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How to start an automatic car

Updated July 19, 2017

Automatic transmissions have become so ubiquitous that sometime in the near future knowing how to drive a stick shift may become a lost art. Different makes and models place the gear selector in different locations. In some cars, the gear selector is a stick shift on the centre console, while in others you'll find it on the steering column. Some modern imports may even locate the gear shifter on the centre of the dashboard. Starting up, however, is generally standardised for most vehicles.

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  1. Apply the parking brake. Some vehicles have a centre pull-up lever for the emergency brake, some may pull out from the dashboard near the steering column. Many domestic cars use a pedal on the far-left hand side of the lower dashboard area to control the emergency brake.

  2. Ensure the gear lever stick is in the P, or "Park" position.

  3. Place your right foot onto the brake pedal (to the left of the accelerator pedal on the floorboard).

  4. Insert the key into the ignition until it is fully seated inside the ignition switch.

  5. Turn the key three clicks forward until the engine engages and then let go of the key.

  6. Release the parking brake with the right foot still depressed on the foot brake pedal.

  7. Tip

    While you can start most regular automatic cars in the P ("Park") or N ("Neutral") position, it is always a good idea for safety reasons to have your right foot on the foot brake pedal. Some import hybrid vehicles require the brake pedal to be depressed before the ignition button will turn the engine over.

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About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.

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