How to use automatic transmission gears

Updated April 14, 2017

Automatic transmission gearboxes streamline the driving process by removing the need to press a clutch pedal and manually change the gears as you drive. This allows you to concentrate on the road and enjoy an easier driving experience. Though an automatic car's various gear selections may seem daunting at first, learning how to use these gear selections is fairly easy.

Sit in the car and adjust the seat according to your height. Your feet should be able to comfortably touch the pedals and you should be able to reach the steering wheel without having to completely stretch out your arms. Put your seat belt on before starting the car.

Look at the two pedals on the floor and note their positioning. A car with an automatic transmission gearbox has only two pedals as opposed to a manual transmission's three. The brake pedal is the pedal on the left and the accelerator is the one on the right.

Study the gear selector and its various selections. A typical automatic car will have the letters P, R, N, D and the numbers 2 and 1 available. Each selection has its own meaning and function. The P selection stands for Park and will prevent the car from moving even while the car is on. The R selection stands for Reverse and is used to back the car up. N stands for Neutral and allows your car to be moved without the use of the engine -- useful in situations where the car needs to be moved when it doesn't start. D stands for Drive and is the car's main driving selection. It will use the car's driving gears and will set the car in motion. The 2 and 1 settings are used to stop the car from changing up to a higher gear than the second and first driving gears, respectively, and should be used only in difficult conditions, such as driving uphill or off-road.

Start the car's engine by turning the key in the ignition. Make sure that the car is in P (Park) before attempting to start the car -- some cars will not start if the transmission is not in Park.

Press the brake pedal and use the gear selector to shift to either "R" or "D." Release the brake pedal slowly and the car will begin moving automatically. If this is your first time driving an automatic, don't get startled. Use the brake pedal to control your movements at first and use the accelerator to speed up once you've built up enough confidence. As you increase your speed, your car will change driving gears automatically.

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About the Author

Paul Molina began writing professionally in 2010. He holds an Associate of Arts in biology and tends to focus his writing on various health and science topics. Molina is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Florida International University.