Spain is traditionally a country of cars with manual gearboxes, but the improvement of this technology and the appearance of hybrid and electric engines, which almost always use automatic gearboxes, means that more and more cars with automatic transmission are on our roads.

Driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission is much easier than a manual one, but if it has never been used it can be somewhat confusing. The first thing to do is familiarize yourself with this system, since it dispenses with the clutch pedal and replaces the classic “H” gear lever with the gear numbers, with a device that reflects a series of letters. And we say device, because if until recently it was based on levers similar to those of the manual gearbox but with a linear path, now we find all kinds of mechanisms: levers, triggers, circular selectors, buttons … Whatever the system, what does not vary are the letters that appear on them: “P”, “R”, “N”, “D”, and in some cases “S”.

automatic gearboxes
Automatic change | Photo: BMW

The “P” stands for Parking, and obviously, it is the default position when the car is started and the one we must use when we want to stop it. The “R” stands for Reverse, that is, the reverse of all life. “N” means Neutral and is neutral. The “D” is Drive, which means to drive and therefore it will be the one we will use to move the car… forward. And the “S”? Well, this response to the name Sport and it is designed to get the most out of the engine. As with the automatic transmission we cannot select how much to speed up the gears, this position stretches each default ratio to the maximum. In the most modern and equipped cars, the response of the engine, the resistance of the steering and even the stiffness of the suspensions are also varied in this option.

With the “S” position and thanks to the speed and efficiency of current automatic car gearboxes, it is very difficult to get better performance from an engine with a manual gearbox. Still, there is a middle ground between the two options, which is the sequential mode. This mechanism allows you to move up and down, as its name indicates, sequentially, through the gear lever itself, or in the best of cases by driving some paddles that are located behind the steering wheel.


As we said, driving a car with an automatic transmission is much easier than a manual one, but you have to get used to its mechanics. Therefore, we are going to explain its handling from scratch.

Before even starting the car, you have to do something that is extremely important: place your left foot on the side footrest next to the pedals and forget that it exists. The greatest danger when driving an automatic car is to press the brake with the left foot since we will do it with the force with which we disengage, by confusing this pedal with the clutch pedal. If this happens, the car will literally dig into the asphalt with the risk that the vehicle coming from behind will hit us violently. In a vehicle with three pedals, we brake with the right foot, which is used to treating the brake with subtlety and should continue to be the same in an automatic. Getting used to not using the clutch is the most complicated step when driving an automatic car since especially in risky situations by pure instinct we step on the clutch fully.

Forget your left foot when driving an automatic car

Once the left foot is positioned where it touches, the next thing is to start the vehicle. Already in motion, we step on the brake and we will bring the lever -control, button, or the mechanism of each model- to position “D”. Here comes the other great novelty of an automatic, and that is that the car will automatically start driving as we release the brake pedal. Unless it is in position “P” or “N”, an automatic car drives by default.

The most complicated step when driving an automatic is getting used to not using the clutch

Once you have started driving, you only have to worry about accelerating and braking, forgetting to engage, disengage and change gears, since all this is done by the car by itself. For this reason, driving an automatic car is not only easier but also much more comfortable and enjoyable than a manual one. Another aspect that makes automatics a much more comfortable option is that at stops such as traffic lights or traffic jams, it is not necessary to put the “N” position each time as we would do with neutral in a manual. We just brake the car to a stop and start the march by accelerating again. Once we have reached our destination, we will activate the “P” mode and stop the engine.


Once this system has been assimilated, we will be ready to drive a hybrid, since the vast majority buy used cars in Kenya gearboxes, and even electric ones, since despite not having a mechanical gear change, they do use systems that use “P” modes. , “R”, “N”, and “D” to select what action we want the vehicle to perform.


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