Transmission Shifts Hard From 1st to 2nd: What are Reasons?

The transmission shifts hard from 1st to 2nd due to various reasons, such as contaminated transmission fluid, leaks, and so on. This issue happens both in automatic and manual transmission.

Transmission Shifts Hard From 1st to 2nd

If you are not sure which one is your problem, do not worry, we are here to help you out. 

Why Is It Difficult to Shift Automotive and Manual Transmission From 1st to 2nd?

The automatic and transmission shifts hard from 1st to 2nd because of icy weather, faulty or dirty components, and or fluids. Some parts wear out over time, such as transmission seals. It also might be one of the reasons for its difficulty in shifting. 

It is important to note that the causes for hard shifting are different in manual and automatic transmission. Their basic principles are the same. However, they function in different ways. Hence, the difference in causes of the problem. What is not different is their principle function. Hence, there will be a commonality between the two. We will start by discussing some of the common causes of both transmissions.

– Cold Weather

Cold weather is responsible for thickening transmission oil. It, consequently, leads to gears grinding against one another. Moreover, colder weather causes the transmission components to contract. It also can be a contributing factor to other shifting problems.

Why It is Difficult to Shift Automotive and Manual Transmission From 1st to 2nd

If you live in this type of climate, most likely you will have this problem. It is the most common issue that happens to people who are driving in this kind of climate. So, when you are having issues with the transmission, firstly, you need to check if everything is okay with the oil. 

– Low-Level Transmission Fluid

The transmission system has a seal, and the transmission oil helps the seal to function. Most of the time, low fluid levels are the leading cause of shifting hard from 1st to 2nd. The transmission oil lubricates and cools the transmission. Low levels of fluid can lead to overheating. It wears and tears on the transmission components. Consequently, it will lead to transmission failure. It also means that the transmission does not have enough energy to do its work smoothly. 

– Leaking Transmission Oil

This cause is directly connected to the previous reason. If your fluid level is low, most likely, there is a leak. A fluid leak is one of the common causes for transmission to shift hard from 1st to 2nd. Just like when there is a low-level transmission oil, leaks can happen due to damaged components. There are several parts that can leak. Here are some of them; 

  1. Transmission pan gasket: The transmission pan gasket is a rubber seal that sits between the transmission pan and the transmission case.
  2. Transmission cooler lines: The transmission cooler lines carry transmission fluid to the transmission cooler. It also takes it out of there.
  3. Transmission seals: There are several seals within the transmission that can become damaged or worn, allowing transmission oil to leak. These include the input shaft seal, the output shaft seal, and the seal around the transmission’s main shaft.

If any of these have any damages or wear out, they can cause a leak. 

– Contaminated Transmission Fluid

Transmission hard shifts can happen due to contaminated transmission fluid. The contamination of the fluid can occur due to several factors. It might be due to a mixture of transmission fluid and water. Moreover, the color of the oil might not correspond with your vehicle’s paint. 

The most common colors for transmission oil are green, blue, red, or yellow. Let’s assume that the intended color for your vehicle is green without knowing you used a different color. It can lead to improper work, which includes hard shifting.

 Water in the transmission fluid causes different problems, such as corrosion and rust. It can lead to transmission failure. Moreover, water in the transmission fluid can cause poor shifting performance and grinding gears.

– Automotive Transmission Shifting Hard From 1st to 2nd

Automotive transmission is shifting hard because of malfunctioning or damage of components of the transmission system. Some of these components include sensors, shifter’s cable, etc. As the computer controls all of them, malfunction or damage can cause serious issues. 

Transmission Shifts Hard From 1st to 2nd

  • Malfunctioning or damaged sensors

Modern cars nowadays are controlled by built-in computers. The role of this computer is to receive a signal about the following action or what is happening. Afterward, it sends you a command of what to do next.

One of these computerized systems is the automatic transmission. They have multiple sensors that help in gear movement. The work is possible due to internal communication. The sensors register when the transmission is changing gears. It can also register when it is neutral.

