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car problem - not going into gear

Everything You Should Know If Your Car Won’t Go Into Gear


Are you having trouble with your car not going into gear? You’re not alone.

Problems shifting between gears are not uncommon. The issue can be either annoying or life-threatening, depending on when and where it occurs. While some easy solutions can help you shift into gear, most will require an often-costly trip to the mechanic. 

In this article, we will discuss the most common reasons your car won’t go into gear and what you can do about the problem. 

If you’ve experienced problems getting your car into gear because you bought a car that’s a lemon, let the lemon law attorneys at Cali Lemon Lawyers help.  Call now for a free consultation: (310) 627-2665

Top 8 Reasons Your Car Won’t Go Into Gear

Whether you drive a car with an automatic or manual transmission, it’s possible that the gears aren’t shifting properly. Not being able to shift into gear usually indicates a few possible issues with your car. 

Here are the eight most common reasons your car won’t go into gear.

1. Clutch Issues

car clutch issues

If you’re new to having a car with a stick shift or are driving an unfamiliar car with a manual transmission, it’s possible that you aren’t pressing the clutch down to the floor before changing gears.

If you have to press the clutch harder than usual, it may indicate a deeper problem, such as:

  • Needing more transmission fluid
  • A failing clutch master cylinder
  • A misaligned clutch housing
  • A disconnected plate or disk
  • A broken clutch wire
  • A bad clutch release bearing 

2. Brake Safety Lock Issues

Most modern cars have a safety feature that prevents you from accidentally shifting gears while you’re parked. This safety feature requires you to press the brake to shift out of park.  

It’s possible for this shift lock release to fail, making it impossible to move out of park even if you depress the brake. Some cars have emergency procedures outlined in their handbooks that can help you move your car out of park when the shift lock release fails. 

However, there is also the possibility that your shift lock is damaged and needs repair.

3. Transmission Fluid Problems

transmission fluid issues

Your car gears may not shift properly if there’s a problem with the transmission fluid. Some problems with transmission fluid that can affect gear changes include:

  • Low or empty transmission fluid
  • Dirty transmission fluid
  • Thick and goopy transmission fluid
  • Burned transmission fluid

4. Loose or Broken Shift Linkage Wire

If one or both of your shift linkage wire breaks or comes loose, the shifter won’t be able to tell your transmission to change gears or can cause your parked car to roll away.

Here’s what different scenarios might be able to tell you about the state of your shift linkage wires:

  • If you can’t shift gears at all: Your horizontal shift cable may be broken.
  • If you can only shift into 3rd or 4th gear: Your vertical shift cable may be broken.
  • If you can move the gears around without a transmission gear change: Both cables may be broken. 

5. Bad Torque Converter

problematic torque

In an automatic-transmission car, the torque converter serves the same purpose as a clutch does in a manual-transmission vehicle. If any components within a torque converter fail, it can make automatic shifting difficult. These problems can be with your turbine, pump, transmission field, or stator.

If you have a bad torque converter, you will notice your transmission slipping into and out of gear.

6. Bad Transmission

Sometimes, gear shifting problems are the result of a bad transmission. If so, you might hear strange, grinding sounds coming from your transmission when you try to change gears. If you have a bad transmission, a mechanic may need to rebuild or replace it. 

7. Failing Clutch Packs

failing clutch packs

If you have an automatic transmission, and your clutch pack is failing, your transmission won’t be able to operate properly. If you have clutch pack problems, you will experience the transmission slipping. You may notice your engine start to race without moving your car faster during a gear shift, or you may have difficulty getting your car to start after a stop.  

8. Misaligned Gearbox

Misaligned gearboxes are more likely with a manual transmission and can lead to total gear failure if you don’t address the problem early. 

While the misalignment can happen as a result of thermal expansion or other problems, a misalignment of a gearbox often happens because the car manufacturer or a mechanic didn’t install or mount it properly in the first place.

Steps To Take When Your Car Won’t Go Into Gear

If your car won’t go into gear, here are some things to try to solve your problems:

steps to take when car won't go into gear

1. Depress the Clutch More

If you have a manual transmission, there’s a chance you didn’t press the clutch all the way to the floor before changing gears. Press the clutch down more and try to change gears again.  

Even if pressing the clutch down more works, you’ll want to have a mechanic inspect your clutch system to ensure that components related to your clutch are not failing. 

2. Press Your Brakes While Shifting out of Park

If you have an automatic transmission and can’t move your car out of park, you may need to press the brake while shifting out of park to release the safety lock. 

3. Follow the Emergency Procedure To Release the Shift Lock

If you still can’t shift your automatic-transmission car out of park after you press the brake, you may need to follow an emergency procedure to release the lock if it malfunctions. 

This procedure varies for different types of cars, so check your user manual. For example, you may need to turn the steering wheel a few times, remove the shift boot, or use a release inside your center console.  

If the shift lock solenoid is damaged, the emergency procedure won’t work, and you will need to take it to a trusted mechanic for repair. 

4. Try To Put Your Car Into a Different Gear 

If you can’t get into the correct gear, try shifting into a different gear instead. For example, you can try shifting to 2nd gear or Overdrive instead. This test can show you if a specific gear is your problem or if there’s another issue altogether.

5. Top Off or Replace Transmission Fluid

Sometimes, you can solve your gear-shifting problems by simply topping off or replacing your transmission fluid. 

Follow your car’s user manual to determine how to check the transmission fluid. If you have an automatic transmission, you can check it with the transmission fluid dipstick. However, if you have a manual transmission, you probably won’t have a dipstick and will need to look or feel to check transmission fluid levels and quality. 

Here’s what different transmission fluid qualities can tell you:

  • Low transmission fluid: Needs a top-off
  • Vibrant red and clean transmission fluid: Is the right color and consistency
  • Black, thick, and goopy transmission fluid: Can gum up or damage internals, making it difficult to shift
  • Dirty transmission fluid: Needs to be replaced
  • Transmission fluid that smells burned: Needs to be replaced

6. Have Your Car Towed to a Mechanic 

If none of these steps solve your problem or if they reveal a bigger problem, then you will need to call a tow truck to get your car to a trusted mechanic for a diagnosis and repairs. 

Final Thoughts on Your Car Not Going Into Gear

If your car isn’t going into gear, it can be an annoying problem that prevents you from getting out of the parking lot. However, it can also be a dangerous problem if you’re driving on a highway, leaving you stranded or putting your life in danger.

If you’ve experienced problems getting your car into gear because you bought a car that’s a lemon, the lemon law attorneys at Cali Lemon Lawyers can help. 

If a car you bought in California has a known safety issue or a defect related to changing gears, we can pressure the manufacturer to make things right. There are no upfront costs, and we have a 99% success rate. Contact us today online or call us for a free case evaluation.


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