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Is it okay to go from Drive to Manual in an AT while cruising?

Is it safe?

A reader sent in a question about the usage of a modern automatic transmission with the manual option. Here’s his question:

“Hi Top Gear PH! Is it okay if I shift from drive to manual (+/-) in an automatic car while I'm cruising? I hope you can answer my question. So stoked! Thank you!" 

You absolutely can with nothing to worry about. These modern automatic transmissions that have a manual mode are meant to do that. Switching to manual mode from automatic, even while cruising, is something that it was built to do.

In the past decade or so, the automatic transmission has undergone a few advancements. First introduced in exotic cars, modern automatic transmissions now give the option of a manual mode in which the driver may shift gears for himself. However, unlike a genuine manual transmission where a hydraulic or a cable controlled clutch is operated with a pedal, the shifting of gears in modern manu-matic transmissions is done by mere switches or a tug/push on the shifter.


In these kinds of transmissions, the driver is allowed to select specific gears on demand. Manual mode provides more control, because it allows the driver to choose a single gear and keep it there. As a driver, the more control you have, the better.

Here are a couple of instances when a manual mode is useful:

1) When driving downhill

For instance, you’re going down a steep mountain road. If you stay in drive mode, you will probably be riding your brakes all the way down. This is bad for your brakes because you could overheat them, and hot brakes don’t work very well. If you put it in manual mode, you can drop down one or two gears so that you can let the engine do some of the braking for the car and take some pressure off the brakes.

2) When you need more power

Another instance is when you want more power, like when you need to pass another car on the opposite side of the road and you need a sudden burst of speed. In some cars, if you remain in automatic mode and you put the pedal to the floor, the transmission doesn’t respond quick enough in shifting down to give you more torque. In this instance, putting the car in manual mode and selecting the gear you want, when you want it, helps you to get the power down without having to wait for the transmission to do it for you.

These transmissions are very intuitive and like I said earlier, switching from automatic to manual mode can be done even on the fly.

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Hope this answers your question. Thanks for writing in!

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PHOTO: Chira Dela Cruz
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