In the last decade, a large number of passenger cars have been introduced or reintroduced with automatic transmission systems and have become quite popular in the country. This has encouraged car manufacturers to come up with the AMT gearbox – a simpler version of the standard automatic gearbox, which has been quite well received by the Indian car buyers. Dual clutch transmissions have also surfaced in some mass-segment vehicle categories pushing drive train diversification further in addition to the number of automatic cars being sold over the recent few years.
However, as is with so many different kinds of technology, education and awareness of use, fall far behind the gift of availability, and automatic transmission is still a new and unknown terrain of automotive technology for a majority of the Indian car buyers.
As a result, a lot of people do not know the hows and whys of driving automatic vehicles and mistakes come easy while engaging them in daily life. Discussed below are a few important pointers people miss out on while driving automatic cars which lead to transmission damage and lower the vehicle’s overall lifespan.
Common Amateur Mistakes of Automatic Car Drivers
The most common driving mistake that most drivers make is assuming that shifting to Neutral while going down a decline will save on fuel. Even in manual transmission vehicles, people make this mistake thinking it would take the extra effort off their engines and reduce fuel consumption. What actually happens is that the moment the transmission is shifted to N (in automatics) or Neutral, most car systems cut off the supply of transmission oil which serves the sole purpose of keeping the gearbox adequately lubricated to be running well along with maintaining the required optimum temperature for consistent performance and effortless changing of gears. If the vehicle is running in N or Neutral, the oil cut-off can cause the transmission to overheat and can prove disastrous for the gearbox if prolonged. Gear shifting would eventually become difficult and if a part or several chip and lodge in the negligible gaps between churning gears, it can cause heavy damage or even complete transmission lock, rendering the vehicle immobile. In some cases gear shifting may cause sudden jerks or shudders in the vehicle. Also, covering declines in neutral may cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle in the case of unseen obstacles in their path. What most people don’t realise is that going down slopes without gears is not very different from that with gears engaged and running in terms of fuel consumption.
Not allowing the vehicle to come to a stop completely before shifting from forward to reverse and vice-versa can literally kill the gearbox. The gearbox uses a transmission brand to change the drive of the car and it is essential to stop the vehicle completely before changing from forward to reverse and vice-versa.
Launch Control – With and Without
Some automatic vehicles also come equipped with a feature that enables them to make a quick start off – called the Launch Control. This feature mostly comes in high performance cars and useful during competitive driving or when the enthusiast in the driver briefly comes alive. The feature allows for the engine rpm to climb higher at the first displacement of the vehicle from a stationary position, enabling the vehicle to make a quicker “launch”. Cars that come without this feature manually push the transmission to get the same result. Some people even try to replicate this effect by building up on the engine rpm and suddenly putting the vehicle in Drive or D mode which causes the transmission to heat up and in some cases may even cause gears to chip or even crack and render the transmission useless. A better way of doing this would be to keep the car in Drive, press down on the brake pedal, and then build on engine rpm before letting the brake pedal loose. This could create a very similar effect to that of launch control and in a much safer way for the gearbox. Though this practice would have much lesser chances of internal damage, it is still ill advised as it causes a dramatic drop in the transmission system’s overall life.
Similarity, putting the car in P or Park mode while the vehicle is moving, can cause excessive damage to the transmission unit, which uses a pawl to keep the rotating cog from moving and keeps the vehicle stationary when in park. When the car is moving, engaging the P mode can cause extreme load on both the pawl and cog and lead to heavy internal damage in the unit.
Shifting to N or neutral even at traffic signals is harmful for the automatic gearbox, though over a longer period of time. Also, the automatic start/stop function in some vehicles only works when the transmission is in D or Drive mode.
Last but also most importantly, only manufacturer recommended Automatic transmission fluid of vehicle dedicated grade should be poured into the transmission chamber and only after the old fluid has been completely drained. Taking care of the tiniest details provides for long and lasting vehicle life and lesser damage to the automobile owner’s pocket.