This blog has been written to help you decide whether to learn in a manual or automatic car.
Why learn to drive in an automatic car
The majority of people learn to drive in a manual car and the majority of cars on the roads are manual.
A manual car has three pedals; a gas/ accelerator pedal, a brake pedal and a clutch pedal. They normally have 5 or 6 forwards gears and a reverse gear.
As a car increases or decreases in speed, a driver will need to stop pressing the gas pedal and press the clutch pedal all the way down to separate the clutch plates. Then select the appropriate gear before steadily raising the clutch pedal to bring the clutch plates together again.
Controlling the clutch smoothly and accurately is the most challenging part of learning to drive a car for many people. The clutch cannot be held down for too long; this is known as ‘coasting’. The wheels and engine are not connected when the clutch pedal is down, so the driver has less control over the car. The clutch cannot be raised too quickly as this will cause a ‘jerky’ gear change and can cause the car to stall.
Selecting the correct gear for the correct speed can also be a challenge for many learner drivers. Selecting the correct gear for the speed is really important. Too low a gear will put a strain on the engine and not allow the car to increase in speed as expected. Too high a gear will make the car struggle to move and may cause the car to slow down when you do not want to.
An automatic car only has two pedals; a gas/ accelerator pedal and a brake pedal. There is no need for a clutch pedal because there is no need to change gear as the car speed increases or decreases. The car will automatically change into the appropriate gear.
Not having to change gear gives more time for learners to focus on the road, any potential hazards and correct road positioning.
How do automatic cars work?
In an automatic car, instead of the driver selecting the correct gear, the car changes up and down through the gears automatically.
Instead of a gear lever, there is a gear selector. You can normally choose any of the following settings:
P = Park – this should be selected when parking, to secure the vehicle
R = Reverse – this should be selected to drive the car backwards
N = Neutral – this should be selected when the car is not moving, like when waiting at red a traffic light, or in a traffic queue. When the car is in neutral you will not be able to drive it. You should apply the handbrake to secure the car.
D = Drive – this should be selected to drive the car forwards. While you are driving the gears will automatically change up and down, depending on the speed you are driving.
Some automatic cars will have the ability for drivers to select gears as well if they want to. These selections allow the driver to lock the car in a particular gear. They don’t have to be used but can be useful in some circumstances. You might want the car to stay in a lower gear while trying to drive up a very steep hill. You might also want to select the gear when driving on ice or snow.
Sometimes when you are driving you will want to speed up quickly. This might be when entering a dual carriageway, motorway or other fast-moving road. Or it might be when you want to overtake a slower moving vehicle. You might also want more power to pull a car up a steep hill.
In a manual car you will need to change into a lower gear to speed up quickly. The lower gears have more ‘power’ to allow the car to accelerate quickly.
In an automatic car you can achieve this by simply and easily pressing the gas pedal all the way down. The gear will quickly and automatically change down to get more power for speeding up.
When you have enough speed ease off the gas pedal and the gear will automatically change up again.
Creeping is when an automatic car moves along very slowly, on tick-over speed.
If an automatic car is in ‘D’ (drive) and the handbrake is off, it will creep slowly forwards without any gas at all.
Creeping makes reversing, parking and moving in very slow moving traffic, in an automatic car, very easy.
The car might need a bit of gas to move on an uphill slope, otherwise the slow speed can be controlled with the brake pedal.
Things to consider if you learn to drive an automatic
Learning to drive and passing your practical driving test may be a quicker process if you choose to learn in an automatic car.
Automatic vehicles are much easier to drive and allow drivers to concentrate on aspects of driving other than clutch control and gear changes. It simplifies the process and makes driving much easier to get to grips with.
It’s important to realise, though, that if you pass your driving test in a manual vehicle you are eligible to drive both manual and automatic cars. But if you pass your driving test in an automatic vehicle you are only eligible to drive automatic cars.
Buying an automatic car
An automatic car is usually slightly more expensive than a manual car. However, a lot of people find then much easier and less stressful to drive. this is especially true in in heavy traffic where using a clutch can be tiring.
Fuel economy for automatic cars have improved and is now as good or even better than a manual car. Older automatic gear boxes have fewer gears, maybe 4, whereas the more modern automatics can have 8 gears. More gears in an automatic lead to a smoother drive and better fuel economy. This is the reason that automatic cars are becoming more and more popular.
If you’d like to learn to drive in either a manual or an automatic car, please contact us: