Car Won’t Move in Drive: Fixing Transmission Issues

If your car won’t move in drive, it is likely due to a faulty transmission. Your transmission fluid could be dirty or low, the check engine light may be on, or the valve’s body may be bad. Whatever the reason, you’ll need to fix it as soon as possible to avoid further damage to your car’s performance.

car wont move in drive

In this article, we’ll discuss why your car won’t move and provide simple tips to troubleshoot this problem.

Why Won’t Your Car Move in Any Gear Automatic Transmission?

Your car won’t move in any gear automatic transmission because the transmission is faulty, the transmission filter is clogged, there is a bad synchronizer, the transmission fluid is dirty or not enough, the valve body or shift solenoid is faulty, or there is a misaligned gearbox, among other causes.

The automatic transmission is a very important part of your car, especially as it aids movement. If you notice your car won’t move in any gear when you enable automatic transmission, it is an indication that something is wrong. Here’s a detailed list of the common reasons your car doesn’t move in any gear on an automatic transmission.

– Faulty Automatic Transmission Control Unit (TCU)

Automatic transmissions come with a TCU that interacts with your engine control unit (ECU) in calculating when or how to change gears. Often, it’s easy to spot when your TCU is faulty, as “Incorrect Gear” may come up on your car’s dashboard. Another way to know if your TCU is bad is when your car refuses to move even after increasing your RPM.

Clogged Transmission Filter

Another common reason why your car stalls even when in gear in an automatic transmission is a clogged transmission filter. A transmission filter helps to prevent dirt, dust, and particles from damaging the transmission system. If this filter isn’t maintained regularly or replaced when due, it will become blocked with buildup.

One of the most common signs your filter is clogged is a weird whining sound and unusual jerking that may occur when you start your car. As this worsens, you’ll discover that your car won’t start.

– Bad Synchronizer

Changing gears works with a component known as a synchronizer. A synchronizer adjusts your shaft speed when you shift to align with the speed of your gears more quickly.

If you shift gears too aggressively, your car’s synchronizer will probably get damaged. Pressing too hard on the pedal while driving can also affect the performance of the synchronizer and cause them to wear out.

The earliest signs of a bad synchronizer include a humming or grinding sound when you start your car. If left unattended, a bad synchronizer can affect your car’s movement, especially when in transmission.


– Dirty Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is essential for the smooth running of your car’s transmission system. When your transmission fluid is dirty, it won’t flow properly, and you may have a bad automatic transmission driving experience. If it’s dirty enough, you may also notice that your car won’t move in gear, the gear slips, your engine runs hotter, and there’s an odd burning smell.

– Not Enough Transmission Fluid

Low transmission fluid levels are often the culprit for faulty transmissions. Transmission fluid is needed to keep your car moving smoothly through well-oiled gears. If your transmission fluid isn’t enough due to long-term use, your car won’t be able to move properly.

A transmission fluid leak may also be the culprit if you’ve recently replaced the fluids. Both reasons could be why your car stalls even when in gear.

– Faulty Valve Body or Shift Solenoid

A transmission valve body or shift solenoid is another important part of your automatic transmission system. They are responsible for engaging the clutch and shifting your car at the right time. Valve bodies with hydraulic or electronic channels will likely become clogged over time, especially from the worn transmission fluid.

At its earliest stage of damage, you may notice that your car produces vibrating sounds when you shift gears or even stall periodically. If you don’t quickly fix this, your car won’t move in any gear automatic transmission.

– Faulty Transmission Linkages

Whether you use a manual or an automatic transmission, your vehicle has a transmission linkage. A transmission linkage, also known as shift linkage, consists of cables that connect your gear shift to the transmission system.

Faulty Car Transmission Linkages (1)

If these linkages are worn or dislodged, it may spell trouble for your car’s transmission. Often caused by forceful impact or long-term use, bad transmission linkage makes switching gears very difficult, and your car would likely stop in automatic transmission.

You may also notice that your car jerks or increases in RPM. Your vehicle will also likely produce a strange sound when you start the engine. Another sign of a faulty transmission linkage is that your engine sometimes refuses to start. At other times, you may find it difficult to turn your engine off.

