Automatic Transmissions That Won’t Shift Gears

Transmission Cutaway

Transmission Cutaway

Let’s face it, transmissions can be tricky. It’s a very complex piece of machinery with more than enough components to keep an experienced mechanic busy for hours on end. Although it can seem overwhelming there are some simple signs you can look for if you think your automatic transmission is not working properly.

The automatic transmission does all the work that the driver would normally do in a car with a manual transmission. They shift up and down and rest the engine when in neutral. So what happens when the transmission won’t shift gears? Modern day cars have several computerized components under the hood that aid the transmission and improves performance, but it also opens more possibilities that could lead to problems.

A problem a lot of drivers experience is their cars won’t shift from first to second gear. That could lead to number of different problems, overheating being one of them. If you think there is a problem with your transmission then the first thing you should always do is check your transmission fluid levels.

Tip: Check your owner’s manual if you’re unsure how to check your vehicle’s transmission fluid levels.

Low fluid levels can lead to several performance issues including not being able to shift from first to second gear. If it’s low, check for puddles around where the car is parked for extended periods of time to see if you have a leak. If no leak is suspected, refill the transmission fluid and test it out.

This solves a lot of transmission problems but if you still can’t shift then you may need to look at your throttle cables. A faulty throttle cable that has too much slack can prevent proper shifting, or shifting at all for that matter.

Note: Older cars that aren’t computerized may have problems with the throttle cables. Cars that don’t have throttle cables have a vacuum modulator and an adjustment could do the trick.

If all else fails then you should take it in to an automotive shop for a diagnostic test. It’s possible the problem has advanced and a computerized diagnostic test is required to pinpoint the problem and its location.

At 2J’s Automotive we give your car a free diagnostic test, valued at $80, and help you with whatever situation you’re going through. Bring your car in and let the professionals get your car in working order so you can drive safely and have peace of mind on the road.

Contact us at 817-232-9866 if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment.

136 Responses to “Automatic Transmissions That Won’t Shift Gears”

  1. jaymee Yamanoha says:

    hi just recently this afternoon my car wouldn’t start at all. Everything was completely dead, so my uncle jumpstarted it, and it was charged, but then it wouldn’t shift out from park. It only worked one time when i had some guys come check it out, but when they left it was stuck in park again. I really don’t know what to do. is it the battery, because everything else is fine, but the air conditioning wont turn on, and the gears are not changing.

    • admin says:

      This sounds like that you have something electrical going on. It could be a bad battery or alternator but I would have to see the vehicle to determine the exact cause. Let me know how we can help.

  2. Paul says:

    Hi, so my Hyundai Accent (2002) starts and initially runs well, until I start to steadily press on the gas pedal. It shifts into the initial gear but then just stays that way. As I press on the gas pedal the RPMs go up but there is no shift into the next gear. Any way to fix that?

    • admin says:

      From what you are saying it appears that the transmission needs to be rebuilt. I would need to see the vehicle to make a final determination.

      Thanks
      Jay

  3. Michael says:

    i have a problem with my 1998 mercedes benz ml 320 in the mornings when its cold my transmission wont change gear automatic but it changes gear manually. but when its not cold it changes gear automatically fine. what could be the problem?

    • admin says:

      Your transmission could have an internal bypass leak that could cause a no shift when its cold. The only way to determine is for us to see the car and make sure its not an electrical problem.

  4. Michael says:

    so its not the transmission?

  5. lorena says:

    I have a kia Sorrento 2005. SUV. From going on reverse the car stopped and does not turn on ,.and shifts don’t work it looks they are loose …where ever shift I put the car won’t start. What’s wring with it?

  6. Shay says:

    Hi. I had replaced my tranny pan on my car and the gasket for it was broken in two areas. We had used silicone to try seal it and now my car is having a hard time shifting gears, could the broken gasket be the problem?

  7. Shay says:

    Hello again, so we just changed the gasket. It still won’t shift. How do you know if the transmission pump needs to be replaced?

