When your car won’t go into gear, it can cause serious problems. What’s the trouble? It could be any number of things, depending on whether you have a manual transmission or an automatic transmission. Here’s a rundown of some of the possible problems, and what to do about them.
Manual Transmission Gear Problems
If you drive a stick shift, you may find that when you press the clutch, the gear shift still won’t move. The problem might be that the clutch is simply worn out. After a while, there’s no longer enough friction to transfer power from the engine to the wheels.
On average, the clutch on a stick shift wears out every 60,000 miles or so—depending on how and where you drive it. Fortunately, replacing it is a fairly routine procedure, which your mechanic should be able to perform relatively quickly.
There also may be an issue with the clutch master cylinder, and the hydraulic fluid contained therein. If the clutch goes all the way to the floor, then this may be the problem. If the cylinder leaks, eventually there won’t be enough hydraulic fluid to put the car into gear. In this case, the clutch master cylinder will need to be replaced.
Automatic Transmission Gear Problems
Automatic cars can have problems shifting into gear as well. In this case, there’s a good possibility the issue is an electronic one. Most of the mechanisms that tell a car to shift gears automatically are electronic, rather than mechanical. If the electronic signals aren’t being sent or received properly, it can keep the valves that control the flow of transmission fluid from opening or closing—which then keeps the car from going into gear.
Or the issue could be with the shift interlock mechanism. The mechanism is designed to keep you from accidentally shifting to Neutral or Park while the car is in motion. As you’re no doubt aware, you can’t put your car into Park unless the engine is running and both the break pedal and the button on the side of the gear shift are being pressed.
However, if you’re doing all of that, and the car still won’t shift into drive, try pressing the shift lock release button. It’s a small button, usually right next to the gear shift. There may be a small covering over the button, to prevent it from being pressed accidentally. Remove the cover and use a small, narrow object, such as a key or a screwdriver, to press the button. Then, depress the brake and shift gears as you normally would.
If this doesn’t solve the problem, or if the gear shift continues to lock going forward, then talk to your mechanic. You may need a new brake pedal position sensor, or there may be a transmission problem.
This is an issue that can plague either a manual OR automatic transmission. The transmission fluid is what allows the gears to shift smoothly. Over time, dirt, grease, and other contaminants can build up in the fluid, causing it to turn from bright red to a brown or black sludge. This sludge is hard on your gears, and should be flushed out and replaced with new transmission fluid. As a general rule, replace your transmission fluid every two years or 30,000 miles.
There may also be a leak, which means there’s not enough fluid in your transmission—which also wreaks havoc on your gears. In this case, your fluid needs to be replaced—as soon as the leak is repaired, of course.
With regular upkeep to your vehicle, and regular service to your transmission when needed, you can prevent a lot of these problems and keep your gears shifting smoothly. Talk to your mechanic to see what your car needs to help it continue running optimally, and avoid costly repairs.
You should flush your transmission every 30,000 miles or so, draining the fluid and replacing it with new. 30,000 miles can be hard to keep track of, though, particularly as it may take three or four years to get there. And in some cases, you might need the change sooner. How do you know when your transmission needs to be serviced?
Here are five signs that you need new transmission fluid.
- Grinding Noises. If you hear a grinding noise in your transmission as you’re driving, it may indicate a couple of things. Your transmission fluid may be low, in which case it should be replaced. Or there may be a buildup of dirt, grease, and other contaminants, in which case, the transmission needs a flush. Check your transmission fluid levels, and notice what color the fluid is. If it’s red, it’s fine. If it’s brown or black, you need a flush.
- Leaking. When you pull out of your driveway or garage, do you see dark, oily spots on the ground where your car just was? If so, it’s a sign that your transmission fluid is leaking. First, you need to get the leak repaired as quickly as possible, to avoid further damage. Then, you’ll need new transmission fluid, to replace what’s leaked out.
- Slipping or Other Gear-Shifting Problems. Does your car slip in and out of gear? Does it have trouble going up or down steep hills? Maybe you’re having trouble shifting from one gear to another, with shifts coming too soon or too late. If this is happening to you, then you may not have enough hydraulic power. And one of the main causes of a lack of hydraulic power, is your transmission fluid. Just as with unusual noises, the cause may be a lack of transmission fluid, or simply that the fluid is dirty and needs to be flushed. Either of these issues can lead to gear slipping—which makes driving dangerous, and should be looked at and fixed as soon as possible.
- Surging or Stalling. If your car surges forward (or backward), seemingly at random, then it’s a sign that your transmission fluid may have become dirty. Alternately, if your car accelerates too slowly, and seems non-responsive, particularly when the light switches from red to green, this may also indicate a problem with your transmission. Finally, if your car likes to stall when you shift gears, then your transmission fluid may be overburdened with contaminants. In each of these cases, a change in transmission fluid may be necessary. Check the fluid, or have your mechanic take a look.
- The Check Engine or Transmission Warning Light Is On. The Check Engine light may indicate a number of things, but transmission problems are definitely among them. If the Transmission light specifically goes on, that’s an even greater indicator that you may need to replace your fluid. Whatever the problem may be, when a warning light comes on, get it checked out as soon as possible to determine the issue, and have the car serviced.