– Misaligned Gearbox

Misaligned gearboxes are another reason your car won’t move in any gear. It is often caused by forceful impact, thermal expansion, misplacement, and other technical issues. When this happens, you may notice a weird sound from your car, and your gearbox is most likely to vibrate as well. If your gearbox is misaligned, switching gears becomes harder than usual, especially when you’re trying to move.

– Safety Shift Lock Issues

Unlike manual transmissions, automatic vehicles have a safety shift lock feature. This feature requires you to press the brake and helps prevent your car from shifting gears, especially when the car is parked. However, this lock can become worn or faulty, so when you’re ready to shift out of park, it may not work. When there’s a malfunction, your car won’t move in any gear on automatic transmission.

– Failed Torque Converter

A bad torque converter would likely affect your transmission and cause it to stop. The torque converter is responsible for transmitting torque from the engine to the rotating load. Your torque converter would likely go bad due to dirty or low transmission fluid or a dirty filter.

Over time, your car will stall in gear when on an automatic transmission. Other causes may include a dragging clutch, worn clutch pedal assembly, broken pressure plate spring, and bar gear position sensor.

How To Fix Your Car When It Won’t Move in Any Gear Automatic Transmission?

To fix your automatic transmission car when it won’t move in any gear, you have to service your transmission regularly, clean the filter, replace the bad synchronizer, top off or replace the transmission oil, fix transmission leaks, or replace the torque converter, among others.

Remedies of Car Won’t Move in Any Gear Automatic Transmission


Once you can identify the transmission issues stopping your car from moving in any gear on automatic transmission, it’ll become easy to fix the problem. Here are some helpful methods to help you get rid of this issue effectively.

– Service Your Transmission Regularly

You don’t have to wait until something happens to your automatic transmission before servicing it. In fact, it is recommended that you carry out routine checks on your transmission and its fluid to avoid unexpected problems.

If you can, service your transmission every six months to ensure the optimal performance of your car’s components. When everything’s working fine, you will discover that your car will move in any gear when on an automatic transmission.

– Clean Your Transmission Filter

A clogged or dirty transmission filter will easily allow contaminants and debris to affect your transmission system. If a clogged filter is why your car refuses to move in gear when on automatic transmission, you should clean it.

To do this, you must locate the filter and clean it with a rag and car cleaner. If the transmission filter is too dirty or clogged, you may have to replace it with a new one.

– Replace Bad Synchronizer

If you’re certain the synchronizer is why your car isn’t moving in gear, getting a new one is the best way to resolve this. Repairing faulty synchronizers costs almost the same as getting a new one.

Hence, we recommended replacing it to avoid dealing with further problems rather than repairing it. Replacing a synchronizer is quite technical, so you would require professional assistance to do this correctly.

– Top Off or Replace Transmission Oil

As part of a routine check, if your car’s transmission fluid is low or worn out, try replacing it or top it off. If the transmission fluid is dirty and filled with debris, take the old one out and replace it with new oil. Similarly, if your transmission fluid level is low, immediately top it off.

However, it would be best to do this carefully as excess transmission oil can also affect transmission performance. Half the time, an appropriate amount of transmission oil will efficiently eliminate the problem of your car not moving in any gear when on automatic transmission.

– Use High-Quality Oil

Although replacing dirty or low transmission oil with a sufficient amount will eliminate car stalling when in gear, it sometimes doesn’t work. If, after replacing your transmission fluid, you still notice your car won’t move in any gear automatic transmission, the oil may be of low quality.

Hence, when purchasing transmission oil for your car, ensure you get it from a trusted vendor or reputable brand. Investing in high-quality oil will not only solve automatic transmission problems but will also last longer while performing optimally.

– Let Oil Warm Up

If your car won’t move in gear on transmission, especially during cold seasons, letting the oil warm up works. During winter, your transmission fluid is likely to thicken, so it may not circulate properly, resulting in a problematic transmission.

