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car problem - not going into gear

Car Won’t Go Into Gear? Common Reasons & How To Fix


Having trouble with your car because it won’t go into gear? You’re not alone. Many people face this issue and ask, ‘Why won’t my car go into gear?‘ or ‘How can I fix it when my car’s not changing gears?‘.

This can be a small hassle or a big problem. Sometimes there’s a simple fix, but other times you might need an expert’s help.

In this article, we’ll break down the main reasons and solutions for when your car won’t shift. Let’s get started!

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

Understanding why a car refuses to shift gears is crucial for both safety and convenience. It’s a problem that many drivers face, and the causes can range from simple to complex. In this section, we’ll outline the top reasons your car won’t go into gear, providing clarity and insights to help you better identify and address the root of the issue. Let’s delve into the most common culprits behind this automotive challenge.

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.

How to Fix Car Not Changing Gears

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. Manual Cars – Push the Clutch Fully

If you’re driving a stick-shift, push the clutch all the way down before changing gears. If shifting gets easier, see a mechanic; your clutch might need attention.

2. Automatic Cars – Press the Brake

If you can’t shift out of park, press the brake pedal firmly. This often unlocks the gear.

3. Use the Emergency Release

Still stuck in park? Your car manual has an “emergency release” method. Try it! If this doesn’t work, the locking system might be broken.

4. Try Another Gear

Can’t get a specific gear? Try another. If one gear works and another doesn’t, it helps pinpoint the problem.

5. Check the Transmission Fluid

This fluid helps your car shift smoothly.

  • Is it Low? Add more.
  • Is it Bright Red? It’s okay!
  • Is it Dark or Smelly? Replace it.

Note: Checking the fluid is different for every car. Automatics usually have a dipstick, but manuals might not.

6. See a Mechanic

If these tips don’t help, it’s mechanic time. Better safe than sorry!

Always use your car manual as a guide and prioritize safety.

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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Consumer protection laws in California and nationwide actively protect buyers of vehicles and other consumer goods. They hold a particular importance when purchasing or leasing a new vehicle. The California Lemon Law grants legal rights to those who find themselves with a vehicle that continually fails to function properly, providing a pathway to seek resolution and potential compensation.

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