Automatic Cars FAQ

Everything you possibly want to know about driving a car with an automatic gearbox. 

If you’re considering buying an automatic car, then you may have some questions about the differences between an auto and an manual. To help you make the decision about which gearbox would suit you best, we’ve pulled together some of the most frequently asked questions with clear, jargon-free answers.

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How do you drive an automatic car?

If you’d asked yourself how to drive an automatic car, then we’ve got some good news for you – vehicles with auto transmissions are incredibly easy to drive. Because they have an automatic rather than a manual gearbox, you don’t have to individually change gears as you drive. Instead, the car detects the appropriate gear and changes it itself.

What does this mean for driving? Firstly, you don’t have a clutch pedal – so your left foot can rest easy. All you need to do is use the accelerator and brake pedals as you would in a normal vehicle. As for reversing and parking, automatic cars generally come with at least two settings – P for Park (use this when stopped and leaving the car), R for Reverse (does what it says on the tin), N for Neutral (much the same as neutral in a manual car) and D for Drive (the setting you’ll use when you want to drive away. Some will also give you manual 1st and 2nd gear choices, which can be handy if you want to use the gearbox to keep to a sensible pace.

What is a semi-automatic car?

A semi-automatic or automated manual car is a middle ground between a manual car – where you do every element of the gear change yourself, manually, and a fully-automatic car, which changes gears completely independently. On a semi-auto, you will have to tell the car when to change gear (sometimes via a gear stick and sometimes via gear paddles located on the steering wheel), but you won’t have to use a clutch pedal to make the change – the car will do this itself. This should mean the gear change is smoother and more accurate, improving the quality of the drive.

Do automatic cars have a clutch?

Automatic cars don’t have a clutch pedal – because the car changes gears itself, and doesn’t need you to control the process as you drive. However, if we are getting technical, the vehicle does still have a "clutch" – it’s just controlled automatically and with much less input from you.

Are all electric cars automatic?

You will never find a clutch pedal on a fully electric car – but that’s not because they have an automatic transmission. In fact, electric cars don’t have a multi-speed gear box like traditionally fuelled cars do – there is no clutch pedal because there is no gearbox to control.

Instead, an electric car actually has just one gear – this is why they have such impressive and instantaneous acceleration. Think of it as a completely different type of engine to that which you are used to – and one of the key benefits of an electric car is this improved driving experience, with seamless, gear-free acceleration. Smooth!

>> Interested in knowing more about the electric cars available at Dicksons of Inverness? Explore your options here. 

How do you start an automatic car?

An automatic car is started in exactly the same way as a car with a manual gearbox – turn the key. However, where modern cars often require you to have your foot down on the clutch pedal when you start the car (so that you don’t start in gear and drive away), an auto will usually require you to have your foot on the brake pedal – for much the same reason. Other than that, however, there is no real difference!

Found the answers you are looking for? 

Have more questions about automatic cars? Get in touch with our friendly team who will be happy to answer your queries. 


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