  8. Stacey says:

    Hey,
    I have a VK commodore and recently it has started to not want to change into second gear unless I’m going extremely slow or it wont change at all and will just shoot over 3000rpm and I’ve topped up my fluids and the problem is still going what should I do??

  9. Elgin Wright says:

    I own a 1999 Acura TL I went to start my car this morning to go to work the car started perfectly like normal but when I put the car in gear for drive or reverse the car remained very still but the engine was running fine it showed that the car was in gear on the dash board but the car wouldn’t move also the check engine light was on as well with the SRS light what ever that means? Do anyone have any idea what it could be.

    • admin says:

      It appears that your transmission needs to be rebuilt. As much as I want to tell you exactly what is wrong no one can accurately diagnose over a blog until I have looked at the vehicle.

    • admin says:

      It sounds like something broke in your transmission. You need to have an expert check it out. It also could be the shifter cable broke and it is not engaging into gear.

  10. Felicia says:

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification
    of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is very helpful.
    Thank you for sharing!

  11. nichole says:

    Hi I have a 2001 pontiac bonneville automatic. It starts just fine but it won’t always shift and the rpms just go up unless u shift it manually and it sometimes kills when I put it in reverse. What could it be?

  12. Bertha says:

    Hi my Nissian xterra worked perfectly fine this morning when i leaving to go to school this morning. But as soon as i got to school and tried to park the car it it was still in drive mode. and when i tried to put it back the drive shift it was reversing. so put it back on park ..weird cause my mom said its probably the transmission

  13. Ashley says:

    I have a 2003 trailblazer I was going down the road and my car wouldn’t shift into 2nd I thought I had knocked it out of gear but did not. I managed to make it to a empty lot. It was making a loud wining noise. Checked the fluid and it was low once I filled it up I tried to drive it home at 1st it still didn’t want to shift but eventually I was able to get up to 45 mph. And the noise went away. When I put it in park the noise started again and went back away. Do you think filling the fluid fixed it or did I mess up my transmission?

    • admin says:

      It appears you will need a transmission rebuild. It sounds like 2nd gear is out and it is trying to shift from 1st to 3rd.

  14. Maggie Ripley says:

    Hi I have a 2005 Ford Taurus. I went in and got a diagnostic from Ford services and they said it seems that my 2nd gear has gone out. Can I drive without a second gear?

    • admin says:

      If you keep driving the vehicle you will have more damage in the future and will cost more to repair. The price to rebuild will be cheaper now than in the future.

  15. Jennifer Jones says:

    I was going to turn into a parking space today and had to back up and when I went to put it in drive it would not go forward the engine was running but would not move it would work in reverse but not going forward I have a 2005 Pontiac Sunfire and it is automatic

    • admin says:

      It sounds as if something internally broke or the shift cable broke. You will need to have a transmission specialist look at your transmission,

  16. DeSean Brooks says:

    I have a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP and my car can shift in all gears but won’t drive forward using the automatic transmission but it will drive using the manual. Please help me.

    • admin says:

      It appears the forward or direct drum is damaged or forward clutches are bad and will need to most likely need to be rebuilt. You need to have a transmission specialist look at it to determine the damage.

  17. Shaulee says:

    Hello! I have a 2001 Cadillac SLS. Today I drove my car to Walmart and everything was fine. Drove it almost to my house and all of a sudden when I stopped at a stop sign and then tried to go again the car seemed to have a hard time going. I pushed the gas pedal and it would only go three mph. After 10-15 seconds it would jerk and then drive fine. My check oil level light has been on. Could a low oil level cause this? Thank you.

    • admin says:

      There are several things that could cause this. Everything from an electronic problem, motor issue, catalytic converter stopping up, or transmission problem. I would have the fluid checked and then have an expert look at the issue.

  18. Sandy says:

    I was driving off the interstate, down an off ramp, and felt a little something in my car, nothing I hoped. Anyways while turning onto the street, I notice my car was not getting out of 2nd. It finally did only after I got it to 40 rpms. What could this be?

