22 October 2022
Gearbox Gaffes: 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do In An Automatic Car

Want to keep your car’s automatic transmission in tip-top, self-shifting shape and avoid costly maintenance? Then check out this guide and make sure you avoid doing these five things when driving!

It’s no secret that driving an automatic transmission car is a breeze compared to driving a manual one. The lack of a clutch pedal is a huge relief for some drivers, avoiding any potential scenario of stalling the car. But while it is definitely easier, it’s not completely idiot-proof. Here are five things you need to avoid doing when driving an automatic car.

1. Shifting gears when your car is still in motion

When parking or manoeuvring, it’s a good habit to make sure your car comes to a complete stop before switching gears. One example would be parking and swapping from Drive to Reverse or vice versa.

Should you switch gears while in motion, it will add strain to your transmission and prematurely wear it out, since you are relying on that instead of your brakes to stop the car.

While this can stop your car, the upset is that it wears out your transmission band quicker. This is a component which is harder to access and will require more downtime and costs to service in a workshop.

2. Putting your car in Neutral when stopping at junctions

Most of us have come across this to some degree, where drivers put their cars into Neutral or even Park when stopped at a junction. This is a common misconception where many think that keeping the car in Drive while stepping on the brake wastes fuel and causes unnecessary wear.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but keeping it in Park/Neutral may actually use up more fuel, as most modern engines idle at higher revs in those gears than if you had just kept it in Drive. Plus, the small repeated process of disengaging and re-engaging gears and switching into and out of Drive does add additional wear to your transmission. 

Some modern vehicles also make use of hybrid technologies to cut off the engine while stationary, so the engine only starts up again when you’re ready to set off! Keeping it in Neutral would more than likely prevent this from happening, as the cars are not programmed to cut off the engine in Neutral.

3. ‘Launching’ your car in a bid to get off the line quicker

Some drivers just want to get away from the lights the quickest, and that means revving the car while in Neutral and shifting it to Drive as soon as the lights go green, in a bid to zoom off. 

Please do not try this. By attempting this you are deliberately mashing the torque converter in your vehicle with your clutch, thereby wearing it out and giving you yet another expensive part to repair.

4. Coasting downhill in Neutral

This is a common myth drivers hear about which may help to “save fuel”. By keeping the car in neutral, you are essentially coasting with “minimal” revs, thereby saving fuel. However, being in neutral takes some control away from you, since you will be unable to accelerate the car and can only slow down using brakes and not using your car’s engine braking. 

Modern cars are intelligent enough to actually shut off the fuel supply while engine braking, which means you’re actually using zero fuel and getting better fuel efficiency; as opposed to putting the car in Neutral, in which case some fuel will be used as the engine is idling.

5. Shifting your car into Park before it’s fully stopped

When you engage Park on your gear shifter, a locking pin is inserted into a gear, locking your automatic transmission and preventing the car from moving.

As simple as it sounds, if you try to engage Park while your car is still in motion, it may wear down or even shear the locking pin right off, which at best will lead to more unnecessary costly repairs, and at worst might cause your car to roll away when parked on a slope.

Do not bring your car to the mechanic only when there’s a problem

Like humans who go through regular medical checkups, cars too need to be taken care of. Regular servicing is a cost that is part and parcel of owning a car, and by doing it you will prolong your car’s life and prevent unnecessary breakdowns from occurring. Like engine parts that require oil for lubrication, automatic gearboxes need transmission fluid to maintain smoothness and prevent excessive wear and tear. As a general rule of thumb, it is good to replace your transmission fluid once every 40,000km or so, to keep your gearbox is tip-top condition.

If you’re looking to service your car, try AutoApp today! Our mobile application connects you to a multitude of reputable workshops and specialists, providing you with the best car for your car.

Check out what to do when a car’s engine overheats, and more car maintenance tips and tricks.