5 Reasons Why Transmission Not Shifting Out Of First Gear

Whether it’s auto or manual, car transmissions must be smooth, or the driving experience will get complicated.

Mistimed gear shifts or transmission not shifting out of first gear or second gear can lead to accidents. So these shouldn’t be taken lightly.

To help you fix this as early as possible, we’re going to discuss the causes behind transmission won’t shift out of first gear, and we’ll also go through their fixes.

Check the Transmission Fluid Level

Check the Transmission Fluid Level

There are a lot of components in your vehicle’s engine that move at high speeds to keep the engine functioning.

These components are lubed with oil or some other form of lubricant, as they will grind against each other, overheat, and wear out otherwise.

Fortunately, unlike engine oil, these oils aren’t actively used to generate power, so they don’t require frequent application. That being said, if they’re left ignored for too long, they tend to get foul.

This process usually takes a long time because these fluids are kept in closed systems. So, it’s technically impossible for them to come in contact with external pollutants.

However, the transmission components break down on molecular levels, and these serve as internal pollutants. These can pollute the oil over time, so eventually you’ll have to change them.

Once they’re polluted, the friction inside the system is supposed to increase manifold. The components may not move as they were meant to. So, you may find the transmission stuck in a certain gear.

Fortunately, this can be fixed easily. One has to check the transmission fluid level. If it’s low, you’ll have to replenish it.

If the fluid level is high but still, you’re facing issues, you might be facing a leak. In this case, check for leaks and get them patched up fast.

Check the Synchronizer

The synchronizer, or synchros, is one of the most essential components of your vehicle. Did you ever imagine how the different components inside the transmission spin so rapidly but in sync? This is due to the synchronizer.

However, like every other component, the synchronizer can wear out over time and lose efficiency. In this case, you will have to replace the synchronizer with a new aftermarket one.

If the synchronizer is broken or not working properly, the transmission keeps on grinding even when you’re switching gears. So, you’ll most likely get stuck in a specific gear.

A Stuck Solenoid Might be the Issue

The solenoid is a coil of wire placed inside your vehicle, and it has a number of functions.

In automatic transmission systems, a solenoid is used to determine the speed of the car. This information is fed to the computer, which determines the most appropriate gear for that specific speed.

So, technically it would be accurate to say that the solenoid is what makes the transmission move in automatic systems. However, sometimes these can get stuck, and that prevents them from changing the gear.

The solenoid mostly gets stuck due to polluted transmission fluid. So, changing the fluid regularly will prevent this from happening. If the solenoid is stuck already, try changing the fluid first, and it should fix the issue.

In case it doesn’t, we’d recommend replacing the solenoid or visiting a professional who might be able to repair it.

Check Your Transmission Mode

Sometimes, your vehicle can go to “Limp Mode”. Allow me to explain. Your vehicle comes with a built-in computer that reads the position of the solenoid and makes appropriate changes to the transmission system.

But what if the computer is misreading and providing false outputs? Limp mode is when your vehicle’s internal computer starts malfunctioning.

To fix this, you need to take your vehicle to a repair specialist immediately, as fixing the computer can be tricky.

Is the Torque Converter Functioning?

Torque Converter Functioning

In automatic systems, there’s usually a torque converter that applies a specific pressure on the transmission fluid to make the gears shift.

If there’s any issue with the converter that’s keeping it from applying the optimum amount of pressure, it will fail to shift the gears.

In this case, fixing or replacing the torque converter will fix the problem. The converter itself is made of a few different components, and these are very intricate. So, we recommend leaving this to some expert.

Is The Shift Lock Activated?

If your vehicle has an automatic transmission system, there isa high chance that it comes with shift lock technology. The shift lock mainly prevents a change in gear if someone isn’t in the driver’s seat.

Although it’s a safety mechanism, it can backfire from time to time. Sometimes, someone can accidentally change the shifters. Or, it’s probably just a malfunction.

Fortunately for you, the fix to this problem is very easy. Most vehicles come with shift lock overrides that help you override the code and reset the shift lock.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. Why Won’t My Transmission Shift Out of First Gear?

Your vehicle may not be shifting out of first gear due to different causes.The common ones involve malfunctioning solenoid, torque converter, low transmission fluid level, etc.  

2. What are the Symptoms of Transmission of Solenoids Going Out?

You may experience skipping gears, delayed shifting, stuck in first gear, etc. problems.

3. What Causes the Delay in Transmission Gear Shifts?

Low-level or poor-quality transmission fluid and worn-out or hardened internal seals can cause latency in gear shifts.


Transmission not shifting out of first gear can be a major problem, especially if it happens in the middle of the road. Our first suggestion would be, don’t panic. Don’t drive your car unless you can’t help it, as driving in such conditions can be risky.

Instead, call a truck to tow your vehicle to the nearest repair shop. The transmission system is one of the most intricate systems of your vehicle, and it’s better to get it checked by a professional.

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