    • admin says:

      This could be an electrical problem or an internal problem. This needs to be looked at before it can be diagnosed.

  19. Karma Heaton says:

    My husband changed the transmission fluid himself in our 04 Kia sorento now the car drives in drive, WON’T reverse, neutral wants to roll forward but doesn’t drive in neutral. And 1st and 2nd are ok. I just really want it to reverse, we nicknamed it “onedirection” cute but I’d really like it more if it went more than one direction please help! Thank you

  20. Forrest says:

    Hi
    I have a ’92 Volvo 240 that (when it is cold) Will not shift out of first gear. At first I could coax it with giving it some gas and forcing it to shift, but over time shifting got more difficult. before it would’ve shifted in ten or so minutes of driving, but now I can drive it for miles with no change.However, if I let it run and warm up, it USUALLY shifts fine, but I’m starting to worry that it’s going to leave me stranded soon. What could be wrong and how much could it cost to fix?

    • admin says:

      It will probably need to be rebuilt. It sounds like you have a internal problem either with a cracked drum or bad clutches. The cost will depend which transmission you have and who works on the car.

  21. libs. says:

    Hi.
    I have an automatic 1995 mazda 3 with a rebuilt engine. When I’m going up a hill the car will get to 3-4 rmps before it gets to 30 mph. Smoke comes out of the exhaust every once in a while. It jumps when you first put it in drive and sometimes it doesn’t want to shift from first to second gear. What could be the problem? Help please?!

  22. deborah evans says:

    Gm I have a Suzuki grand viteria 2007. The car will start up but when put in drive, reverse or any gear it shuts off. Pl help

    • admin says:

      The torque converter is locked up and will need to be rebuilt. Please have someone check this out to confirm my diagnoses.

  23. victor olague says:

    i have a 2002 bmw 325i and it will shift gears but extremely late and i can tell the machine is forced also when im at a complete stop the rpm begin to move up and down and can shakes what should i do, i will me tion it was running low on oil for some time not sure if thats relevant

  24. Jake says:

    Hey I’m not sure if you can help but I’m puzzled, I have a 93 holden commodore it won’t change gears as its meant to it gets high revs,

  25. Greg says:

    I have a 2008 pontiac grand prix and my car won’t move and drive but can go in reverse and move in 1 gear. What could the problem be?

  26. Jam says:

    Hi, my car can drive forward but won’t reverse, I checked fluid and added more in there, but still won’t reverse, I noticed some leaks, could that be the problem? It’s a VW…

    • admin says:

      It will be in the valve body or something broke in the transmission. I would have someone look at the valve body first to rule that out.

  27. Funke says:

    Hi. My mercedez ML320 2002 automatic transmission won’t shift from parking unless I press something in the hole below the last gear. It initially does it once a while but now it won’t shift at all without pressing since yesterday!

  28. markita says:

    My husband replaced an automatic transmission in a 2011 Kia sorento AWD. We drove it down the driveway then it would not move no matter what gear it is in. The only thing that responds is when it is in park.

    • admin says:

      If he didn’t get the torque converter stabbed properly the pump gears probably broke. Will need to pull and change the pump and pump gears and anything else that may have been damaged.

  29. jessie says:

    I have a 2000 jeep grand cherokee laredo. We were driving and it was lugging…all the sudden it doesn’t seem to catch gears. It will shift but you don’t feel it shift and it won’t move…the check engine light is on and the engine is running fine…it just won’t move once its put into gear…i don’t even think it is shifting inside…any suggestions?

    • admin says:

      It appears that you may need a rebuild. Either something broke internally or the torque converter failed.

  30. allen says:

    I have a Chevorlet caprice and i just got the rear end replaced but transmission will not shift into second gear. What do i need to do?

