General driving advice

More helpful hints and tips for after you have passed your Driving Test in Newcastle.

The main difference between an automatic and a manual is that you have less direct control of the car through the accelerator. In a manual car releasing the accelerator will almost always have a slowing effect on the car unless you are going downhill. This is because of an effect called ‘engine braking’ (the compression of the engine helps to hold the car back).

In an automatic, releasing the accelerator can often cause the car to shift up a gear, this removes the familiar engine braking effect and can make the car feel as if it is running away. Because of this you need to develop a habit of adjusting your speed early by ‘progressive’ braking and then using gentle acceleration to drive through the hazard situation (in this context a hazard means anything that causes you to slow down).

Controlled use of the accelerator is important whatever car you drive, manual or auto. In an automatic this is especially important. Harsh pressure on the gas pedal can cause the car to surge forward (or backward).
The one time that positive heavy acceleration can be useful is when getting away from a bank robbery – if you don’t rob banks it’s useful for overtaking.

Most automatics have a system called ‘Kick down’ for this purpose. When the accelerator is pressed to the floor the car will change down and hold a lower gear for power acceleration.

‘Park’ or ‘neutral’?

HandbrakeFrom time to time you will stop in traffic. On these occasions you need to make sure that the car is secure.

Whether driving a manual or automatic, it’s a good idea to use the handbrake to secure the car when you stop for more than a moment. This helps to prevent the car from being shunted forward if hit from behind.

In an automatic it’s even more important to use the handbrake than in a manual car; if you are hit from behind the car will try to take off! Stay in drive so that you are ready to move and apply the handbrake firmly. The footbrake is not an effective means of securing your car.

This is because your foot will lift off the brake if you are hit from behind. Using the footbrake is also anti-social and can be dangerous because brake lights can dazzle the driver behind, especially at night and in poor weather conditions.
If waiting a long time, apply the handbrake and then select neutral. This removes the chance of ‘creep’ if the handbrake is not securely applied (nobody’s perfect!). When parking use the ‘Park’ position as soon as you stop. This locks the transmission.

When to override the car’s choices

There are time when you might need to have more control over your car. Here are some examples:

driving on bendy country lanes (especially in sporty automatics)
keeping to low speed limits
descending hills
getting ready to overtake and avoiding the kick-down surge
When you choose one of the ‘manual’ gear positions you will prevent the car from changing to a gear higher than the one selected.

If you are a ‘petrolhead’, as you get to know your car, manual changes will become intuitive. If you simply use your car as a car – that is to get from A to B (now there’s a novel idea!) you might never feel the need to override the automatic changes.

Just do whatever gives you a sense of control for the type of driving you do – and if you are unsure, get some training from Experience Driving or by visiting driving lessons newcastle upon tyne.

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