Car Jerks When Shifting From Park to Drive: Causes and Fixes

A car jerks when shifting from park to drive due to a problem with the transmission. Low transmission oil and faulty pumps are the common reasons.

Car Jerks When Shifting From Park to Drive

In this article, we will discuss eleven causes and ways to fix the problem to help you through.

Why Does My Car Jerk When Shifting From Park To Drive?

Your car jerks when shifting from park to drive because of poor-quality, dirty, or freezing transmission oil. The car may jerk due to a defective component such as the pump, friction plates, valve body, or brake discs. Problems with the control unit or aging transmission are other common reasons.

– Low Quantity or Quality of Transmission Fluid

Your car may jerk if it has low transmission oil/fluid levels or poor-quality fluid. Low fluid levels mostly make the car yank while switching gears, but in some cases, the car constantly jerks.

The fluid has three major functions:

  • Reducing friction between the transmission parts
  • Removing contaminants due to the presence of cleaning additives
  • Constant heat distribution to avoid overheating of transmission parts

Since it has such important functions, a decrease in fluid levels can adversely affect the car’s performance. The fluid levels can be low due to a leakage in the transmission. Any damaged component can open up holes for the escape of fluid.

Secondly, the underlying cause can be an overheating transmission. It may develop defects and cause the fluid levels to drop. The fluid can also break down if it is old.

You can observe the car to detect leakage. Since the fluid is bright red, look for red puddles under the car.
If the quantity is enough, your next suspect should be contamination of the fluid. Dirty or low-quality fluid can disturb the smooth function of transmission and cause jerks.

It might be low quality due to manufacturing faults, or it can lose its functions over time. For instance, older transmission fluid is not as efficient as a new refill.


The car jumps because the fluid does not provide enough pressure. If it is dirty for quite some time, it might damage other transmission parts.

Normally the fluid is bright red, but if you haven’t changed it in a long time, it will appear brown or black. The color changes over time because the fluid oxidizes and gets darker.

Causes of Car Jerk

The accumulation of debris can give it a milky or cloudy appearance. Apart from road dirt and dust, some particles separate from the internal components and gather in the fluid.

– Obstructed Transmission or Fluid Filters

If your car jerks when shifting from 1st to 2nd automatic gear, you might have obstructed filters. The transmission oil passes through filters that ensure smooth functions. Clogged filters need more fluid pressure to get rid of the particles.

It not only makes the car jolt while changing gears but also reduces the efficiency of the transmission.

The main reasons behind clogged filters are:

  • Avoiding car maintenance
  • Contaminated transmission fluid
  • Thick overheated transmission oil
  • Particles from worn transmission components

You can detect an obstructed filter by looking for certain signs. In addition to difficulty switching gears, the car jerks when shifting from park to reverse. Besides, the transmission slips as the engine revs higher than it should, even when you are not speeding.

Some cars have an indicator glowing on the dashboard to warn drivers about the blocked filters. You can also confirm this issue if there is a humming noise or leakage under the car. The car leaks when the overheated transmission oil damages certain parts.

Apart from noticing these signs, you can ask a mechanic to check the filters. The mechanic will suggest you buy new filters or try to clean the old one if it is blocked by big particles.

– Problems With the Transmission Pump Cause Jerking

After ruling out the filters, you can look for a damaged transmission pump if your car jerks when stopped in drive automatic. Sometimes both of these components can fail because they work in coordination.
For example, if blocked filters put greater pressure on the pump. When it fails to meet the need, the transmission jerks. You can also notice a squeaking noise coming from the pump.

Other symptoms include delayed shifting of gears, overheating, and warning indications. You might see a pop-up on the dashboard, showing an issue with the pump.

A pump can fail with increasing age, but premature failure can be due to various reasons. Low quantity and quality of transmission fluid, broken seals, and defective torque converters can damage the pump.

– Car Jolts Due To Defective Torque Converter

Are you here looking for an answer to “Why does my car jerk when I put it in park mode?” If yes, then you might have a defective torque multiplier or converter. The converter transfers the power from the engine to the transmission.

