Automatic Transmission Car Won’t Move in Any Gear

Have you ever been in an automatic car that wouldn’t move? You put it in gear, and it just stays there. This happens because the transmission is not shifting correctly.

A vehicle’s automatic transmission does not move in any gear for various reasons, including a faulty automatic transmission control unit, valve body issues, bad torque converter, faulty clutches, low transmission fluid level, and old or poor-quality transmission oil.

There are several reasons why an automatic transmission car won’t move in any gear. This article will discuss some of the most common reasons this might happen. We will also provide tips on how to prevent this from happening. Keep reading for more information!

Why Won’t My Automatic Transmission Car Move In Any Gear?

If your car with an automatic transmission won’t move in any gear, it could be because of various issues. The most common reasons are:

1. Low Transmission Fluid Levels

If the transmission fluid levels are low, it can cause the transmission to fail and not work properly.

Insufficient automatic transmission oil could cause the oil pump to either fail or cause the pump to provide limited pressure.


  • The car’s shifting gears slowly.
  • You notice rough gear shifting.
  • The gears are slipping.
  • You hear noises from underneath your car.
  • You notice puddles under your car.
  • You can smell burned oil.

2. Old transmission fluid

If the transmission oil hasn’t been changed in a while, it can cause the clutches to slip.

The transmission fluid, just as engine oil, breaks down over time and will not lubricate the transmission properly.

Old or poor-quality transmission oil can cause slippage and cause gear shifting problems.


  • The car won’t move in gear.
  • The car can’t go into reverse gear.
  • Gears are slipping.
  • Shifting gears takes longer than usual.
  • You notice a delay when you shift gears.
  • The car jerks when shifting gears.
  • You hear a grinding noise.

3. Defective Transmission Control Module

The transmission control module (TCM) controls the automatic transmission.

The TCM shares data with other parts of the car, such as the engine control module (ECM).

If there is a problem with the TCM, it can cause the transmission to fail and not go into gear.


  • Check engine light is on.
  • Erratic shifting of gears.
  • The car doesn’t move in any gear.
  • Poor gas mileage.
  • Issues when shifting up or down.
  • The car’s getting stuck in one gear.

4. Faulty Torque Converter

It can be difficult to diagnose a torque converter issue because it shares similar symptoms with other transmission problems.

Although, it’s usually not the torque converter that is faulty. In case it’s your torque converter that’s faulty, here are some common symptoms:


  • The car’s shaking.
  • You hear a humming noise when the vehicle is in neutral.
  • The car stalls when coming to a stop.
  • The automatic transmission is overheating.
  • The car jerks when accelerating.
  • The gears are slipping.

5. Worn Clutches

Worn clutches are another common reason an automatic car won’t move in any gear.

Clutches engage and disengage the gears in the transmission. If they are worn out, it can cause the clutch disk to slip on the engine plate.

To find out if the clutch is worn and slipping, follow this guide:

  1. Drive until high gear.
  2. Stay on low RPM.
  3. Accelerate hard.

If we notice that the engine revolutions rise, but the speed does not increase proportionately, it implies that the clutch is worn, causing it to slip.


  • The clutch slips when accelerating.
  • The car’s having trouble shifting.
  • Trouble staying in gear.
  • You smell a sensation of burning when driving.

6. Malfunctioning Valve Body

The valve body is a critical component of the automatic transmission. It directs the flow of hydraulic fluid to the appropriate clutch or gear.

If there’s a problem with the valve body, it can cause the transmission not to shift gears properly.


  • Transmission warning light.
  • Grinding noises when shifting.
  • The smell of burned oil when driving.
  • Oil leakage can be seen after being parked.
  • Delayed shifting when changing gears.

Preventing Automatic Transmission Failure

Now that we looked through some of the common reasons why an automatic transmission can fail, let’s talk about how to prevent it.

