeding. The stick is used to designate what type of action you want the car to take (P for parking, D for driving, R for reverse).

    Starting on a hill is similar to driving with a stick. You hit the break pedal and press the gas to get momentum into the car. Once you believe you have reached the momentum to break the downwards momentum, you release the break pedal and go forward (and perhaps increase the pressure on the gas pedal).


    Compared to driving with a stick, you are only missing 1 pedal (clutch) and would have to move your feet faster between the break and the gas pedal (unless you are a "clutch-rider" and use the clutch and gas to keep the car still while on a hill).

    Edit: Meant to say "press the gas" - not "pass the gas" :lol:

    Err. Based on your post, I'm fairly certain that you've never actually driven an automatic. Perhaps you saw it in a movie once?

    OP, an automatic is the easiest thing to drive next to a one speed bicycle.
    1. You start the car without touching any pedals.
    2. You need to step on the brake to shift out of park.
    3. You select D if you want to go forward, and R if you want to go backwards. You must come to a complete stop before shifting between R, D, and P.
    4. You never have to use more than one foot. Basically, you're either accelerating or breaking. This works regardless of any incline because the transmission basically only allows you to go in the direction that you've selected - either forwards or backwards. You may roll a little but its nothing to worry about it.
    5. You must shift into park to remove the key. Shifting into park also essentially locks the wheels, so you don't have to use the parking brake unless you're on a significant incline.
    The only times the above do not apply are when you're trying to do something extreme like a burnout (by doing a brakestand), towing (when you use the other gears, 1,2,3), or off roading.

  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited August 2010
    I honestly wouldn't worry about rolling backwards at all, In my years of driving I don't think I've ever rolled backwards even an inch. I've had enough downward slope to keep the car from going forward, but thats the extent of it

  • ceresceres Just your problem OoSuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited August 2010
    two pedals one foot

    Don't use more than one foot. You'll get used to it pretty quick.

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  • BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Thank you all for the info. Sounds to me like I should be able to get away with it okay:-)

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  • ZoolanderZoolander Registered User
    edited August 2010
    Only thing that trips me up when switching from driving manual for a long time to driving automatic is that in an automatic, even a light touch on the accelerator can get your car going pretty fast from a stop. Takes me a few seconds to get used to applying a different amount of pressure on the accelerator compared to manuals.

  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA
    edited August 2010
    The funny thing will be the first time you go to decelerate from full speed to stop at a red light. If you're anywhere near as retarded as I am, you'll reach with your left foot for the clutch as you gently brake with the right.

    And end up pounding on the brake with both feet, resulting in a pleasant lurching, screeching moment.

    I've noticed that the brake pedal seems wider in automatics, on that note. I've never noticed the gas to be more sensitive than it is in a stick, unless you're used to starting out in second on a stick or something? Dunno man. Just try to remember to leave your left foot on the floor.

    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
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  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    The brake pedal is wider so that, in emergencies, if you need to stop NOW you slam down on it with both feet, as opposed to using one for the brake and one to disengage the clutch.

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  • SporkedSporked Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    The brake pedal is wider so that, in emergencies, if you need to stop NOW you slam down on it with both feet, as opposed to using one for the brake and one to disengage the clutch.


    Which is something that hasn't been even remotely necessary for 30 years or more*, now it's just wider because that's the way it is. You could also argue that it's an easier target for old ladies to hit violently for no reason at all. Either way, it's never, ever, ever, ever a good idea to do that. I can only think of a few instances when you'd use two feet behind the wheel of an automatic, and they all involve tricky maneuvers or drag racing, and none put both feet on the brake pedal.

    *because passenger car braking systems are much, much more efficient now and not having the leg strength to push the pedal down enough to lock the wheels or engage the ABS with one foot is indicative of a systemic inability to safely operate a vehicle.

  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Oh true. I was just stating why it was like it was. In ye olde times, I wonder how anyone stopped quickly at all if they drove a manual....

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  • ZenitramZenitram Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Like someone said, the hill would have to be really really steep for you to go backwards at all in an automatic. You go forward as soon as you let off the brake, you don't even need to be on the throttle.

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  • FatsFats Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Oh true. I was just stating why it was like it was. In ye olde times, I wonder how anyone stopped quickly at all if they drove a manual....

    A strong right leg! It's still not too difficult to lock the wheels with drum brakes and no power assist, assuming everything is in good shape.