The result of damage or malfunction is simple. Even if one sensor gets damaged or malfunctions, it can affect the work as a whole system. Either the sensor can not send a signal or receive it. ECM receives a quick signal from VSS sensors when the transmission is in first gear. No signal means that the gear will not make any movement.

  • Issues with transmission vacuum moderator

A transmission vacuum moderator is a hose installed in a car. Its vacuum modulator valve calculates the amount of load the engine needs for the transmission to have successful movement.

Transmission puts pressure on the throttle plate situated in the combustion cylinder. Pressure goes to the vacuum moderator. It causes the transmission to start moving. Malfunction again results in wrong calculation and wrong amount of pressure. And the transmission will have difficulty moving.

Malfunctions or damage happen due to the vacuum line being disconnected, clothed, or twisted. It adds extra pressure to the vehicle’s transmission. Having extra pressure means that the gear will have a problem moving. 

  • Issues with the torque converter

The torque converter is between the engine and transmission. Its function is to transfer power from the engine to the wheels. It is a component filled with oil. If your problem is contaminated oil, if the oil is not “clean” or left unresolved, it can turn into faulty or damaged torque. 

When it is not functioning properly (the converter is either damaged or malfunctioning), a vehicle starts to vibrate and shudder. The shuddering happens when the car is at a low speed. Vibrating also happens due to low acceleration.

The most common cause of lousy torque converters is when it has too much friction. The friction can damage the converter’s needle bearings. Other causes of malfunction or damage are faulty clutch, solenoid, or seal. Some of these issues can create problems with movement and difficulty in transmission. We will discuss some of them further in the article. 

  • Damaged shifter cable

In modern cars, transmissions and shifters connect with the help of a cable. This cable function is to make sure that the car indicator needle adjusts different gear changes. Any damage to this component results in maladjustment. It, in its turn, can lead to the problem that this article is discussing.

There are several types of damage that a shifter cable can suffer. It can wear out. The result of this is a cable that is frayed or broken. The protective housing around the cable may become damaged, which can cause the cable to become misaligned or bound, and so on.

  • Issues with adaptive transmission

Some modern automatic cars have an accompanying adaptive transmission. It is an intelligent device that adjusts gear shifts according to the driver’s driving habits and oil. This specific transmission has a computer that calculates the engine’s speed. This way, it makes sure that the speed doesn’t exceed the stopping speed of the transmission. If it doesn’t have proper calculations, the computer might not allow you or make it hard for you to move the gears. 

Furthermore, this system uses its sensors to know about driving habits. It automatically matches the gear oil you use and your driving habits for the maximum quality drive. When or if it detects a change in your driving habits, it will make it hard for you to use the gears. 

– Manual Transmission Shifting Hard From 1st to 2nd

Shifting problems in a manual gearbox happen because of faulty parts. Such parts are foul gear, its sleeve, synchronizer ring, and so on. Unlike automatic, one manual does not have a computer that helps to calculate everything. Hence, do not have a specialized system that identifies the problem. 

  • Issues with the clutch system

The clutch system is responsible for turning the power on and off. When you press the stomp on the clutch pedal, it transports pressure to the clutch master cylinder. It puts the vehicle in neutral and prevents power transfer. 

The problem arises with damaged or leaked class release and master cylinder. In both cases, it loses oil pressure. Consequently, it doesn’t have enough energy to activate or deactivate the manual gearbox. 

  • Issues with bad gears

One of the simplest problems is a damaged gearbox. It is supposed to work for a lifetime. However, it can wear out over time. If your gearbox is manual, you might need to check if there is anything wrong.

  • Faulty gear hub sleeve

A geared hub is a connection between successive gears that help to move from one gear to another. It ensures that the hub’s gear movement correlates with synchronization. If the sleeve wears out, it will cause problems such as the one discussed in this article. If the damage is too much, the driver might even have problems moving gears overall. 

  • Transmission slipping

The slipping causes the vehicle to lose power. When you try to slow down the car, the RPM will increase. It happens when the driver tries to change the gear into one that’s too low for the resistance that it faces. The vehicle’s clutch absorbs most of this resistance. If the slipping is too much, it can create problems. One of the visible problems is gear that is not moving or moves but with a great deal of resistance. 

