All automatic cars are now more reliable that they used to be. Not only that, they now offer great fuel efficiency too, just like their manual counterparts. More inexpensive version of a regular automatic, know as AMT, has made automatic cars even more popular in the entry-level segment. So, the automatics are easier to drive and convenient too. Why is it that many people still buy a manual? One main reason is that people still consider that it’s expensive to maintain.
Although automatics are easy to drive, you can mess up driving an automatic too. However, you can absolutely avoid high maintenance cost and make the transmission outlast even your car, if you drive the car properly. Here are a few things that you should keep in mind!
1. Do not switch the mode (N, R, D etc.) while car is moving
Within an automatic transmission, the switch between gears and modes takes place with the use of clutches and bands present in the transmission system. These have friction material lining in them which is good enough to last a life time if you change the modes after stopping the car with a brake pedal. However, if you do not stop the car using the brakes and change modes directly, the friction material of the clutches and bands, present in the transmission system would be used to stop the car. Since it’s clearly not designed for that purpose and to withstand such high loads, it would get damaged prematurely.
2. Do not coast the car in 'Neutral'
Putting the car in neutral and letting it coast on downhill would not save you any extra fuel, and furthermore, doing so takes the control out of your hand since you cannot accelerate the car in neutral mode and can only slow it down using brakes. Modern automatics are intelligent enough to cut the supply of fuel while you drive downhill, thereby preventing the need for coasting and providing more fuel efficiency much like their manual counterparts.
3. Do not launch the car to prevent slippage of clutches
Revving the engine in Neutral and then putting the car in drive to launch it can be detrimental to the automatic transmission. As mentioned in one of the points above, the bands and clutches that are used to change modes and drive it in different modes / gears progressively, can get worn prematurely due to the slippage and torque handling, launching the car would do just that and should be avoided. The correct way to put the car into drive mode is by using the brake pedal while the engine is revving normally. You may have an additional button on the gear lever that you should use while changing the modes.
4. Do not change the mode at stop signal
A stationary car in Drive mode at the stop signal causes much less stress to the transmission if you compare it with the transmission at work, where the impeller connected to the engine side is trying to rotate the turbine to gain speed. While putting the engine in Neutral does save the transmission some stress, however it’s so low that you should avoid putting the car in Neutral and let it stay in Drive instead for the better. Also, the amount of fuel that you may save by changing to Neutral from Drive would be so low that it really isn’t worth the trouble. You may be able to visualise this by looking at the instantaneous mileage indicator of your car. The better way to save fuel would be to turn the engine off.
5. Do not put your car in 'Park' while the car is moving
Most modern automatics would not let you put the car in Park mode, because they have an internal mechanism (Speed Sensor) to stop it from happening. However, some old ones may let you do it, but you should not, and here’s why. The locking mechanism that prevents the car from moving, is actually a pin (Park Pawl) that much like ratchet locks on to a gear and prevent it from rotating and thereby preventing the car from moving. If this were to happen, you risk damaging the locking pin and hence the park mechanism. Therefore, it’s important that you stop the car by applying brakes and then use the lever to put the car in Park mode.