How does the speed match when downshifting?

Automatic driving - you have to pay attention to that

More and more Germans are choosing an automatic transmission when buying a vehicle. What are the advantages? And what do you have to pay attention to when driving with an automatic? The most important information.

Even if the manual transmission still has many fans in Germany, there is a trend towards automatic transmissions. This was the result of a survey by in 2019. The younger the driver, the greater the preference for automatic gearshifts. The reasons given by those questioned were a comfortable driving experience, easier moving off and often less wear and tear. Automobile manufacturers are helping to shape the development away from manual transmission. 56 percent of the cars produced in 2019 were automatic vehicles. Suppliers like Mercedes-Benz will even say goodbye to manual gearshifts in the future. These are the advantages and disadvantages of gearshift and automatic.

Automatic gearshift - what does P, R, N, D and S mean?

On or on the automatic lever instead of the numbering of the usual gears - apart from very old automatic transmissions - letters can be found. These indicate the various options. This is what the letters stand for:

P = parking
R = backwards
N = neutral (idle position)
D = drive or continuous operation
S = sport

The abbreviations can also be found in some models
B = Brake or even L = Low.

Special features of automatic transmissions

There are several types of automatic transmissions. The most common are the automatic converter and the dual clutch transmission. A continuously variable automatic (CVT) or an automated manual transmission is less common.

A common feature of the automatic transmissions mentioned is that an intelligent control system selects the gear ratio between the wheel and the engine so that the engine speed is at one ideal speed level lies. This speed level depends on the speed and the load requirement.

When rolling, the lowest possible speed is selected in order to save fuel, while at full acceleration a higher speed is selected in order to obtain the maximum engine power. Modern automatic converter transmissions usually have between six and nine gears, dual clutch transmissions usually between six and eight gears. The latter have the same operation as an automatic, but often work more efficiently than a manual transmission.

Automatic - what should the driver watch out for?

It is especially important for those starting out with automation to use only the right foot to operate the two pedals. This prevents the driver from accidentally pressing the accelerator and brake at the same time. The ADAC experts advise the put your left foot aside as possible. Automatic beginners repeatedly make the mistake of wanting to depress the clutch at full speed and then step on the brake pedal with force with their left foot. This can lead to serious accidents.

Driving downhill with automatic

Modern automatic transmissions usually select the gears so that the engine brake is used as much as possible. This is not always the case with older automatic transmissions. Then it is advisable to manually select a lower gear using the selector lever or to shift to level B or S, which basically means a higher speed and thus more engine braking effect is applied. On long descents, a gear should be selected that keeps the car at the desired speed when rolling. This way the car's brakes are not overloaded.

Drive with automatic in winter

Basically, no other recommendation than manual gearshift applies to driving in winter with automatic. Modern vehicle models have electronic assistance systems that ensure the best possible traction in all driving conditions. In old automobiles with automatic transmission (especially with rear-wheel drive) it can make sense to shift to gear N for sensitive braking at very low speeds on slippery roads.

Idle speed in "D"

With older automatic gearboxes in particular, a low stationary engine speed can be irritating when the gear range D is engaged. But that's not unusual. When the brake is released (during what is known as "creeping"), the speed is usually comparable to that of switching vehicles. The reason for this lies in the hydraulic torque converter, which brakes the engine somewhat when the car is stationary and the gear is engaged.

Maintenance of automatic transmissions

The car manufacturers often do not stipulate regular servicing for automatic transmissions. The ADAC experts recommend, however, with an automatic converter an oil change approximately every 100,000 kilometers including oil rinsing. This can significantly increase the service life and shift comfort. Experienced taxi drivers, for example, usually do this and often reach several hundred thousand kilometers with one and the same gearbox. VW also prescribes a replacement interval of 60,000 kilometers for its frequently sold dual clutch transmissions. With a dual clutch transmission, however, changing the oil is usually less time-consuming than with an automatic converter, because the complicated oil flushing process can be dispensed with.

Special feature of the automatic in e-cars

Most electric cars have individually adjustable recuperation options. The extreme case is one-pedal driving up to 0 km / h (e.g. BMW i3). The recuperation adjustment works differently from manufacturer to manufacturer. It can be done using the selector lever, steering wheel pedals or a menu. In some cases it is also coupled with ACC (auto function).

Text: Jörg Peter Urbach. Technical advice: Maximilian Bauer

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