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Why Is It Hard to Shift My Automatic Transmission?

Why Is It Hard to Shift My Automatic Transmission?

If you're wondering, “why is it hard to shift my automatic transmission” You're most likely dealing with one of the following problems:

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  1. Problems with transmission fluid
  2. Issues with some of the sensors
  3. Troubles with the vacuum
  4. Error codes

Causes Of Transmission Problems

The transmission is a core component in your car, and if it has any problem, you might not be able to drive the vehicle completely. That's why it's important to take good care of your transmission and monitor for any symptoms of weird behaviors.

There are two common types of transmissions: automatic and manual transmission. This article focuses on one of the very common problems associated with vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions, which is difficulty shifting gears.

Have you ever asked yourself, “why is it hard to shift my automatic transmission?” That's what we're referring to! Many reasons could impact how you shift your vehicle's gears, but the good news is that automotive experts list the most common causes of difficulty shifting gear transmission.

This article is focused on helping you understand what could cause difficulty shifting your automatic transmission. Also, it will provide you with a general understanding of potential repair options and repair costs for your transmission problem.

What is the transmission, and what does it do?

Before we dive into the details about “why is it hard to shift my automatic transmission,” we must understand the purpose of the transmission in your vehicle.

You might already know that the car's transmission is a big deal, and it sounds like something as important as the engine. Of course, that is 100% true, but what exactly does it do in your car?

The main purpose of the transmission is to communicate between your engine and the wheels. More specifically, the transmission tries different ways to adjust the engine's power, so it doesn't work very hard when it's not needed. In other words, your engine will burn a lot of energy, and what you don't want to happen is all this energy to go to waste if you're driving at lower speeds.

Within the transmission, many gears are responsible for adjusting the ratio between the drive wheel and your engine to maintain the engine's efficiency and prevent overstretching the engine when not needed.

Typically, there are two common types of transmissions:

1.    Manual transmission

Manual transmissions are mostly equipped with older vehicles, and as the name suggests, it involves the driver's input to switch the gears and adjust the ratio between the drive wheels and the engine. In addition, of course, it will require specific skill sets on when to change the gears and what speeds.

Therefore, driving a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission might be challenging to inexperienced drivers. Still, it is also very exciting for those who would like to communicate with the vehicle more for entertainment purposes.

2.    Automatic transmission

The automatic transmission is a more modern type of transmission, and it relies on the vehicle's computer to adjust the gears depending on what's needed. Therefore, you don't have to worry about which gear to switch to at which speed. It is highly recommended for drivers who don't have that many years of experience but also, it's great for even experienced drivers because it doesn't require a lot of stress and doesn't need you to focus too much on your driving. Instead, it allows you to focus on the road rather than focusing on when to switch the gears.

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Why is it hard to shift my automatic transmission?

Automatic transmissions are designed to make your life experience smoother and easier. However, they're not designed to last forever, and you'll get to a point where you might deal with some automatic transmission damages or issues. Unfortunately, since the automatic transmission contains many interacting moving components, it can be a little bit challenging to determine what's going on.

However, there is a lot of research listing and describing what you will experience when you have a certain problem with some parts in your transmission. Since we're focusing here on the issues with shifting, here are the most common reasons why you cannot shift your automatic transmissions:

1.    Problems with transmission fluid

The first and most common reason for difficulty shifting your automatic transmission is when you don't have the proper fluid. This is because your transmission relies on the fluid to provide continuous lubrication.


Imagine that many interacting metal components are grinding against each other and don't receive the right lubrication; what would happen? The first thing to do in this case is to check on the level of automatic transmission.

Keep in mind that sometimes even if you have the right amount of automatic transmission fluids, it could be that this flow is very old, and it has a lot of contaminants or foreign elements moving with it as it runs around the transmission. Therefore, the transmission will still not receive the right level of lubrication. If this is the case, you'll need to perform a transmission flush where your mechanic takes out all the old fluid and replaces it with a new one.

You'll notice immediately that your transmission's performance is much better after you use the new fluid. However, if you didn't notice any transmission fluid issues, you might want to consider checking the other items mentioned in this list.

2.    Issues with some of the sensors

In vehicles equipped with modern transmissions, you'll notice that these transmissions have many sensors to improve the driving experience and make it as smooth as possible. However, these sensors might cause some issues that you might experience, especially if you have a problem with these sensors.

