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Post by vanny »

Hi Folks,
bit of a weird one this. In June it looks like i'll be moving to the united states for 4 months and i have some car questions. Im not a newbie to the states (in fact i have loads of family over there!), and yes i know they have the steering wheel on the wrong side (along with the cars on the road) and that they generally dont believe in 'shift sticks' (manual gear boxes) or hand brakes (resorting to the insane 'parking brake').
So first question, how do you drive an automatic? i understand that it only has a gas pedal and a brake pedal (which is huge), and that you have to stick it into 'N' to get it into neutral, and 'D' to get it into drive, and 'p' to park, but i know some of them have '1' and '2' settings, whats that all about? And how do you take it out of say park, and into drive? (i believe theres some black art required here). anything else i should know about auto boxes?
Second question, the likely hood is that i will have to actually maintain a variety of different vehicles while im over there. Im not really sure what, bt basically anything from motorbikes to the equivalent of UK 7.5 tonne'rs. So a rather vague question, but is there anything i should know about these beasties? or things i should be prepared to cry over? Im assuming general basics like oil changes and spark plugs and wheels are gona be pretty much the same, but the idea of v8 and v12's is a bit off putting!
Is there anything i should know about driving in the states that isnt really obvious? Im familiar with onramps/offramps, toll roads, complete lack of 'sidewalks', the varying road markings and signs, but hows about american hate of Gatso's and the like? Where im gonna be is the back end of no where and i probably wont be driving far enough to worry about strange police customs but it would be nice to know these things prehand!
Any and all information greatly appreciated!

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Post by James.UK »

Hi Vanny.
The auto boxes usually read P R N A 1 2 3....
'P' is park, in park a small pawl engages inside the gearbox and prevents the car from rolling,(but if badly worn they can disangage! so ALWAYS apply the handbrake as well.) 'R' is reverse gear, 'N' is neutral, most auto's can be towed for a very short distance in 'N' but NOT more than a mile or two. But this does vary from model to model.. 'A' is automatic drive, the position you use %99 of the time, you just engage it and leave it till journeys end, then select park, apply your handbrake, turn the engine off and that's it.
Some gear boxes have 2 'modes' one is a sport mode that is slightly lower geared, but otherwise they are the same from a driving point of view.
Positions numbered 1 2 3 allow you to lock the car in that gear, but most auto boxes still allow the lower gears to operate, but NOT a higher gear, this is handy if you are on a long uphill and being forced to drive slowly, as sometimes your gearbox cant make up its mind what gear to use and keeps changing up and down, so just lock it in the lower gear till you get the chance to go faster. This is also very useful if you are towing something..
The gear lock has limitations, for example you prob wont be able to change down above certain revs, as this could cause the engine to go into the red zone and cause damage..
Its always a good idea to keep your foot on the brake at all times in an auto unless you actually want to move, I.e. foot on brake.. start engine, hold pin-lever-whatever and move lever to 'A' (sometimes labelled 'D' for drive) then apply accelerator and take your foot off the brake.. Its the safest way to drive an auto.
Most auto's wont start in any position except park or neutral, but I have had cars that do [:0] [:I]!!!! so don't take that for granted!
Driving schools teach you to drive one footed.. That's crazy!! use BOTH feet, especially in-town, its faster to brake if your foot is already hovering over the brake pedal! and its a good way to drive very fast on windy roads, [;)] not that one would of course..[:D]
Re v8's etc, don't let it bother you, if you maintain them well you wont need to get involved beyong tyres, oil changes, filters, etc, and basicaly a vee8, v16's, oppose drives, etc etc engine is just like two straight 4's driving one crank, they are angled usually to make more room to fit it all in the space avaiable.. But they all have valves, pistons, bores, bearings, etc etc... and you can always get any specific info on any particular engine via the internet, or phone. [:D] [^]
Good luck with it and make sure you ENJOY yourself... [:)]

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Post by arry_b »

Wait until you've STAMPED on the brake pedal when your brain forgets that you don't have to use a clutch.
You only do that once, and have "EGDOD" or "DROF" imprinted on your forehead for the rest of the week.
Don't ask.....

