If you are unfamiliar with automatic gearboxes, then it is vital to understand some dos and don’ts. As is the case with manual gearboxes, improper use and bad habits can have detrimental effects on the transmission and other parts of the car.
So, before you jump behind the wheel and inadvertently break your gearbox, check out this list of things you should avoid doing with your automatic transmission.
DON’T use the gearbox to change direction
This is extremely easy to do, especially if you are in a rush. A typical situation where this occurs is when the driver throws the car into Reverse and, before they have come to a complete stop, puts it into Drive. Essentially, this uses the gearbox to stop the car, not the brakes. Over time, this can seriously damage your gearbox by putting stress on its components.
DON’T put it into Park, until you are parked
For similar reasons to those above, you should never put the car into Park until you have reached a complete stop. When you put the car into park there is a locking pin that slips into place and locks-up the output shaft of the gearbox – like putting a bolt on a door. If you put your car into Park while it is still moving, then the resisting force can seriously damage the locking pin, which can then lead to other problems. A lot of newer cars actually make this impossible to do by accident, just to be safe.
DON’T assume Park mean it’s parked
The small locking pin mentioned above is not designed to hold your car in place, let alone hold it on a hill. The locking pin is merely designed to lock-up the gearbox.
When parking your car, you must also enable the Parking Brake. If you don’t enable the parking brake, then your car can roll away – into another car, into a shop window, into a lake…
DON’T assume you have launch control
“So I can bounce up the revs when in Neutral, shift into Drive and get that cool launch control effect, right?” Yes, you can, go nuts, but you will quickly destroy the bands in your gearbox if you do. The bands of a gearbox are effectively clamps, grabbing hold of gears when needed. If you have your revs high and shift into Drive, this band can get worn down very easily. Imagine grabbing hold of a piece of rope with your bare hands, but the rope is being moving incredibly fast.
DON’T use Neutral to coast
This is perhaps the most disputed subject for automatic gearboxes. The thought behind it is that shifting into Neutral when you already have momentum, coming down a hill for example, will save you fuel as you are giving the engine a rest.
However, the majority of modern automatic gearboxes are smart enough to cut fuel to the engine and let the wheels power the car even when in Drive. Essentially, putting it into Neutral makes almost no difference. In fact, the big difference with putting the car in Neutral is that you will have less control of the car, only being able to slow down, not speed up.