  31. Renee says:

    Hello, I have a 1998 Chrysler Sebring. Recently, the car has been having problems shifting into 2nd, and then into 3rd, but ONLY if I push the gas pedal too hard. If I ease the pedal down very slowly, it will shift both times, and then it is fine. Which stinks when I have to pull out onto a main street into 45 mph traffic and stay at 20 mph until it shifts into 2nd then 3rd…when it does not shift and the rpms go up to the 4 and I’m only doing 40mph, I pull off shut the car off wait 20 seconds, restart it and go again. I’ve had someone tell me I need a timing sensor, and someone else tell me that makes no sense it is the torque converter. Any ideas? I have a feeling by previous replies on here, it’s going to need a rebuilt tranny :( Expensive…all work on this car is expensive due to the way the engine is situated in it :( It’s sideways and from what a previous mechanic told me, everything is hard to get to in there.

    • admin says:

      I am not aware what a timing switch is and don’t believe it is the torque converter. We would need to check it out and see if it is an electrical problem or an internal problem.

  32. Larry says:

    My 2003 town and country wont shift from first to second gear and my fluids are full? can you give me some feed back.

  33. Missy says:

    I have am 04 Acura TL, when i first drive it, it drives wonderful, switches gears and all, but after a few minutes of me driving it, it gets to where it doesnt want to change gears. It usually gets stuck at 4rpms. What could it be? i changed the Transmission fluid and filter in it hoping that was the problem, but i dont think it is.

    • admin says:

      It sounds like you may have a cross leak internal and when the ATF heats up and becomes thinner something is holding pressure. I also could be the torque converter coming apart or internal damage.

  34. cth says:

    I was driving my 1994 ford f150 automatic truck this morning and all of a sudden my truck wouldnt go from 1st to 2nd gear. Could this be a bad transmission. I had to pull over and now the truck is parked.

    • admin says:

      This could be a bad transmission but could also be an electrical issue or a computer not commanding 3rd gear. I would need to see the truck to determine the cause.

  35. Kim says:

    I have a 2010 ford focus and I am having the issue that my car will not shift randomly. It has happened 3 times now and seems that if I am driving, the wrench light will come on and then my car will not shift. If I pull over and come to a stop and turn my car off and then turn it back on it will run normally. My warranty recently expired and I am not sure what this could possibly be besides my transmission. I have 90000 miles on it and am wondering if you would have any advise on what this could be. The RPM’s do not go up, it will just not go.

    • admin says:

      This could be an electrical problem. What you need to do is when the light comes on drive straight to a transmission specialist and have them scan for a code and then they may be able to tell you what is going on.

  36. Kim says:

    Thank you!!!

  37. Kim says:

    Thank you!

  38. Xavier says:

    Hey, my car worked perfectly yesterday but this morning, I went out to start it and nothing happened. I noticd when I looked under the good that it wasn’t in park because it rolled but I know I put it in park last night. Would that be the transmission?

  39. SHAY says:

    My 2004 Mitsubishi Diamante won’t shift gears. It’s like I’m stuck in neutral, can’t move forward or backwards. Could that be a throttle cable?

  40. Mónica Woodlief says:

    My car acts like the battery is dead I want to move it so my son help me with jumping cables but the gear is lock I can’t get to change gear from park to neutral to push the car, press the clutch deep and nothing.

    • admin says:

      There should be a manual release for shifter. You usually have to put the key into a slot to release the shifter.

  41. israel tamoria says:

    my car nissan altima 2009 engine starts and running and on drive but will not move.

  42. Samantha says:

    Hello, my 04 trailblazer will not go past 25-35 mph in D. I can get up to the speed, but if I take my foot off of the pedal and try to accelerate again my RPMs just go up and I start losing speed. Once I come to a stop I can then accelerate again, but it will only let me get up to 25-35 mph. The codes that came up in the computer were my 02 sensor and timing sensor. I fixed the timing sensor, and I fixed the 02 sensor about a month ago. I’m not sure whats going on I was doing research and thought it might have gone into safe/limp mode? What do you professionals think? Im a single mom of 4 and cant just go around fixing the whole dang truck, but I need it, its my everyday rider. Any help is appreciated!! Thank you!

