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Automatics – What You Need To Know Before You Get Behind The Wheel

In last week’s blog we looked at different driving licence categories – and what they might mean to you. When it comes to manual vs automatic transmission, not all driving licences are created equal. If you have a “normal” category B driving licence, you are permitted to drive any type of transmission.

If however you have a category B AUTO licence, which means that you learnt to drive and took your test in an automatic vehicle, you can only drive automatics; if you want to switch to a manual, you will need to retake your test.

If you’re an manual driver and you are planning on sliding behind the wheel of an automatic, here are a few things that you should know:

Step one: unlearn everything you take for granted about driving

No clutch, no changing gears – just two pedals! The first time you drive an automatic, it may feel more like you’re driving a dodgem than an actual car. But you will get used to it surprisingly quickly; you might even prefer it.

Step two: meet your gearbox. Gears and reverse are replaced by: Drive – for normal driving – this will select your gears for you without you having to do anything; Reverse – does what it implies; Neutral – for brief stops e.g. in traffic; Park - when you have parked up, this locks the transmission and stops the vehicle from rolling.

Although Park is designed to prevent rolling, you still need to use your handbrake. Top tip from a customer who has made this mistake: “I borrowed my brother’s automatic and everything was fine until I got back into the car and couldn’t get it to move. I was in Drive, the engine was going, but the car just wasn’t moving at all – it just didn’t make sense. I asked for help and the customary crowd gathered to offer advice – only to realise the handbrake was on!”

Step three: know your brake

In an automatic, your brake takes on some of the role of the clutch when moving off. You need to keep your foot on the brake as you put your car into Drive or Reverse. Taking your foot off the brake while in gear will cause the car to slowly creep forwards (or backwards) without the need to use the accelerator.

One of the biggest changes to get used to is the lack of clutch; don’t accidentally put your foot on the brake when you need to change gear.

Step four: get used to the revs

Once you are driving, your gear will change automatically with your speed and how hard your engine is working. If you are a manual driver and used to changing gear instinctively, you may notice that the engine revs more than you're used to before the gear change kicks in. This is normal for an automatic and something that you will get used to.

Whether you are going away and will be hiring an automatic vehicle, you are borrowing an automatic, or you are tempted to make the permanent switch, refresher automatic driving lessons will help to boost confidence, keep you safe and could event reduce your insurance premium.

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