These are the major signs to look out for when your transmission fluid needs to be changed. If you notice any of them while you’re driving, don’t just let them go. Get them checked out immediately, to determine the problem and get it fixed. Changing transmission fluid is a fairly standard and inexpensive automotive procedure. But the longer you drive with low or dirty fluid, the more damage it will do to your car, and the more serious the repairs will be later on. Get it taken care of now, and save yourself the hassle (and the expense) later on.
Next to your vehicle’s engine, there’s no more important component than the transmission. Simply put, the transmission works hand-in-hand with the engine, shifting gears so that the appropriate amount of power is delivered to the wheels to ensure you’re able to drive at a target speed. But transmissions can experience a number of issues, such as gears slipping, rough or delayed shifting, or leaking fluid. While many transmission issues can be repaired, the cost is often significant. What’s more is that replacing a transmission that’s beyond repair can cost thousands of dollars. The good news is that staying on top of maintenance schedules and paying attention to the way you drive can ensure your transmission operates better for longer.
Here’s a look at how to keep it running smoothly:
Adjust Your Driving Behaviors
Simply changing your driving habits can help preserve your transmission for longer. For instance, don’t put your car into drive from reverse – or vice-versa – until the vehicle comes to a complete stop. Otherwise, you’re likely putting unnecessary strain on your transmission. Additionally, don’t tailgate other drivers or engage in a driving style where you’re constantly “riding your brakes.” Finally, it can be helpful for your transmission to have time to “warm up” during the winter months before you put your vehicle in gear. If you don’t have a remote car starter, just give it a minute after you start your engine every morning.
Check Your Transmission Fluid
Just as your engine needs oil to operate effectively and efficiently, your transmission relies on a special fluid. But similar to engine oil, this fluid can leak or dirty over time. We’ll get into the importance of transmission flushes in the next section, but it’s worth it to get into the habit of regularly checking transmission fluid levels – especially in older vehicles. Refill as needed and have any leaks repaired immediately.
Have Your Transmission Flushed
A good rule of thumb is to have your vehicle’s transmission flushed once every 30,000 miles, though it’s always best to refer to the owner’s manual for your particular vehicle. Similar to changing your vehicle’s engine oil, flushing the transmission will evacuate any dirty, old or burnt fluid from the system for fresh new fluid. Flushes can simply help extend the life of the vehicle transmission. In addition to having your transmission fluid flushed, make sure the filter is changed out for a new one as well.
Don’t Put Excessive Wear and Tear on the Engine
Aggressive driving, towing and driving on underinflated tires are often associated with putting excessive strain on the vehicle engine, resulting in more wear and tear and poor gas mileage. But these types of behaviors also have a trickle-down effect on the transmission.
Have it Routinely Inspected
In addition to the points that we ticked off above, the best way to maintain the health of your transmission is to make sure that you’re having it checked out when you take your vehicle in for routine repairs or oil changes. A professional can perform a thorough diagnostic check on the component, checking it for leaks, monitoring fluid levels and fluid quality, and looking out for any other issues that may need to be addressed.
In the old days, there was one type of transmission available in every car, the manual. It took three pedals and a bit of know-how to operate correctly, but it was the only choice. Today, there are multiple types of transmissions on the road. Let’s take a look at four of the most popular transmission types on that market!
Though they are getting increasingly rare, you can still buy cars with manual transmissions. In these transmissions, the driver must depress a clutch pedal to disengage the motor before shifting into a new gear by moving a lever connected to the transmission by a mechanical linkage.
Getting the most out of a manual transmission requires a skilled human operator. Because of this, manual transmissions are found mostly in high-performance cars, focused on delivering an enjoyable driving experience.
The best part about manual transmissions at that they are the least expensive to repair or replace.
The automatic is the most common transmission on the road today. In today’s automatic transmissions, a sophisticated computer determines when to shift gears. This requires no skill from the driver, who is completely removed from the decision-making process.
In the old days, automatic transmissions could not match the fuel economy of manual transmissions. However, today’s sophisticated models are every bit as efficient as even the best drivers.
Continuously Variable Transmission
In the continuously variable transmission or CVT, the gears are removed entirely and replaced by a system of belts and pulleys. The system is infinitely variable. The computer continually makes adjustments to keep the engine running in its optimal power range. This delivers unparalleled fuel efficiency.
Over the next several years, CVT transmissions will likely start to outnumber their automatic counterparts.
These transmissions offer a driving experience similar to manual transmissions by allowing the driver to control when the transmission shifts gears. However, the driver is connected to the transmission through an electronic system rather than a mechanical linkage. Many vehicles with semi-automatic transmissions have paddle shifters on the steering wheel, making any driver feel like a Formula One racer behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, these transmissions are quite expensive. They are typically found on high-end sports cars, and repair costs can be astronomical. Only driving enthusiasts are willing to pay the price for the performance and driving experience semi-automatic transmissions offer.
Every type of transmission has advantages and disadvantages. Which is the best choice for you? It depends on what you’re driving and how you like to drive it. If you have any questions about your transmission, don’t hesitate to give us a call.