    • Samantha says:

      My 04 trailblazer, runs perfect in Reverse, 2nd, and 1st too. ^^^^^^^^^^ Just not in Drive or 3rd. Only can go 25-35

    • admin says:

      Since you made the fix on what the computer was telling you my guess is you will need to rebuild the transmission

  43. Dale Zeigler says:

    My 2003 Acura automatic transmission, shifts hard into park, but, then car won’t start. Have to use the shift interlock to get into neutral to start car. Could this be a transmission problem?

  44. melissa says:

    Hi. My car bucks when going into reverse and drive but more in drive, violently. I have a 2000 Jimmy but got in last December so idk when things were last done to it. Fluid is fine but what can I do or ask someone to look at? Thanks!

  45. damian stone says:

    My Pontiac grand Prix 2000 gtp supercharged won’t drive when I put it In drive but will reverse just fine. So to drive it I have to shift it gear by gear.

    • admin says:

      It sounds like you have a cracked forward or direct drum and is not able to build up enough pressure to automatically shift. More than likely you will need a rebuild.

  46. Justin says:

    My 2000 nissan maxima won’t shift out of first gear. I can only get up to 40 mph

    • admin says:

      It sounds like your transmission needs to be rebuilt. Check with a professional to do diagnostics to determine.

  47. angel davis says:

    Hey I have a 06 impala and today my car will only drive in 1 and 2 when check I had no transmission fluid so If I put some in there will my car be all right out my transmission is about to go out .thanks

  48. Tee says:

    I have a 2003 pontiac Aztek. My car starts up just fine, but when I put the car in any gear, the car just sits there and will not move. It just passed a smog two months ago, and I had an older guy do a tune up on it and that’s when the car started messing up. Then the tranny’s dipstick tube busted, and I was driving it like that for two weeks, and got that replaced as well as a tranny flush, got a new filter and new oil. Now my car just turns on and won’t go anywhere. The transmission sounds good. Is there any other problem that can cause the car not to move?

    • admin says:

      First I would never flush a older higher mile transmission because of this issue. Many times when you power flush a transmission you move all of the debris from the pan and it is sent throughout the transmission which can cause many problems. Secondly it appears that your transmission has gone out and will require a rebuild. This conclusion is before I have seen the car and performed any diagnostics but there are not any other things that can cause a non move issue unless one of the front axles is broken.

  49. Tee says:

    Thank you.

  50. Emily says:

    Hello,

    I have been frantically calling all over to different mechanic shops. I have a 1997 GMC Jimmy 4 WD 4.3l engine. It does not shift into 3rd or 4th gear. The fastest it will go is about 30 mph. I have two different shops telling me they need to take out the transmission to diagnose it, which I get, but that costs a certain price. I just want to know if you think it will be a lot of things wrong with it (for a rebuild) or maybe not that much considering it goes into first and second gear. If I have them take it out to look at it then they give me a huge estimate, I am out the money for them to take it out. Please help!

  51. keke says:

    Hi i have a 2007 chevy malibu my car will reverse just fine but when i put it in drive it will not go help me with this matter so i can see where to go from there

    • admin says:

      It appears either your direct drum is cracked or the clutches are worn out. More than likely you will need to rebuild the trans. Always remember to have a qualified professional diagnose before rebuilding.

  52. Jasmine says:

    I have a 01 grand prix GTP and drove it all day and drove fine no problems got home husband got in it to go to work and it put it in reverse then drive and it would not go anywhere all gears work but Drive and 3 rd plz help me

    • Jasmine says:

      Hi again i had some friends tell me it could be the sensors or linkage Plz tell me its something simple cuz I really cant afford a new or even rebuild trans

  53. Derek says:

    Hello I have a Chrysler 300 2005 rwd. My car has been sitting for a year and a half when I drive the car won’t shift out of 1st gear. Could it be my solenoid valve?