You will find it in cars with automatic transmissions located near the engine. It keeps your car engine running even when you stop driving. Thus, in case of a damaged converter, the car might shake while driving or parking.

The converter has subunits such as a turbine and impeller. A defect in any of these parts can cause the converter to fail. Moreover, overheating, dirt, or faulty bearings can have similar effects.

– Jolting Car Due To Damaged Friction Plates

Friction plates are also a part of the transmission, and they transfer the engine’s power to the wheels. These plates use friction to transfer the power into mechanical energy.

The plates are made of durable materials such as steel or carbon fiber and have a coating of graphite or rubber. This coating enhances the friction between the plates.

Breakage or damage to the friction plates can be why your car jolts in drive mode. You will also experience jolts while switching gears because the plates are engaged and disengaged during the process.

The plates move apart when you press the clutch. It facilitates gear shifting without harming the transmission. You can shift the gear and then release the pedal so the plates can engage again.

Certain factors can speed up the wearing of friction plates. Even though they are bound to damage after some time, some activities or problems in the car can cause them to deteriorate faster.

The friction plates undergo fast damage due to the following:

  • Dirty oil or lubricant
  • Overheating of car components
  • Aggressive or harsh driving habits
  • Using the wrong installation procedures
  • Installing poor-quality friction plates in the car
  • Overloading the car by towing or carrying heavy weight

– Poor Transmission Oil Cooler

Does “When I put my car in drive it shakes” sound like you? If yes, there is a possibility that the transmission fluid cooler has gone bad.

Car transmission has many moving components that generate heat. The transmission fluid or oil dissipates the heat to prevent overheating. The hot fluid then moves into the cooler to lose the heat, and the cool fluid moves back to the transmission.

The cooler is a hose that lies close to the radiator and uses the coolant to lower the fluid temperature.

The cooler develops defects due to the following reasons:

  • Overheated engine
  • Blocked tubes due to contamination
  • A car accident or impact on the front car side
  • Corrosion due to dirty transmission fluid or coolant

– Damaged Hydraulic Valve Body

If you have come this far searching for “Why does my car jerk when shifting gears with an automatic transmission?” you should also consider checking the valve body. It is a part of the automatic transmission that controls the shifting of gears.

It has many passages for the flow of transmission fluid. The hydraulic pressure defines the condition of the clutch by expanding or compressing.

The valve body may stop working due to an underlying cause and make the car jolt or jerk. Common reasons for its damage include dirty fluid or lack of maintenance.

– Faulty ECU Sending Wrong Signals to Transmission

In case of a faulty Electronic Control Unit (ECU), the gear system in a car may jolt or shift abruptly. The ECU controls the shifting behavior by analyzing your car’s speed.

The gearbox may shift irregularly if the ECU is not operating properly because it may be sending the solenoids the wrong signals. As a result, there may be jerky shifts, which may cause the car to lurch as it accelerates or decelerates.

Additionally, it might send signals at an inopportune moment, delaying gearbox shifting. Consequently, the car may stall when you speed up.

The wrong instructions can also make the downshifts harsh. It might cause the car to lurch forward or damage the transmission parts excessively.

Sometimes an ECU issue can make it difficult to shift by causing the gearbox to get stuck in a particular gear. It makes the car impossible to accelerate or maintain speed and seriously wears out the transmission’s parts.
A problem with the control unit is always indicated by the check engine light, making it easier to diagnose. Once you detect an issue with the ECU, fix it before the car loses all functions.

– Brake Disc Scaling Issues

The car can jerk due to the scaling of the brake discs. It happens when shallow grooves develop on the outer layer of the rotor. It may result in uneven wear and jeopardize the brake system’s functionality.

