Have you ever been in a hurry to go somewhere, and after getting your car and starting, the vehicle fails to move in any gear?
It can be a challenging and inconvenient experience that can leave you confused.
Well, if your car won’t move in any gear automatic transmission, there could be a problem in the transmission system.
Possible causes include a faulty torque converter, bad clutches, faulty automatic control unit, low fluid level transmission, faulty valve body, and poor-quality oil for transmission.
In addition, the transmission might have gone into emergency mode, and in this case, you will notice errors in your dashboard.
Do you want to learn more about why your car won’t move in any gear automatic transmission?
This article is about to explain all the causes in detail and how you can prevent the problem.
What is Automatic Transmission?
Automatic transmission is a multi-speed transmission used in automobiles that do not need the driver to change forward gears when driving under normal conditions.(Source)
Automatic transmission is technically a transaxle because it comprises one integrated axle, transmission, and differential collection.
In addition, an automatic transmission is an ingenious system, and it helps change gears instead of the driver changing them. It automatically executes switching of gears, but most drivers do not know how the component works and what it is.
In this regard, it would be best for car owners to understand how an automatic transmission works.
It will make you appreciate how your car operates and make you even a better driver.
Understanding Automatic Transmission
When you understand how automatic transmission works, you can point out problems of transmission that are likely to happen.
An automatic transmission applies sensors to decide when gears are supposed to shift. It means that, when one is driving, their effort to change gears is not required because the multi-speed transmission works just perfectly.
Here, a gearbox or a transmission transfers power directly from the vehicle’s engine to drive wheels.
Therefore, if your car’s automatic transmission and its elements (sensors and computers) have a problem and are not functioning, your vehicle will not move any gear, so you can’t drive anywhere.
Most automatic transmission in cars uses hydraulic power to move the gears.
Here are the gears that build automatic transmission;
- The moment you move your vehicle into the driveway, you usually involve all gear ratios available to be used for moving forward. It implies that your transmission can shift between the total capacities of forwarding gears.
Old and compact vehicles in entry-level usually have four or five automatic gears. On the other hand, modern cars mostly have six-speed transmissions.
- The third gear helps limit the vehicle to the first, second, and third gear ratios or locking the transmission into third gear. It thus provides your vehicle with the power to tow and move downhill and uphill.
- The second gear is helpful in either limiting the vehicle to the first and second gear or locking transmission into the second gar. Hence, it is used to go uphill or downhill when the way or road is slippery. The second gear is also best when you want to drive there is ice all over or snowing.
- The first gear locks transmission into the first gear. Most cars automatically switch to the first gear at a particular RPM to help protect the engine. It is, therefore, best to use first gear when driving downhill or uphill, towing heavy loads, or traveling in slippery road conditions.
Reasons Why a Car Won’t Move in Any Gear Automatic Transmission
If your car won’t move in any gear and you are using an automatic transmission, here are the common reasons;
1. Transmission Fluid Leak
The transmission fluid helps in transferring power in a vehicle. Therefore, if there is fluid leakage or inadequate transmission fluid, the gears will not provide the needed energy to move your car.
It means that if your vehicle lacks enough transmission fluid, it might fail to move in any gear.
Automatic transmission, on average, has 8 to 16 quarts of transmission fluid. If three or more of the quarts of transmission fluid leak, it will not provide hydraulic pressure to function as required.
To determine if your transmission fluid is low, look out the following signs;
When you use a dipstick test, it will have a brownish color, meaning you need to replace the fluid.
- You will see dashboard warning light alerts that indicate that there is a problem
- Puddle under your car where you had parked
- Grinding sound of the gear
- A clunking sound during transmission
- You experience foreign vibrations when you drive
- A burning smell is an alert that the fluid is overheating
- Acceleration delays
- When your vehicle is in neutral, you will hear a bumping sound
- The temperature gauge shows overheating
2. Clogged Filter
When your vehicle fails to move in any gear after stopping moving in hot weather, then the filter might be clogged.
In some instances, the engine might allow you to drive for a short distance before the car stops completely. It shows that the transmission is now wearing out.
When the vehicle doesn’t move due to a clogged filter, it will most likely be accompanied by a whining sound.
3. Worn Out Clutches
Clutches enable and disable the transmission of power in a car. So, if the clutch is worn out or damaged, it is likely to affect power transmission.
A worn-out or faulty clutch can prevent an automatic transmission car from moving in any gear.
If the clutch is the issue, you will hear blows when you try to change the gears, and you realize that the car cannot move when it is in reverse gear, switch it to third gear.
4. Faulty Torque Converter
The torque converter is an essential component of the transmission system and helps transfer power from the gearbox to the engine and wheels.
It is also known as hydraulic coupling and provides rotating mechanical energy; it is like an alternative to a mechanical clutch. If your car can’t move even after trying all the gears possibly, your torque converter has failed.
Mostly, your torque converter will fail due to excess friction causing damage to the needle bearings.
Here are the signs to determine if your torque converter is damaged;
- Your car has failed to start in any gear
- High stall speed
- Transmission slips out of gear
- Your transmission fluid is dirty
- You hear humming, clunking, or shuddering sounds
- Transmission overheats
5. Defective Automatic Transmission Valve Control Unit
A bad automatic transmission valve control unit is why your vehicle will not move in any gear.
Check your vehicle for errors to determine if the transmission valve control has a problem. You can also check the dashboard, and you will realize it displays the wrong gear compared to the shifter’s position.
How to Prevent Automatic Transmission Problems
If your vehicle won’t move in any gear and uses an automatic transmission, it can be an expensive issue that might need the replacement of the whole transmission system.
To avoid the costs of repair in the future, here are some tips to help you prevent the problem before it happens to your vehicle;
- Always ensure you warm up your car first before starting it in winter. It requires some time for the transmission system to be thoroughly warm-up, so while starting ensure you operate at the first gear.
- Before shifting your vehicle, always ensure you switch the transmission shifter to every mode so that you can stay in each one for 10 seconds. It allows the oil to get into every hydraulic space of the transmission system.
- Always check the quality and level of oil in your car and top it whenever low.
- Do not tow other vehicles because your car is meant to carry a certain weight level. However, if you have to, do it for a short distance since taking heavyweights may increase mass and stop your car from moving in any gear.
- Ensure you change the transmission fluid regularly. The interval for the fluid change is stated in your car’s manual. However, it is best to note that you should change the oil every 60,000- 100,000 kilometer.
On Car Won’t Move in Any Gear Automatic Transmission
Your car’s transmission is prone to wear out just like any other part of your vehicle.
However, when you notice that your automatic transmission car won’t move in any gear, it would be best to check out the cause. First, inspect the level of transmission fluid and check if your car’s battery is working correctly. When the problem is caused by either of the two, it will be effortless to fix the problem and keep going.
However, if your car fails to move because of other complicated cases, it might require you to ask for help from an expert mechanic. The process will need a lot of work and might be very costly.
Therefore, to avoid the stress of some complicated cases in the future, ensure you prevent the problem from occurring by following the tips in this article.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.