To prolong the life of your vehicles automatic transmission and avoid costly repairs, follow these tips:

1. Service Your Transmission Accordingly

Check your owner’s manual to see the manufacturer recommendation regarding servicing your transmission.

Most automakers recommended interval is every 30,000 miles or every two years, whichever comes first.

If you drive in stop-and-go traffic or tow a trailer, you may need to service your transmission more often.

2. Use High-Quality Oil

When servicing your transmission, make sure to use high-quality oil.

Transmission fluid breaks down over time and will not lubricate the transmission properly.

Old or poor-quality transmission oil can cause expensive repairs in the long run.

3. In Cold Climate, Let The Oil Warm-Up

If you live in a cold climate, it’s essential to let the transmission oil warm up before accelerating hard.

Transmission fluid thickens when it’s cold, which can cause shifting problems.

Drive gently when taking off and hard acceleration until you see the temperature meter at its optimal working temperature.

4. Fix Eventual Leaks As Soon as Possible

Transmission fluid leaks are common and should be fixed as soon as possible. A small leak can turn into a big problem if left unrepaired.

Check your transmission fluid level regularly and top it off if necessary. Usually, when there’s a transmission oil leak, you’ll see a puddle of red fluid on the ground where you park your car.

If you notice a transmission fluid leak, take your car to a mechanic and have it fixed as soon as possible.

5. Shift Through All Gears Before Driving

Before driving, it’s a good idea to shift through all the gears. This will allow oil to circulate and lubricate the transmission.

It’s also an excellent way to check if the transmission is working correctly. If it’s not, you may notice grinding noises or resistance when shifting.

6. Avoid Towing Too Much Weight

Towing too much weight can strain your transmission and cause it to fail.

When towing, make sure not to exceed the maximum towing capacity of your car.

You can find out how much your car can tow in your owner’s manual or on a sticker located on the driver’s side door.

7. Don’t Drift

Don’t drift with your car on slippery roads. This can cause the transmission to slip, overheat, and fail.

If you live in an area with snowy or icy roads, be extra careful when driving.


Why won’t my car move when I put it in drive or reverse?

One reason could be that the transmission fluid level is low and needs to be topped off, the clutch is worn out and needs to be replaced, or there could be a problem with the valve body, which directs the flow of hydraulic fluid to the appropriate clutch or gear.

My car is making a grinding noise when I shift gears. What could be the problem?

If you hear a grinding noise, the transmission is likely not shifting smoothly. This could be caused by low fluid levels, worn-out clutches, or a problem with the valve body.

I smell burning oil when I’m driving my car. Is this a cause for concern?

If you smell burning oil, the transmission may be overheating. This can be caused by low fluid levels, excessive towing, or drifting on slippery roads. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your car to a mechanic and have it checked out as soon as possible.


An automatic transmission is a complex piece of machinery that can fail for various reasons.

There will be no easy fix for a car that won’t go into gear, unfortunately. Unless you’re experienced working with cars, you’ll have to let a certified mechanic take a look on your car.

To prevent transmission failure, it’s essential to service your transmission regularly, use high-quality oil, and fix leaks as soon as possible.

You should also avoid towing too much weight, drifting on slippery roads, and service your transmission accordingly.

By following these tips, you can prolong your automatic transmission’s life and avoid costly repairs.

Do you have any questions or comments? Please leave a comment below!

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Robin Söder

Robin has always been passionate about cars ever since young age. Over the years, Robin has worked on thousands of cars and gained invaluable experience in the process. He is considered an expert in his field and is often consulted by other mechanics for advice.

1 thought on “Automatic Transmission Car Won’t Move in Any Gear”

  1. I appreciate you letting us know that low transmission fluid levels can lead to a myriad of problems like gears shifting slowly and roughly due to the oil pump failing or providing limited pressure. This was my problem with my car last night, so I had trouble driving back home since the gears kept shifting roughly the entire time. I’ll keep this in mind and get my car to a transmission shop for repairs as soon as possible.


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