Car Brake Disc Scaling Issues

Many factors can contribute to scaling, such as

  • Dirt or debris accumulated in the brake system
  • Using brake parts made of poor-quality material
  • Rough or warped discs due to overheating of the rotor
  • Improper installation of the brake pads and poor bedding-in
  • Contact with salt or moisture leads to corrosion of the surface

– Transmission Oil Freezing in Cold Weather

Transmission oils have a specific freezing point, so if the temperatures drop below that point, the oil freezes. It can damage the transmission, create difficulty starting or shifting the car, and jolting.

The oil gets thicker as the temperature drops below freezing point. To avoid such problems, you can use synthetic transmission oils with a wider freezing point range.

– Aging Car Transmission

Like other car components, the transmission can also age and lose its functions over time. This process gets faster if you do not maintain your car regularly.

The transmission consists of many parts, so they all wear out with time and lower the overall performance. If you are noticing any noises, such as humming or clunking, for a long time, your transmission might be aging.

How To Fix a Jerking Car When Shifting From Park To Drive?

You can fix a jerking car when shifting from park to drive by filling up or replacing the transmission oil. You can also replace the filters or clean them to remove obstructions. Lastly, you can replace failing transmission parts, such as hydraulic valves or friction plates.

– Top-up Good Quality Transmission Oil

You should check the transmission oil levels every month. In case it is low, fill it up with good-quality fluid. You can use the transmission dipstick to check the fluid levels.

If you live in areas with a cold climate, buy a synthetic transmission oil so it does not freeze. If the fluid seems dirty, thick, or very dark, you should change it immediately before it damages other parts.

You can either ask a mechanic to change the oil or do it yourself by following the steps mentioned below:

  • Drain the transmission oil by jacking the car up and opening the pan. Use a catch pan to avoid creating a mess.
  • Clean the transmission magnet by removing the small metal pieces.
  • Inspect the filter, and if it seems fine, close the pan by putting the bolts.
  • Lower the car to refill the transmission with the new fluid.
  • Check for leakages by starting the car.

– Change or Clean Clogged Transmission Filters

If your car jerks when shifting from park to drive, BMW or any other vehicle will stop jolting after you change the filters. Replacement of filters requires drainage of the transmission oil, so most people change them when they change the oil.

Fixes of Jerky Car Transmission

After removing the fluid, you can loosen the nuts or clips holding the filter to the gearbox. To protect the gasket, carefully remove the filter from the transmission. Spray a brake or car parts cleaner on the filter to get rid of any collected debris. You can also use a toothbrush to remove any leftover dirt.

You can observe the filter to look for damage indications. If the filter has cracks or tears, replace it. Reinstall the filter by tightening the bolts, but carefully align it with the gasket to avoid leakages.

You can buy the filter for $15 and $50. The price depends on filters specifically made for your car and their type.

If you do not want to replace the filters on your own, you can hire a mechanic. The labor cost also varies from car to car, depending on the filter position.

– Replace the Bad Transmission Parts To Stop Car Jolting

If the problem originates from a faulty part of your car’s transmission, you can replace it. For instance, you can replace the hydraulic valve, cooling hoses, or friction plates.

These parts can be hard to locate by a layman. It is better to hire a mechanic than to replace the components yourself. The total repair cost depends on the worn part and labor cost.

Symptoms of Transmission Jerks

What Are Some Possible Causes and Fixes for a Jerking Car When Shifting from Park to Drive?

Jerking while shifting from park to drive in a car can be nerve-wracking. There are various causes for this issue, including a faulty transmission valve body, low transmission fluid, or a worn-out torque converter. To fix this problem, it is advisable to visit a trusted mechanic who specializes in rv monitor panel troubleshooting causes fixes to diagnose and repair the specific issue with your car.


After reading all causes and repairing methods, you can detect and solve the problem causing your car to jerk. Read the following points to have a clear understanding:

  • Low-quality or frozen transmission oil, blocked filters, or old parts can cause jolting.
  • Other reasons include ECU failure, brake disc scaling, and damaged pump and friction plates.
  • Replacing the oil, filters, or faulty transmission parts can fix the car.

These facts can help you restore your car’s smooth drive.

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