The Right Gear… How To Drive An Automatic Car Economically


You’ll be forgiven that with all of the modern tech features on cars nowadays, that, practically, the car can drive itself! From lane assist, to help with parking, as well as the typical safety features cars have now, the act of driving as a skill has been sidelined to an extent. An automatic car is one of those things that is widespread in the United States, but it’s only now beginning to make an impact in other parts of the Western world. Going back 10 years or so, an automatic car wasn’t the most reliable, especially if you purchased older models. But now, they have more than equal standing with a manual transmission, apart from one thing, automatic translation aren’t as economical as a manual. But are there ways to help with this? Because a automatic car does the gear changing for you, it helps to have a bit more of an understanding on how your driving impacts the car. It’s not just a case of putting it in drive and letting the car do the rest!

Left foot braking

If you’ve never driven an automatic before, because you use your left foot for the clutch, and in an automatic, the brake technically as automatics have two forward gears, typically D and L (drive and low gear), the temptation is to use your left foot. However, in using your left foot, the braking becomes a particularly abrupt experience.

Engine creep

As soon as you put the engine on, and take the handbrake down, you need to be aware of engine creep. Basically, the car will move forward without you pressing any pedals, so, you need to keep your foot on the brake pedal before you move off. Nowadays, many automatics won’t even start until it realizes you’ve got your foot on the brake. Now, this is a useful function, especially if you are new to the automatic way of driving, but if you are looking at used cars, it’s worth checking to see what modern features are on your desired vehicle. Engine creep is easily avoided, just as long as you treat the car like a manual one.

How you brake

Comparing an automatic to a manual, the braking requires you to put your foot down far heavier than a manual. The best comparison to make is that an automatic vehicle is, to an extent, like a go-kart. And if you are driving at high speeds, you need to be quick with your braking, because an automatic goes through the same gear changes as a manual, but it does it for you. So, if you are driving at 60 miles per hour, and you need to brake suddenly, it takes a lot longer for the car to slow down, because an automatic needs to change down the gears before it gets to neutral. While driving an automatic takes a lot of the thought out of it for you, this is where a little knowledge of when the car changes gears proves useful in being economical.

Being on hills

This is one of the instances where you need to be a bit savvy with your knowledge of gears. If you have a look at your dashboard and keep an eye on the MPG or RPM, you can get a good idea as to how fuel efficient your driving is. And being on a hill is one of those where you can easily over rev the engine and waste fuel. Instead of putting your foot down, so you can increase speed, driving slower, as the vehicle gains traction, can help build up speed without wasting fuel. Because an automatic is easy to drive, by putting your foot down, you think you are going faster, but you’ll be able to hear it in the engine. Mainly, there will be a high amount of revs. But by having an eye on the workload of the engine, you can learn at what points the car changes gear, especially on hills and steep surfaces.

Navigating slippery surfaces

Driving an automatic vehicle in slippery conditions can be very difficult. During winter months, where there are more slippery surfaces, having an automatic, where the car is trying to second guess the best gear for the speed of the car, the chances are it’s not going to be the right one. When pulling away on a slippery surface, a higher gear, much like in a manual, is going to be the best option.


Arguably, this is one of the best ways to make your automatic transmission more economical. If you are used to driving a manual car, making the change to an automatic transmission is a bit easier, because you are used to listening to the engine changes. And because you have control over gear changes in a manual, and are surrendering it when you are driving an automatic, the best way to improve your fuel economy is to listen out for the engine as it rises during acceleration. And while you are changing down gears, listen out for the notes in this respect. That way, you are anticipating what gear the car is going into, and so you can make the most of a certain speed in terms of acceleration. Certain automatic vehicles stay in lower gears for too long, but you can help the transmission go into a higher gear by letting up on the gas when you pass 30 miles an hour roughly. When it is in a top gear, you can accelerate more gradually. But the trick is all about knowing the power of the engine first.

An automatic transmission does burn more fuel than a manual, but there are ways around making it that bit more economical for you. Driving with fuel efficiency is something we should all have knowledge of, but as most people are choosing an automatic to make life easier, you still need to have an understanding of the engine. Because an automatic transmission does the gear changes for you, the temptation to put your foot down is far more apparent. Instead, by understanding how the automatic engine works, you can get more bang for your buck.

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