As you get ready to head off somewhere, you start your engine and move your car from Park into Drive or Reverse. But, nothing happens? You change gears again to try a different approach—still nothing. If your car won’t move in any gear and have an automatic transmission, you may be confused about what to do next.
Not only is the situation frustrating, you have somewhere to be, and now your car won’t move, but you do not know why your car has retired itself to that parking spot. If you do not know what to do next and are already stressing about budgeting for repairs, take a breather and read this article.
We will explore some of the causes why your car won’t move in any gear and what to do if you have an automatic transmission system.
What to do When Your Car Won’t Move
If you have a car that won’t move when trying to put it into gear, then you may have a serious transmission problem, or it could be due to a simple oversight.
Here is what to look for or do:
- Make sure your car is turned on. Some cars are so quiet that you may not realize that you hadn’t turned it on yet.
- Ensure you have disengaged the parking brake.
- Try starting your car in a different gear. This will eliminate if a single gear is the root cause of the problem.
- Check your transmission fluid.
An Automatic Transmission System
Understanding how an automatic transmission system works may help you understand some transmission problems associated with it.
An automatic transmission uses sensors to determine when the gears should shift. This multi-speed transmission means that driver input is not necessary to change the gears when driving normally. A transmission or gearbox is responsible for transferring power from the car’s engine to the drive wheels.
If your transmission and its components have a fault or are not working (including the computers and sensors), then your car won’t move in any gear, and you cannot drive anywhere.
The most common type of automatic transmission in a vehicle uses hydraulic power to shift the gears. The following gears make up an automatic transmission:
- When you shift your car into Drive, you engage all available gear ratios that are available for forward movement. Basically, this means your transmission can move between the full range of forward gears. Entry-level compact cars and older cars commonly have either four or five automatic gears. Newer and more modern cars commonly have a six-speed transmission.
- The third gear will either limit the car to its first, second, and third gear ratios or lock the transmission into third gear. Third gear provides your vehicles with the power it needs to go uphill, downhill, or to tow.
- The second gear will either limit the car to its first and second gear ratios or lock the transmission into second gear. Second gear is used for going uphill or downhill during slippery conditions. This gear is also ideal for driving through snow and ice.
- The first gear will lock the transmission into first gear. Many vehicles will automatically switch out of this gear at a certain RPM to protect the engine. First gear is used to drive uphill or downhill, tow a heavy load, or travel during slippery conditions.
Common Automatic Transmission Problems
Below are some of the most common problems you may experience with a bad automatic transmission.
- Transmission leaks
- Faulty or worn out clutch.
- Damaged torque converter or faulty planetary gears.
- The link that holds the gears can break or wear out.
Why Your Car Won’t Move in Any Gear
Now that we know about some of the common problems associated with a transmission let’s explore why your car won’t move in any gear with an automatic transmission.
Transmission Fluid Leak
The most common reason why your car won’t move with an automatic transmission is that the transmission fluid is low.
On average, an automatic transmission has a capacity of 8 to 16 quarts of transmission fluid. If two or more quarts of this fluid leak out, then the system cannot develop the hydraulic pressure the transmission needs to function.
The following is an indication that your transmission is leaking fluid:
- A dipstick test indicates low transmission fluid levels (if the test reveals a brownish color, then the fluid needs to be replaced too).
- A dashboard warning light alerts you to an engine problem. Modern cars have a transmission light that will appear when there is a problem.
- There is a puddle underneath your car where you park. Typically, transmission fluid will leave dark spots on your driveway or on your garage floor.
- Grinding gear sound.
- Transmission makes a clunking sound.
- Strange vibration is felt while driving.
- A burning smell may alert you to your transmission fluid overheating.
- Delays in acceleration.
- You hear a bumping sound when your car is in Neutral.
- Your temperature gauge indicates overheating, or you can feel the heat rising through the floor from the car’s transfer case.
On average, to fix a transmission fluid leak, you will need to budget for between $150 and $200. This will include small repairs, such as fixing the gasket, pan bolts, drain plugs, seals, or replacing the fluid lines.
A Clogged Filter
If your car won’t move in any gear after it has stopped moving when hot, then you may be dealing with a clogged filter. A whining sound often accompanies this problem. Sometimes the engine may allow you to move for a very short distance before the car won’t move again. This normally indicates that the transmission is wearing out.
Gear Shift Quick Check
Sometimes your vehicle will not move if the gear shift for the four-wheel-drive control has been accidentally knocked into neutral. Luckily, you can check yourself, and you will not have to pay for any repairs.
Worn Out Clutch Plate
I am sure when you think about a clutch, you only think of a manual transmission. However, an automatic transmission also has a clutch system.
If your car won’t move, regardless of which gear you try, or the transmission is becoming unresponsive, then you may have worn clutches. The clutch is made up of friction plates and steel plates. Over time, these plates wear down. This means proper pressure cannot be placed onto the planetary gears (they determine which gear you are in).
If your transmission fluid levels are correct, but your automatic transmission is slipping, then you may need to replace your car’s clutch kit. When your transmission slips, it causes the engine to rev up; however, the car won’t move in any gear in accordance with the engine.
The average clutch replacement cost is between $1,200 to $1,400. Of this amount, the parts may cost between $700 and $750, and labor may average between $500 and $650. However, depending on where you live, the average clutch kit could cost less at around $800.
Bad Torque Converter
A torque converter is known as hydraulic coupling – a type of fluid coupling. It generates rotating mechanical power to the rotating driven load from the engine. Basically, it is the alternative to a mechanical clutch.
If your car won’t move, and you have tried every gear possible, then you may have a failed torque converter. Many torque converter failures are caused by excessive friction. This means the torque converter’s needle bearings are damaged. A faulty clutch solenoid or faulty seals could also be to blame for a failed torque converter.
A damaged or failed torque converter can damage your vehicle’s transmission. Below are some of the symptoms of a damaged torque converter:
- Car won’t start in any gear
- Transmission is slipping out of gear
- You can hear clunking, humming, shuddering, or whirring noises.
- Transmission is overheating
- High stall speeds
- Dirty transmission fluid
On average, you could expect to pay between $100 and $600 for a torque converter. If you cannot handle the replacement yourself, especially since it would mean dropping the transmission yourself, then a professional repair job could cost between $500 and $1,000.
How to Avoid Transmission Problems
Just like with any moving parts on a vehicle, over time, the transmission parts can wear out. Since prevention is better than cure, you can avoid being caught in a situation where your car won’t move in any gear by properly maintaining your transmission.
Ensure you always have transmission fluid by checking the levels regularly and doing a transmission flush at the intervals your manufacturer recommends. You also need to ensure that you use the correct transmission fluid for your car when you change the fluid.
You will find that some problems are more expensive to repair than others. Suppose your stranded car is more than a simple oversight but rather an expensive repair that needs towing and professional assistance. In that case, it is sometimes better to avoid the repair completely and replace the car itself with another.
Should you decide to sell your car, contact Cash Cars Buyer. They will pay you for your car, as it is, and you can move onto newer and better transport.