  • FightTestFightTest Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I drove an automatic for like.. 10 years and I never used anything other than P/D/R. I honestly don't even know what the numbered shifter positions were for. Also taking off on a hill is not worth thinking about. Unless your leg is mostly paralyzed and you're on a ridiculous incline there's nothing to even think about. I don't think I ever experienced any sort of roll-back driving the auto, and I definitely don't remember any.

    The only hard thing about moving to an automatic is your left foot feels like it should be doing something. Beyond that an automatic is stupidly easy to drive, nothing worth thinking/worrying about.

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  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    You appreciate the numbered gears when you're going around a foggy mountain. It lets you focus on the road, not your speed.

    If you're ever going to Gatlinburg from Georgia in the Winter, take the route with the lowest altitude. So much fog and snow. The locals thought we were suicidal when we told them how we came. We were glad to learn of the highway we were supposed to take in.

  • garroad_rangarroad_ran Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    One important thing that always shocks me whenever I have to drive one of my family members' cars is that initial moment when I sit in the driver's seat and am going to start the ignition.

    The parking brake is likely to not be engaged.
    I don't have to take the car out of 1st and make sure it's in neutral.
    I don't have a clutch to press as I'm turning the key.

    It makes the simple act of sitting in the chair and starting the engine feel very alien, as if I'm doing it all wrong.

    But seriously, all there is to it is: sit down, put the key in the slot, turn the key.

  • HeirHeir Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    One important thing that always shocks me whenever I have to drive one of my family members' cars is that initial moment when I sit in the driver's seat and am going to start the ignition.

    The parking brake is likely to not be engaged.
    I don't have to take the car out of 1st and make sure it's in neutral.
    I don't have a clutch to press as I'm turning the key.

    It makes the simple act of sitting in the chair and starting the engine feel very alien, as if I'm doing it all wrong.

    But seriously, all there is to it is: sit down, put the key in the slot, turn the key.

    This. I drove a stick for a long time...it still feels weird starting up an automatic. I tend to still keep my foot pressed down on the brake when I start the car.

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  • XaviarXaviar Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I drive both regularly, and the super hardest thing for me is that occasionally, the e-brake will be a pedal right up against the left of where the pedals are. Do NOT push this when you feel like you should be clutching. It takes a conscious effort. At least, for me.

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  • 28682868 Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Point it and go. Thread over.

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  • RaneadosRaneados Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Xaviar wrote: »
    I drive both regularly, and the super hardest thing for me is that occasionally, the e-brake will be a pedal right up against the left of where the pedals are. Do NOT push this when you feel like you should be clutching. It takes a conscious effort. At least, for me.

    what car has this?

    are you driving a bus?

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  • FatsFats Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Raneados wrote: »
    Xaviar wrote: »
    I drive both regularly, and the super hardest thing for me is that occasionally, the e-brake will be a pedal right up against the left of where the pedals are. Do NOT push this when you feel like you should be clutching. It takes a conscious effort. At least, for me.

    what car has this?

    are you driving a bus?

    Generally pickup trucks, SUVs and older cars.

  • ReaperSMSReaperSMS Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    some american models put the parking brake over there.

    the worst part about an automatic (aside from the usual) is stomping down on what should be the clutch, and jarring your leg when you hit something with no give to it.

    The rest, you have stop and go faster.

  • PelPel Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    The hardest part about driving an automatic is remembering to not reach for the gearshift every time you slow down, and, as said, remembering to not tap the brake while reaching for the clutch. If you're like me, you also occasionally shut off your automatic and leave the keys in the ignition while you run back into your house, and be momentarily confused as to why your car won't start when you hop back in. (hint: it's still in gear).

  • ArrathArrath Registered User
    edited August 2010
    Fats wrote: »
    Raneados wrote: »
    Xaviar wrote: »
    I drive both regularly, and the super hardest thing for me is that occasionally, the e-brake will be a pedal right up against the left of where the pedals are. Do NOT push this when you feel like you should be clutching. It takes a conscious effort. At least, for me.

    what car has this?

    are you driving a bus?

    Generally pickup trucks, SUVs and older cars.

    Some minivans as well.

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  • CecilsanCecilsan Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Err. Based on your post, I'm fairly certain that you've never actually driven an automatic. Perhaps you saw it in a movie once?

