How to Use an Automatic Gearbox

Updated March 23, 2017

Many drivers prefer automatic gearboxes (also called automatic transmissions) for the simplicity they offer. Still, not everyone knows how to properly use an automatic gearbox. Learn how you can operate a vehicle equipped with an automatic gearbox.

Put on your seat belt and turn the key in the ignition to start the vehicle. Press the brake pedal with your foot. The gearbox should be in park, labelled "P." Place your right hand on the shift knob to get comfortable with it. There may be a locking mechanism in the form of a button that you have to press in to move the shifter. Toggle the automatic gear selector between gears, but keep the brake pedal depressed while you are testing it out.

Place the gear selector in the designated slot for drive, usually labelled with "D." Slowly let off the brake, to ease the vehicle forward. Drive around to get comfortable with the automatic gearbox operation.

Bring the vehicle to a stop by pressing the brake pedal. Place the gearshift selector in park. Now move the gearshift selector to reverse (usually labelled with "R"). Operate the vehicle in the same way you would if you were in drive, by easing off the accelerator. Use this gearbox operation when you need to move your vehicle backward.

Depress the brake pedal and place the gear selector back in park. Always put the vehicle in park before turning the ignition off.


The neutral gear in an automatic gearbox is not used the same way as in a manual transmission. Neutral is not used when coming to a stop or while at idle. Use neutral only to tow or push the vehicle.


Don't rely solely on the gearbox park feature when parking on a hill. Always use your emergency parking brake to complement the feature, in case of failure.

Things You'll Need

  • Vehicle with automatic gearbox
  • Driver's license
  • Valid insurance
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About the Author

Leonardo R. Grabkowski has been writing professionally for more than four years. Grabkowski attended college in Oregon. He builds websites on the side and has a slight obsession with Drupal, Joomla and Wordpress.