  • Damaged synchronizer ring

The synchronization rings make sure of smooth movement thanks to their connection to the hub shell. If it malfunctions, it can cause several problems. It can cause a different speed and poor switching. Moreover, it can create slipping. And as we mentioned before, it is one of the leading causes of our problem. 

How to Fix the Hard Transmission Shifting Issues From 1st to 2nd?

To fix the hard transmission shifting issues from 1st to 2nd is simply repairing or replacing that specific part that causes trouble based on its condition. If the damage is too much, the best solution is to replace it. 

There might be cases in which you will need professional help. In any of these solutions, it is crucial to consult a mechanic. 

– Warm up Vehicle

 To solve this problem, check the level and condition of your fluid. Find and use oil that corresponds with the cold temperature level of your surroundings. Furthermore, you can warm up the car before driving. 

– Refill Transmission Oil

First, you identify if the lack of oil is due to a leak or other issues. If the cause is the leak, find the damaged part, replace it, or repair it. You can also refill it by following the instructions in the owner’s manual. 

– Drain and Refill the Oil

Identify the source of the contamination. If it is due to debris, or impure oil, flush the system. You can also manually drain the oil. And in the end, refill the appropriate oil based on the owner’s manual.

Stopping CV Joint From Making Noise


Furthermore, online there are lots of articles and videos that show how to drain and refill the fluid. You can also find such articles in the reference list below. 

– Repair or Replace Needed Components 

Diagnose the problem. Do a visual inspection, or you might need diagnostic tools. If it is just malfunctioning, repairing might do the trick. If it has any damage, replacement is a must. Afterward, do a test drive and other functions to see if the problem is gone. The components that need repairing or replacing are; Sensors, Vacuum moderators, torque, shifter cable, adaptive gears, clutch system, gears, and sleeve. Each of them has a component that can become faulty or malfunction. It is important to check them and understand which has an issue. 

Below is a list of individual components that can become faulty. 

  1. Sensors- As stated, modern automotive transmission has many sensors, without which the transmissions will perform poorly. Most of them can retain damages. Some of them are; oil temperature, input/output speed, transmission range, and pressure sensors.
  2. Shifter Cable- These parts of cable can either wear out over time and malfunction or retain damages. The parts are; inner wire, outer casing, cable housing, and cable ends. 
  3. Clutch System- All of its components can wear out over time as well. Some of them are; the clutch disc and pedal, its cylinders, etc.
  4. Gear- Some of the components prone to being faulty are; gear teeth, hub sleeves, seals, shafts, bearings, etc.
  5. Adaptive gearbox- As we have learned, it is part of automotive transmission and involves computer-based systems. Some of its parts that are prone to being faulty are; its sensors, transmission control module, solenoids, and transmission case. 

It is a little different for Transmission slipping. Firstly you need to identify what is the cause of slipping. Afterward, solve that issue. A test drive will help to determine if you have solved it or not. 

Conclusion of Transmission Shifts Hard From 1st to 2nd


After reading this article, you have more in-depth knowledge about the issues behind the transmission issues for both automotive and manual vehicles. We have learned that it is crucial to identify if the gearbox is automatic or manual. With the help of this article, you also learned about how to solve the issue. Let us do a quick sum-up of the most important points:

  • First, we discussed some of the causes for both automatic and manual gearboxes. It mostly involved transmission oil issues and weather conditions.
  • We covered issues that can arise in the automatic gearbox. The issues mainly focused on components controlled by computers, such as sensors, adaptive automatic transmission, converters, and cables.
  • When it comes to the causes of a manual gearbox, most of them focus on faulty, malfunctioning, or damaged components. Such components are gear, sleeve clutch system, etc.
  • For the oil issues, the solution is to change the oil and keep an eye on it. And for the damaged or malfunctioning parts, the solution is to repair or replace them. Furthermore, before starting to solve the issue alone, it is crucial to ask a professional. 

After reading our article, you are ready to face your problematic transmission. You can identify the problem and solve it. Just do not forget to consult a mechanic for a better solution. Drive safely and enjoy your gearbox so that you can easily move from 1st to 2nd.

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