In a car with manual transmission the driver decides when to change gear and does so by pressing the clutch pedal down and then selecting the desired gear by moving the gear stick.
In an automatic car the gear change is made automatically. When the transmission is put into Drive (D) the car will automatically select the correct gear according to the load on the engine and the road speed. Because of this automatics have only two pedals - the accelerator and the brake.
Semi-automatic transmissions are becoming increasingly popular. These have a manual gearshift, giving the driver control over gear selection, but no clutch pedal - the clutch is operated automatically every time a new gear is selected.
Automatic and semi-automatic systems differ from car to car and you should always read the manual carefully before driving one. However this general advice will prove useful and relevant to all systems:
Ensure the gear lever is in Park (P) and that your foot is firmly pressing the brake pedal before starting the engine as most automatics will not start unless start unless these precautions are taken.
To drive away you should move the lever from Park to Drive. To do this you will need to push in the security button mounted on the gear lever. Once in Drive the car will slowly move forwards so make sure you have the foot brake engaged before switching to Drive.
As with a manual car you should use your right foot to brake. This will prevent any confusion in an emergency.
When needing to stop briefly, at a traffic queue for example, you don't need to move the transmission out of Drive and into Park. However you should use the parking brake to ensure the car is safely immobilized.
If you need a sudden burst of acceleration, to perform an overtaking manoeuvre for example then press the accelerator down to the floor as this will cause the transmission to automatically drop down to a lower gear giving you increased acceleration.
Automatic transmission paddle shift
Most automatics allow you to manually select low gears. These will be marked on the gearshift as numbers equivalent to the gears on a manual although you may find first great is marked L for Low.
These low gears are useful in slow moving traffic and when you need to make use of the engine brake such as when driving down a steep hill.
On finishing your journey and stopping the car always put the gear shift into Park and engage the parking brake before switching off the engine.