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How to Use a 6-Speed Automatic Transmission

by Shawn McClain

A 6-speed automatic transmission uses six different drive gears to give you the best combination of fuel economy and power, as determined by the manufacturer. Since the transmission is automatic, the car determines when it needs to change gears and does it for you--all you have to do is drive the car. Automatic transmissions are easier to use than manual transmissions, where you have to manually change gears, at the expense of a little control over how your car accelerates and brakes.

Push the button on the shifter handle to release the lock. This will enable you to move the shifter to the desired setting.

Move the shifter to the "D," or drive, position to drive the car. When you step on the gas pedal, the car will shift into the proper gear, of the six available gears, without you having to do anything. As your accelerate, the transmission will move you through the gears, from first (low) to sixth (high).

Pull the shifter to the "R," or reverse, position when you need to move the car backwards. There is only one reverse gear, so you can only go so fast.

Move the shifter to the "N," or neutral, position when you need to disengage the engine from the drive wheels. There are only a handful of situations where you would want to do this, like when you need to roll the car without it being on.

Place the shifter in the "P," or park, position when you want to park the car. Always engage the parking brake and move you foot from the brake pedal before you put the car into park, to avoid putting the entire weight of the car on your transmission.

Put the shifter into the "L," "1," "2" or "3" positions, which may or may not be options on your particular model of 6-speed car, to force the car into a lower gear. This can be advantageous when you are climbing steep hills, getting rolling on icy roads, or pulling something out of a ditch.

About the Author

Shawn McClain has spent over 15 years as a journalist covering technology, business, culture and the arts. He has published numerous articles in both national and local publications, and online at various websites. He is currently pursuing his master's degree in journalism at Clarion University.

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