What is Kickdown in an Automatic Car

In an automatic car, kickdown occurs when the driver presses the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. By doing so, the gearbox automatically changes to a lower gear, providing the engine with more power.

What Would you use Kickdown for in an Automatic Car?

In an automatic car, when kickdown is triggered, a lower gear is engaged, resulting in a higher engine speed (RPM, or Revolutions Per Minute). The higher the engine speed, the more power. You would use kickdown for:

  • Overtaking another vehicle
  • Driving uphill
  • Towing a heavy load

Overtaking Another Vehicle

The benefit of kickdown is that it’s convenient and simple to operate. Rather than using the manual gears located at the gear shift lever, all the driver needs to do is press the accelerator pedal to the floor. A gear downshift will then occur, allowing for better acceleration. Once the driver has overtaken the vehicle, return the accelerator pedal to the normal driving position and the gearbox will shift up a gear.

Driving Uphill

With the use of sensors and computers, modern automatic cars have improved considerably over the years. Using the many sensors on the vehicle, the gearbox control program often determines the appropriate gear at any given situation.

However, the system doesn’t always get it quite right and you may find yourself driving up a hill, with the car struggling to make progress. This is where kickdown can help. Simply ‘floor’ the accelerator pedal to trigger a downshift and the extra engine power will help the car up the hill. Once you reach the top, return the accelerator pedal back to the normal position so that the transmission can shift up a gear.

Towing a Heavy Load

An automatic car’s transmission is designed to operate within the specific weight of the vehicle. If you tow a heavy load, you’ll find that the gearbox may not operate as it usually does.

Some cars or trucks may have a tow button that when pressed, keeps the transmission in a lower gear and may shift earlier too. If your automatic car doesn’t have this option, you may have to use either the manual gears or kickdown, particularly when driving uphill.

Do all Automatic Cars have Kickdown?

Almost all automatic cars have the kickdown feature. Earlier automatics, or basic modern automatics simply have a switch that’s activated by the driver pressing the accelerator pedal to the floor. When the switch is activated, kickdown occurs, resulting in the downshift of one gear.

Most modern automatic cars have electronic accelerator pedals and along with various sensors, if the gearbox control program determines that more power is needed, a kickdown may occur without the driver pressing the accelerator to the floor.

On a modern automatic car, if the driver presses the accelerator pedal to the floor, the vehicle may downshift two gears for even greater power, but only if the gearbox determines first that the engine will not over-rev.

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