Sometimes the sensor might have a problem itself, or it might not receive the right signal at the right time. As a result, comma the sensors will not do their job, asking your vehicle to switch gears at the right time.

Therefore, you will mechanic needs to perform a thorough inspection of these sensors and confirm none of them has a problem. Once a problem is conferred with the sensors, you'll have to replace it or see what other repairs options are available to get rid of this problem.

Note that sometimes it could be a combination of burnt sensors and bad transmission fluid. Therefore, your mechanic has to do whatever is needed to completely get rid of the problem and have you drive your vehicle smoothly again.

3.    Troubles with the vacuum

Your vehicle's components must perform precisely under specific pressure and conditions. Therefore, any minor issue with the vehicle's pressure might lead to significant problems or impact how you drive your car.

One of the very common disturbances your vehicle might experience is when there's a problem with the vacuum within your transmission. That's when you will most likely deal with issues shifting your gears. Paragraph some of the very common causes of these vacuum issues might be a bent or clogged or probably disconnected vacuum line.

Fixing this problem should not be very complicated unless it's severe. In other words, if your mechanic finds that the vacuum line is just disconnected, he can reconnect it back. However, if the vacuum line was completely broken, that's when your mechanic needs to do advanced fixes and probably replace the entire vacuum line, which might be a little bit pricey.

4.    Error codes

Error codes are not causes for transmission problems. Instead, they are just ways to check on what exactly is causing the issue if it's not one of the three mentioned potential causes.

Your vehicle contains an internal computer, and this computer triggers a check engine light or some error codes to communicate with you and let you know about what's going on inside the car if you have a problem. Therefore, you can use a simple tool like an old dog scanner and read the error codes here. Depending on your scanner, you might only get the error code itself, or if you have a good scanner, you get some explanation about what this code means and the different repair options.

If you don't have a scanner, you can always take your vehicle to the nearest mechanic shop and have the mechanic take a look. Once you confirm the root culprit of the problem, you'll have to fix it immediately before dealing with other complications that could worsen and require paying thousands of dollars on repair, assuming that you can fix the transmission.

How much does it cost to fix difficulty shifting gears in the automatic transmission?

Unfortunately, transmission repairs are not cheap, and they are one of the most challenging repairs that any driver could face. Typically, fixing difficulty shifting gears should cost you somewhere between $1800 and $3400!

Keep in mind that this price range differs significantly depending on your vehicle's type and the location where you get the job done. In general, fixing the problem is not something every driver can afford, and that's where you have to evaluate the situation and make an informed decision about whether you should fix the problem or sell the vehicle instead.

There are many ways to save on transmission problems repair costs through buying used items, checking for coupons for discounts, and others. However, in most scenarios, it's still going to be a very high bill, and that's where you need to step back and evaluate your vehicle's situation before spending a penny on repairs.

Can I continue driving my car if it has difficulty shifting issues?

Having difficulties shifting your gears will not prevent you from continuing to drive your car, especially if it just occurred. However, if you ignore the problem for a long time and decide not to pay attention to it, you might get to a point where you can't control your vehicle, or you can't start it at all.


Of course, these major problems do not choose the time to happen. In other words, it might happen as you're driving in the middle of the highway, which can be extremely dangerous not only for you but also for the drivers on the road. Therefore, you must never continue driving your car if it has difficulty shifting, and you should consult your mechanic immediately!

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Final thoughts

Your vehicle's transmission is extremely important, and when it goes bad, it makes your driving almost impossible. However, there are some simple minor things that you can keep an eye on to detect and fix early to prevent major transmission problems. One of those common ones is difficulty shifting your transmission gears.

“why is it hard to shift my automatic transmission?” This is one of the most common questions that we received typically from most of our readers about common transmission problems. As we mentioned in this article, if you're having difficulty shifting gears and your automatic transmission, your potential culprits are the transmission fluid, the vacuum leak, or probably faulty sensors. If none of those were the culprits, you'd have to look at the error codes inside your vehicle's computer to understand better what's causing the issue.

Fixing difficulty shifting your transmission might not be very cheap, and that's when you have to evaluate the overall condition and see if it's worth fixing the transmission. In other words, if you discover that your repair costs are close to 75% or more from your vehicle's value, that's when it might make the most sense for you with a silver car rather than we see your time and effort getting it to work—looking for a car buyer? Cash cars buyer is always here to help you!

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