You need to start your engine and let it idle for two to three minutes, then shift into your gear. Your car will easily move because the transmission oil has been warmed and circulated to the areas where it is needed to function.

– Fix Transmission Leaks

Leaks in your transmission don’t just affect your car’s movement but are also capable of causing damage to other important parts of your car. The most common cause of a transmission leak is a broken pan gasket, so changing the gasket is the fastest and easiest way to fix the leak. Once you successfully fix the cause of the leak, your car should be able to move easily in any gear.

– Shift Through Gears Before Driving

Sometimes shifting through gear before driving is all you need to kick-start your car into moving in transmission. Just like you need to change through gears when speeding, that’s basically how this works, too.

Shifting through gears before driving sends a message to your engine, indicating that the car needs more power. Hence, the torque increases, making it easier for your car to start moving when on transmission.

– Replace or Connect Transmission Linkages

Transmission linkages are cables that connect your gears to your transmission system. If they’re worn or dislodged, you should immediately replace them or make sure they are properly aligned.

Doing this can be quite technical and often requires a third party present for maximum efficiency. A professional mechanic comes highly recommended because they can carry out this responsibility efficiently without causing further damage to your transmission system.

– Replace Defective Torque Converter

Having a defective torque converter means that your car won’t be able to provide enough torque needed to keep your gears working. It would be best to completely replace your faulty torque converter once it is diagnosed as the cause of your car’s immobility when on an automatic transmission. Doing this will quickly eliminate the problem and save you the stress of dealing with future issues caused by neglect, especially on your engine.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is the Fastest Solution if My Car Wont Move in Any Gear?

If your car won’t move in any gear, the fastest solution is to check your transmission fluid and replace it immediately, especially if you have an automatic transmission. If this doesn’t work, you may need to fix your TCU, as it may be the main cause of this problem.

2. How To Know if Automatic Transmission Is Going Out?

A sign to know if your automatic transmission is going out include not being able to shift gears, causing your car to be immobile. Even if you can shift through gears, you will notice that the process is rougher, causing your car to produce weird noises or shudder.

Your transmission fluids will also start to leak, affecting the car’s performance. Finally, your gears will start to slip, resulting in the gears changing on their own.

3. Why Won’t My Car Go Into Gear?

Your car won’t go into gear because of a transmission-related problem. A quick check might reveal that insufficient or dirty transmission fluid is the main cause of this transmission problem. Your car won’t move in gear when the transmission system isn’t well lubricated.

If you are encountering this problem, you need to top off or replace the transmission oil when necessary. On the other hand, a faulty TCU is one of the main causes of a car going in reverse but not forward. It may also be that your transmission valve’s body or solenoid is bad; hence, your transmission can reverse but not go forward.

Other reasons include low or dirty transmission fluid, clogged transmission filters, faulty torque converter, and misaligned transmission linkages.

4. Why Won’t Automatic Cars Change Gears?

Cars with automatic transmissions won’t change gears when there’s only a little transmission fluid. Your car cannot shift through gears because it isn’t well lubricated. Aside from this, poor lubrication will cause your gears to slip, and you’ll experience difficulty when switching gears.

The automatic transmission works by using a torque converter along gears for transmission. That is, the torque converter acts as a link between the transmission and the engine. It also uses transmission fluids to lubricate and power the gears.

Conclusion of Car Wont Move in Any Gear Automatic Transmission


Understanding why your car won’t move in any gear automatic transmission has become easier now that you know its causes and simple fixes. Below is a breakdown of the key points we’ve discussed in this article:

  • Your car won’t move in drive because it is experiencing a transmission issue that several factors can cause.
  • The problems that may cause a defective transmission include low or dirty transmission fluid, faulty TCU, a clogged transmission filter, or a faulty transmission linkage.
  • Quick solutions to this problem include regular service of your transmission system, replacing transmission oil, and fixing leaks. It would be best to replace the faulty linkage and torque converter immediately.

It is normal to get agitated when your car doesn’t start despite switching gears on the automatic transmission. However, knowing what causes this and how to immediately fix this issue will save you a lot of your time and cash.

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