How to drive a car with an automatic transmission

Updated February 21, 2017

Driving a car with an automatic transmission makes several aspects of driving automated. There is no clutch to press, and the car shifts gears on its own. Driving an automatic car is a lot easier than driving a manual transmission.

Observe the two pedals on the floor of the car. The brake is on the left, and the accelerator is on the right. These two pedals will be operated only by the right foot.

Familiarize yourself with the gear shifter. The automatic gear shifter will have P, R, N, D, 2 and 1. P is for park, R is for reverse, N is for neutral, D is for drive, 2 is for second gear and 1 is for first gear. Use 2 and 1 for bad weather conditions, such as snow. First and second gear will only allow the car to reach a certain speed and rpm.

Check that the car is in park (P). Make sure the brake is pressed, and start the engine. Automatic transmission cars will not start unless the gear shift is in park.

Move the gear shift to drive (D) or reverse (R) to start moving.

Take your foot off the brake slowly. The car will start to move. This is different from manual transmissions and may be a surprise at first. Put your foot on the accelerator and gently press down to increase speed.

Slow down by pressing lightly on the brake. Shifting out of drive or reverse is not necessary once stopped, but keep your foot on the brake at all times. Put the car in park once you are finished driving.


Put the car into park or neutral if stopping for long periods of time. This will save fuel. If traveling on the highway, select the Overdrive function, if your car has one. This helps increase fuel mileage.


Do not shift into park or reverse while the car is moving. This may damage the transmission. Always wear your seat belt.

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