  54. justin says:

    2002 mitsubishi diamante ls v6 with the F4A51 trans motor shuts off when u put it in any gear. U can Rev the engine up a little and then put it in gear and it will take off once u get moving it changes fine I. Hep check TCC solonord and power leaving the PCM and its not telling THE TCC to lock up but tgr torque converter is still staying locked up please help ASAP

    • admin says:

      This is a common problem with torque converters. My opinion is you need to rebuild the transmission due to the trash that the converter spreads throughout the transmission. Some people will sometimes just change the converter but that can be problematic due to the trash.

  55. Zee Bilal says:

    I have a 2007 automatic transmission chrysler pacifica. Recently, it just wouldn’t go into park one night when I got home. I wasn’t having any problems on the way home. Then the next day I discovered it would go into reverse, but the engine took a lot of power for it to reverse very slowly. Now it will park, but shifts gear very slowly when I drive. What is going on? Could it be transmission fluid, or a shifter cable?

    • admin says:

      Probably not. Someone needs to perform some diagnostics on the van to see if it is an internal problem or possibly a solenoid block that has gone bad.

  56. Kelly says:

    My 2007 automatic Mini Cooper would not switch gears on the way home tonight. Also, some of the warning lights were flashing on and off (like there was a short in a fuse), and the speed odometer and heat gage monitor needles were bouncing all over the place. What could this be? Where do I start?
    Thanks for your help.

  57. Bryan says:

    I have a vw polo vivo DSG/automatic transmision, when hot it rolls back when put in drive but drives well when cold

    • admin says:

      If I remember correctly the DSG trans is a manual trans that shifts automatically. I would have to see the vehicle before telling you what is wrong.

  58. Miguel Morán says:

    Hi i hAve a 2006 ford Milan it won’t go on drive but low gear and than manual to drive and the car runs fine makes all the gears without a problem could it be solenoid or body valve ?

  59. Miguel Morán says:

    ThAnk you

  60. casey says:

    My car will not shift from first to second if I put it in drive from park. But If I put it in reverse first then drive. It shifts normal

  61. Kathy Harris says:

    I have a ’77 CJ7 with a 383 Stroker and a turbo 400. I was driving and had been on the road for about 20 miles. I stopped and then got back in it and started back down the road. A couple of miles down the road, it was like it jumped out of drive and into neutral. It revved up but wouldn’t go. I pulled off the road. I put it through all gears. I can feel it go into reverse and I can feel it go into 1st. I can’t feel it shift to drive or 2nd. However, it just revs like it is in neutral. When I put it in park it makes a little grinding noise. Fluid is full. I changed the fluid and filter about 200 miles ago, too.

  62. Kristen says:

    Hello, my son drives a 1998 Mercury Tracer with only 56k miles. The car will not go from park to drive?

  63. Everett says:

    Hi, so I have a 2000 ford mustang that’s having some shifting problems it runs and shifts fine until I hit about 40 mph I believe it’s not shifting into 3rd gear because once you hit that spot the engine will rev up loud but won’t go any faster reminds me of how a car acts when revved when in neutral I’ve already replaced the filter and replaced the fluid any other thoughts?

    • admin says:

      It appears that 3rd gear is burnt up and will not engage since the clutches won’t grab. This will require a full rebuild.

  64. linda says:

    Hello

    Lately when I accelerate I can not feel my 2006 Taurus shifting. Car has 85,000 miles on it.

  65. Mike says:

    Hi,

    I have a 2002 Toyota Previa it drives in D,2 and L but, doesn’t seem to change up as revs increase. It won’t select reverse either. It did show a P0755 OBD 2 code also. Any help would be great.

    Thank you.

  66. veronica says:

    I have a chrysler 300 2006. This morning I turned my car on, no weird noises or anything wrong, I went to reverse and my gears wouldn’t budge. There’s no lights on indicating there’s a problem. What could it be?

    • admin says:

      It appears your transmission or cv axle has broken. You need to have a specialist look and diagnose your car.

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