10 Ways You’re Ruining Your Automatic Transmission Car

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Automatic transmissions transformed the automotive world by eliminating the need for constant gear shifting and offering a smoother driving experience. But beware—you might be unknowingly damaging your convenient automatic vehicle by making these critical mistakes.

Revving the Engine in Neutral

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Revving the engine while in neutral might seem harmless or even beneficial, but in cars with an automatic transmission, this practice can be costly. 

When you rev in neutral, the transmission bands are put under unnecessary stress, leading to potential damage and costly repairs. To keep your car in top shape, always make sure to engage drive, press the brake, and then rev the engine (only when needed).

Using Both Feet for Driving 


Using both feet to operate the pedals in an automatic car—a common habit among drivers accustomed to manual transmissions—poses significant risks. Automatic vehicles are designed with just two pedals: one for acceleration and the other for braking. 

Employing your left foot to brake can lead to simultaneous acceleration and braking, potentially causing the car to lose control or result in a ‘two-footed’ driving error. Ideally, your left foot should rest on the dead pedal, helping maintain your balance without interfering with the controls.

Coasting in Neutral When Heading Downhill

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When you’re driving an automatic car, a key habit to break is shifting into neutral while descending a hill. Although it might seem harmless, this practice cuts off the flow of automatic transmission fluid that’s essential for lubricating the system. Over time, this lack of lubrication can lead to significant wear and tear on your transmission—much like running a marathon without water can leave you dehydrated and worn out!

Moreover, coasting in neutral diminishes your control over the vehicle. In an emergency, you’d be able to stop but not accelerate, which could increase the risk of an accident. For those in hybrid cars, using B-gear instead allows the engine to help slow the car while simultaneously recharging the battery through regenerative braking—a smarter use of your vehicle’s capabilities.

Shifting from Drive to Reverse While Still in Motion


One of the quickest ways to harm your automatic transmission is by shifting from drive to reverse while still in motion. 

This action forces the transmission to act as a brake (which it’s not designed for), causing the gears to engage in an opposite direction than they’re moving. This results in not just wear but also excessive friction.

Not Keeping an Eye on Automatic Transmission Fluid Levels


Driving with low automatic transmission fluid is a surefire way to end up with a breakdown. Your car relies on various fluids for smooth operation, and a proper level of transmission fluid is crucial. 

Low fluid levels lead to increased wear on components, potentially causing your car to malfunction or even fail to go into gear. Make sure to check your fluid levels regularly to avoid these issues.

Excessive Gear Shifting


Too much gear shifting can wear down your transmission over time. 

A common misconception is that switching to neutral at a traffic light helps save fuel, but this actually does more harm than good by increasing wear on the transmission without improving fuel efficiency. Stick to necessary shifts and let your transmission rest as much as possible.

Not Parking in ‘P’ Mode

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Neglecting to set your automatic car in ‘P’ mode when parked is a risky oversight. 

This setting locks the transmission, anchoring the vehicle and preventing it from rolling either forward or backward. Relying solely on hand brakes, which can fail or wear out, is not advisable. Ensuring your car is in ‘P’ mode provides more security (especially on inclines or uneven surfaces!)

Switching to Park before the Car Has Completely Stopped

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Another critical practice to stop if your car has an automatic transmission is switching to park before the vehicle has fully stopped. Engaging the parking gear while the car is still in motion can cause abrupt halting of the transmission, leading to severe damage. 

In many cars, a pin is used to lock the transmission when parked. Moving into park while still rolling can snap this pin, potentially resulting in costly repairs. Thankfully, modern vehicles are often equipped with wheel speed sensors that prevent shifting into park until the car has completely stopped—saving both your car and your wallet from unnecessary stress.

Resting Your Hands on the Gear Lever


Resting your hand on the gear lever while driving an automatic car may seem like a harmless habit, but it can actually lead to premature wear and tear on the transmission. 

The weight of your hand adds unnecessary pressure to the gear stick, which then transfers down to the shifter rail and synchronizers. This additional force increases friction and can gradually damage the teeth of the gears. To avoid these costly repairs, it’s best to keep both hands on the steering wheel, ensuring safer driving and prolonging the health of your car’s transmission.

Exposing Your Transmission to Water


Water exposure can be detrimental to the intricate components of an automatic transmission. These parts are particularly vulnerable to rust and corrosion when they come into contact with water. Additionally, water can contaminate the transmission fluid, increasing friction and leading to further damage. 

In instances where the transmission system has been exposed to water, it is often more cost-effective and reliable to replace rather than repair it, ensuring your vehicle continues to operate smoothly without the heightened risk of future malfunctions.

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Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.