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Post by James.UK »

LMHO we all do that trick arry.. But only once!! Sorry to hear about the bearings, I emailed you to that effect, but assume it failed to reach you. Glad its being sorted now. :-)

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Post by TomH »

first time I drove an Automatic I was there for ages trying to get it to go into "drive".... no-one told me you must have your foot on the brake to change! took me a while to work that one out!

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Post by vanny »

now thats the one i wanted to know, knew there was a trick to it, but not what!

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Post by jeremy »

Never heard of having to apply brake to get it to go into drive. Sometimes the thing can roll downhill and trap the tooth of the parking paul - then you need to take the load off it by holding the lever in an uphill gear and accelerating slightly which will take the load off and allow the paul to be released.
I would advise against left foot braking. You are used to using your left foot for the clutch and simply pushing it straight down - hence arry's comment.
Yank tanks will have huge engines which work very nicely on autobox's - put it in drive and let it do the rest. There should be a kickdown arrangement and with practice the thing becomes very controllable. I used to be able to get my XJ6 to change down and up again in a cars length at about 30 mph.
Boxes can suffer from band wear which is probably adjustatable. Symptoms - slow change down (while operating cylinder fills with oil) Adjustment means operating piston arrangement doen't travel so far and change becomes quicker. Don't do it and eventually brake band wears out when it starts to slip.

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Post by James.UK »

Vanny, you dont HAVE to hold on the footbrake to get it into gear, but its wise to do so in case the car starts to move before you want it too! [:I]
Most auto box gear change levers have some sort of lock on them, a lift bit at the front, button on top, something of that sort, its there to prevent you accidentaly knocking the car into gear when the engines running.. [:0] [:)]
Re using both feet, I can see no logical reason to let your left foot lie idle and constantly have to move your right foot from pedal to pedal, and if a child runs out in front of me I will stop at least 20 feet sooner than a driver whos left foot is lying idle on the floor next to the brake when that happens..
But it is purely a matter of personal choice..[:)] there are no laws covering it..
The kick down works when you slam your foot to the floor on the accelorator, but there is always a slight delay, even on a Jag v12, or a 7 litre Camero.. Its quicker when driving fast for fun to use the gear stick.. dropping down a gear by hand also adds drag and helps you slow down without needing to brake so hard. Interestingly the ZX 1.9D auto adds the most drag when it chages down to 3rd on any auto I have ever driven, its great.. [^]
Having said all that, I have never driven any auto bigger than an sel 300 Merc, dunno what auto trucks are like to drive..


Post by philhoward »

As to the "foot on the brake trick", most modern cars seem to have this new "safety feature" built in; a Vectra I had was one of them; i could even hear the solenoid click when i touched the brake in Park! There normally isn't one from N to D though...

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Post by Malcolm »

The foot on the brake for D & N sounds right. The parking brake, I believe it was a Ram people van. How the hell do you release the brake? It was another small lever to release the park brake. Better to be familar before getting stuck in public.
On the road, at lights, unless otherwise informed, you can turn right at a red light(all states?). Someone behind will let you know if you stay put.
Familiarise yourself with what to do in a bump - phone 911. I was involved in a minor bump from another van when in our rented van. We exchanged details as you would over here. I then found out that I should have called the cops. The hire co. were OK with it but did confirm 911 was the right procedue.

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Post by oilyspanner »

Well Vanny,leaving the country? lengths folks will go to in order not to finish their BX project[:D]
Have a good time

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Post by mark_sp »

I dont agree with using both feet, it's definately a recipe for disaster especially when you are tired or distracted.
I've owned as many auto's as manuals and they are definately superior to manuals provided the engine has enough grunt. The best auto's to drive have the fewest forward gears.
I have not read through all the postings but I'm assuming you are going to drive a classic American car, after all it would appear to be a wasted opportunity if you ended up with a Nissan Micra (am I allowed to say that ? ) or a smart car maybe.
I do have one piece of advice though (this happened to a friend on his first drive in the states). If you stop at a set of traffic lights and realise that all the cars in front are pointing straight at you:
It does not improve the situation to do a panic U turn just as the lights change.
Have a nice day.