    OP, an automatic is the easiest thing to drive next to a one speed bicycle.
    1. You start the car without touching any pedals.
    2. You need to step on the brake to shift out of park.
    3. You select D if you want to go forward, and R if you want to go backwards. You must come to a complete stop before shifting between R, D, and P.
    4. You never have to use more than one foot. Basically, you're either accelerating or breaking. This works regardless of any incline because the transmission basically only allows you to go in the direction that you've selected - either forwards or backwards. You may roll a little but its nothing to worry about it.
    5. You must shift into park to remove the key. Shifting into park also essentially locks the wheels, so you don't have to use the parking brake unless you're on a significant incline.
    The only times the above do not apply are when you're trying to do something extreme like a burnout (by doing a brakestand), towing (when you use the other gears, 1,2,3), or off roading.

    Just an FYI, this is not a good habit. You should always press in the brake when starting a car. Things may not function properly and you could end up back in your house or running over someone

  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA
    edited August 2010
    Cecilsan wrote: »
    Err. Based on your post, I'm fairly certain that you've never actually driven an automatic. Perhaps you saw it in a movie once?

    OP, an automatic is the easiest thing to drive next to a one speed bicycle.
    1. You start the car without touching any pedals.
    2. You need to step on the brake to shift out of park.
    3. You select D if you want to go forward, and R if you want to go backwards. You must come to a complete stop before shifting between R, D, and P.
    4. You never have to use more than one foot. Basically, you're either accelerating or breaking. This works regardless of any incline because the transmission basically only allows you to go in the direction that you've selected - either forwards or backwards. You may roll a little but its nothing to worry about it.
    5. You must shift into park to remove the key. Shifting into park also essentially locks the wheels, so you don't have to use the parking brake unless you're on a significant incline.
    The only times the above do not apply are when you're trying to do something extreme like a burnout (by doing a brakestand), towing (when you use the other gears, 1,2,3), or off roading.

    Just an FYI, this is not a good habit. You should always press in the brake when starting a car. Things may not function properly and you could end up back in your house or running over someone

    If you're driving an automatic it shouldn't be in gear when you start it. I doubt most would, but if your car can start out of P, don't.

    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
  • CorvusCorvus Caw? VancouverRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Fats wrote: »
    Raneados wrote: »
    Xaviar wrote: »
    I drive both regularly, and the super hardest thing for me is that occasionally, the e-brake will be a pedal right up against the left of where the pedals are. Do NOT push this when you feel like you should be clutching. It takes a conscious effort. At least, for me.

    what car has this?

    are you driving a bus?

    Generally pickup trucks, SUVs and older cars.

    Yeah, I was surprised when my mom bought a Honda CRV in 2008 and it had this style e-brake.

  • President RexPresident Rex Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    As someone noted above, vehicles tend to be much bigger in the US (and North America in general). A 2-lane road would likely accomodate 3 lanes in Germany and nearly 4 in Italy. If you get a small rental it'll feel like you have a ton of space; if you get a bigger rental make sure you're conscious of the size difference.



    I keep the brake depressed when starting. I haven't seen a car where it's necessary, but ...eh, I do it anyway.

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  • The Black HunterThe Black Hunter Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Automatic hill starts

    engage the handbrake, don't worry about the brake pedal

    touch on the accelerator until you are on enough revs to move forward and release the handbrake

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  • NostregarNostregar Registered User
    edited August 2010
    Automatic hill starts

    engage the handbrake, don't worry about the brake pedal

    touch on the accelerator until you are on enough revs to move forward and release the handbrake

    You don't need to engage the handbrake.

    It will not roll backwards.

    Spoiler:
  • The Black HunterThe Black Hunter Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Nostregar wrote: »
    Automatic hill starts

    engage the handbrake, don't worry about the brake pedal

    touch on the accelerator until you are on enough revs to move forward and release the handbrake

    You don't need to engage the handbrake.

    It will not roll backwards.

    on a steep enough decline it will

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  • garroad_rangarroad_ran Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yeah wtf?

    Automatic hill starts:

    1. release brake
    2. accelerate
    3. there is no step 3

  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yeah, I hate going up vertical cliffs in my car with an auto transmission. It really sucks to not have to hold three different brakes before hitting the gas pedal.

    But really, even in the mountains of Pennsylvania, I have never encountered a hill where an auto will slide backwards. It won't creep forward like it does on flat, level ground; but I've never had it slide backwards.

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