How to Brake in an Automatic Car

This tutorial explains how to brake in an automatic car for learner drivers. When learning how to use something, it’s often beneficial to understand how it works. It’s recommended that you first read the ‘car brakes explained‘ tutorial which provides a brief and basic guide on how your car brakes work.

Additionally, if you’re not sure which pedal is the foot brake or what feet to use for either the brake or accelerator pedal, the which pedal is the brake in an automatic car offer answer to many questions.

If you’ve not driven before and you need to learn how to brake in an automatic car, you should start out on a quiet road where you’ll not interfere with other road users. If you’re taking lessons with a driving instructor, they will first drive you to a quiet location.

Foot Position

In general driving, use your right foot to operate the brake pedal. To maintain best control of the brake, press the pedal with the ball of your foot whilst resting your heel on the floor.

Diagram illustrating the proper foot placement for operating the brake pedal
Operate the brake pedal in automatic cars with the right foot

Before Starting the Car

Before starting an automatic car, ensure that the gear selector lever is in the PARK (P) position and that the parking brake is applied. Then, firmly press your left foot on the foot brake. Pressing the foot brake before starting is a good habit to get into as it prevents the car from lurching forward, just in case the gear selector lever was left in drive. However, most modern automatic cars will not start unless the foot brake is pressed.

General Driving

In general driving, there will of course be plenty of accelerating and braking. Beginner drivers tend to be quite abrupt when braking, so we need to learn how to do it smoothly. This is called progressive braking and it means that the force in which we press the brake pedal varies.

To learn progressive braking, we need to separate the process down into three stages; feel, firm and feather. You can practice this braking technique on a quiet road. For learning how to brake in an automatic car, use the following technique:


By reading the ‘car brakes explained‘ tutorial, you’ll understand that when you push the brake pedal, brake fluid is used to to build pressure, which in turn pushes the brake pads onto the brake disc.

For this pressure to occur, you need to press the brake pedal a certain amount until the brake pads contact the brake discs. In other words, you slowly press the pedal and when you feel the car begin to slow, you move onto the second stage which is firm.


The brake pedal slack has now been taken up and the brake pads are now engaged with the brake discs. The ‘firm’ stage is where we slow the car down. During this stage of braking, you can vary the amount of brake pedal pressure depending on how much speed you need to lose over how much distance. Apply firm pressure to the brake pedal until you have reduced the majority of excess speed.

Cars tend not to like braking and steering at the same time as it can make them unstable. Always complete all ‘firm’ braking before you start steering. Car are much more likely to skid if you are steering and braking at the same time.


The third and final stage is to feather the brake pedal. Slightly release brake pedal pressure and then gently feather on pressure until you reach the desired speed. During this stage, you can gently increase or decrease pressure to the brake pedal to make fine adjustments to your speed.

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