It can be very frustrating if you’re driving and your transmission won’t shift out of first gear. This problem can have several causes, some of which are easy to fix and others that require the help of a mechanic.
The most common reasons for an automatic transmission not shifting out of first gear are low or old transmission fluid, frozen solenoid, worn clutch, a faulty torque converter, shift interlock mechanism, or a failed transmission control module. The repair cost varies from $200 to $5000 in some instances.
In this article, we will discuss the most common causes of transmission not shifting out of first gear and some solutions that you can try yourself.
1. Old Transmission Fluid
One of the most common causes of transmission not shifting out of first gear is old or dirty transmission fluid. When transmission fluid gets old, it can become thick and sticky, making it difficult for the transmission to shift gears.
The change interval for transmission fluid varies depending on the make and model of your vehicle, but it is generally recommended that you change it every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.
If you think your transmission fluid might be the problem, the first thing you can do is check the level and condition of the fluid. If the fluid is low, you can add more transmission fluid to see if that fixes the problem.
If the transmission fluid looks dark or dirty, it needs to be flushed and replaced with new transmission fluid.
If you suspect that old transmission fluid is causing your transmission not to shift out of first gear, the best solution is to have the transmission serviced.
How Much Does a Transmission Fluid Change Cost?
The cost to have your transmission fluid changed will vary depending on a few factors. The most important factor is the type of transmission you have.
Transmissions come in two different types: automatic and manual. Automatic transmissions are more common and generally require less maintenance than manual transmissions.
The average cost for an automatic transmission fluid change at a mechanic ranges from $411 to $473, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. The average cost to have a manual transmission fluid change is slightly cheaper.
Another essential factor that will affect the cost of your transmission fluid change is the type of transmission fluid you need.
There are three different types of transmission fluids: conventional, synthetic, and high mileage.
Conventional transmission fluid is the most common type and is generally the cheapest. Synthetic transmission fluid is a newer type of transmission fluid that offers better protection for your transmission.
High mileage transmission fluid is designed for vehicles with over 75,000 miles on them and can help to extend the life of your transmission.
The type of transmission fluid you need will depend on the make and model of your vehicle.
If you’re not sure what type of transmission fluid you need, the best thing to do is consult your owner’s manual or ask a mechanic.
Don’t forget to replace the transmission filter when changing the transmission fluid. The transmission filter is responsible for filtering out dirt and debris from the transmission fluid.
If the transmission filter is not changed when the transmission fluid is changed, it can cause problems down the road.
The cost of a transmission filter replacement will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Transmission filters can cost anywhere from $20 to $100.
2. Low Transmission Fluid Level
Another common cause of transmission not shifting out of first gear is a low transmission fluid level. If the transmission fluid level is too low, it can prevent the transmission from shifting gears properly.
The best way to check the transmission fluid level is to consult your owner’s manual. Every vehicle is different, and there is no standard method for checking the transmission fluid level.
Once you know how to check the transmission fluid level in your vehicle, make sure the transmission is in “Park,” and the engine is turned off before you begin.
Then, check the transmission fluid level and add more transmission fluid if necessary. If you’re still having trouble after adding more transmission fluid, we’ve ensured it’s not a fluid issue.
How Much Does It Cost to Top Off The Transmission?
The cost to top off your transmission will vary depending on the type of transmission fluid you need and how much fluid you are missing. Generally, when you’re just adding some transmission oil to make up for what was lost, it will cost less than $20.
However, if your transmission is low on fluid and needs a complete flush and fill, it could cost $200 or more.
The best way to avoid expensive transmission repairs is to have the transmission serviced regularly.
3. Worn Clutch
If your transmission is not shifting out of first gear, it could be because the clutch is worn. The clutch engages and disengages the gearbox.
If the clutch is worn, it can cause the transmission not to shift correctly. The best way to tell if the clutch is worn is to listen for a grinding noise when the transmission is in neutral.
If you hear a grinding noise, it’s essential to have the transmission checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace the Clutch?
Replacing a worn clutch is not a cheap repair. It can cost between $500 and $2000, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
4. Faulty Transmission Solenoid
A faulty transmission solenoid is another typical reason for a car’s transmission not shifting out of first gear. The transmission solenoid is responsible for controlling the flow of transmission fluid.
The shift solenoids for your automatic transmission are located within the valve body. They’re built into the valve body and accessible on some vehicles without removing the transmission pan.
If the transmission solenoid is damaged or defective, it can prevent the transmission from shifting gears properly. The best way to fix a faulty transmission solenoid is to replace it.
How Much Does a Transmission Solenoid Cost?
The average cost to replace a transmission solenoid is between $400 and $700, including parts and labor. However, the exact price will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
5. Faulty Torque Converter
A faulty torque converter could also cause the transmission not to shift out of the first gear. The torque converter is responsible for converting the engine’s rotational force into hydraulic energy.
Symptoms of a bad torque converter include stuck gears, transmission slipping, overheating, loss of acceleration, and the transmission not shifting correctly.
If the torque converter is damaged or defective, it can prevent the transmission from shifting gears properly.
Replacing a torque converter is quite tricky. Instead of explaining it myself, I’ll attach a video below.
How Much Does a Torque Converter Cost to Replace?
The cost to replace a torque converter is between $1000 and $2000. However, the exact price will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
6. Failed Transmission Control Module
Nowadays, the transmission is controlled by computers and sensors. If any of the electronic components fail, it can prevent the transmission from shifting gears properly.
A faulty transmission control module (TCM) is a less common cause of gearbox problems. The TCM is in charge of the transmissions management system.
It uses input from various sensors to control transmission shifting.
If the TCM is damaged or defective, it can prevent the transmission from shifting gears properly. The best way to fix a faulty TCM is to replace it.
How Much Does a Transmission Control Module Cost?
The cost to replace a transmission control module ranges from $600 to $1000.
However, the actual expense will be determined by the mechanic and model of your vehicle.
7. Faulty Shift Interlock Mechanism
If your transmission is not shifting out of first gear, it could be because the shift interlock mechanism is damaged or defective.
The shift interlock mechanism prevents the transmission from being shifted to reverse or to gear unless the car is standing still with the brake pedal pressed down.
The shift interlock solenoid is located near the shift lever underneath the shift console. The shift interlock solenoid can be released by following the instructions inside the owner’s manual.
How Much Does a Shift Interlock Mechanism Cost to Replace?
The cost to replace a shift interlock mechanism is between $100 and $220. The part costs about $99, while the labor cost is between $80 and $120.
8. The Transmission Might Need a Rebuild
If the transmission is not shifting out of first gear and all of the above solutions don’t work, it’s time to rebuild the transmission.
A transmission rebuild is a big job, and it’s not something that can be done at home by the everyday DIY. You’ll need to take your car to a certified mechanic.
The cost to rebuild a transmission is between $1500 and $5000, with an average of $3000.
Transmission not shifting out of first gear can be caused by several things, such as a faulty torque converter, transmission control module, or shift interlock mechanism.
Most of these transmission issues can be addressed at home with some knowledge, but if all else fails, you might need to rebuild your transmission.
The transmission service cost is quite a tedious expense, but it’s worth keeping your car running smoothly, as repairs can be expensive.