Car Won’t Go In Reverse – What’s Going On (And How To Fix It)?

Car Won’t Go In Reverse – What’s Going On (And How To Fix It)?

When your car won’t go in reverse, it’s natural to feel worried or agitated. This is usually an indication of transmission issues. Oftentimes, not being able to reverse is an early sign of further transmission woes to come. However, this does not always imply that the entire system must be replaced.

You may only need to replace the transmission fluid and filter in some circumstances. The problem, on the other hand, can be resolved by changing the automatic transmission linkage. If everything else fails, you can totally rebuild the part.

So, how do you figure out what the issue is and how to resolve it? We’ll go over all of that and more in this blog. Whether you like new or used cars, this blog post will provide you with some important information on the top causes and reasons why a car won’t go into reverse.

In addition, this guide will go into detail about the symptoms, diagnosis, troubleshooting steps, and repair processes for each of the causes. We’ll even list out what repair or replacement costs you might need to expect. That, and a lot more on transmission-related issues and fixing a car that won’t reverse, in this guide…

Automatic vs Manual Transmission

Car Won't Go In Reverse

Both automatic and manual/standard transmissions distribute engine power and torque to the drive wheels. The reverse gears interlock with each other and then with the transmission’s output shaft (for more insight, check out our guide on how to replace the transmission output shaft seal) to rotate the driving wheels when you shift into reverse.

When the driver of an automatic transmission car shifts into reverse, a powerful pressurized hydraulic fluid system “automatically” engages an internal clutch pack and band, which locks or unlocks reverse gear sets to each other and the output shaft. A manual transmission car’s reverse gear sets are locked and released by physically shifting the gears using the shifter.

Driving In Reverse

Before we get into why your car won’t go in reverse, it’s vital to understand first what enables your car to travel backward. This is due to your car’s transmission. Your car’s transmission allows you to select whether you want to travel forward or backward.

It reacts to what you instruct it to do and comes into action to move your automobile forward or back depending on your requirements. When your car won’t go in reverse, it’s almost often due to a transmission problem. It may be a small problem that you may resolve without spending a fortune.

In other situations, though, you may have to pay a significant sum of money to get your automobile to reverse again. In any case, you must figure out what’s wrong with your transmission so you don’t end up stuck driving around in a car that won’t reverse.

Before you take your car to a repair shop, you should investigate the various causes. There are a variety of reasons why the transmission does not go into reverse. Let’s get started!

Car Won’t Reverse

Transmission system problems are a common occurrence. Take your car to a reputable technician, and verify that your vehicle is in skilled hands. You can, however, take care of this on your own. Yes, you read that correctly; if you have some experience with working on cars and know how they work, this will not be a difficult chore for you.

Several electronic, hydraulic, and mechanical systems must work in unison for transmission to function properly. The reverse is frequently the first gear to fail when one or more of these systems fails. Before you get too upset, have a look at the problems that are stopping your car from shifting into reverse.

  1. The transmission fluid level is low (Automatic)
  2. Transmission fluid that has become contaminated
  3. Sensor for the transmission range (Automatic)
  4. Sensor for the gear lever (Automatic)
  5. Faults in the valve body (Automatic)
  6. A fault in the gear shifter mechanism (Manual)
  7. Faults in the shifter cables (Manual)
  8. A fault in the clutch (Manual)
  9. Reverse gear teeth are broken (Manual and Automatic)
  10. Lockout ring failure
  11. Problems with the engine – Gaskets

Here’s a more in-depth look at the most prevalent reasons for a car that won’t reverse. For each of these primary causes and reasons, we’ll also quickly summarize and detail what symptoms you might notice, as well as the respective causes of these respective issues. In addition, what do you need to do to diagnose, troubleshoot, and fix each of the causes.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #1: Transmission Fluid Level Is Low (Automatic)

If your car changes into reverse but won’t move or won’t shift into reverse at all, inspect for a low transmission fluid level. When your vehicle’s transmission fluid level is low, it causes insufficient lubrication, which leads to overheating of the transmission gears. It will also cause transmission shifting to be difficult.

Most of the time, a low transmission fluid level caused by a fluid leak prevents your transmission from going into reverse. If you don’t take care of this right away, it could lead to other issues and prohibit your transmission from working in both directions i.e. drive as well as reverse.

This is why you should detect the problem sooner rather than later and see if your transmission fluid needs to be refilled. If the fluid appears to be really dark and filthy, it may be time to replace it. If you detect metal parts in the fluid, your transmission may be damaged.

Symptoms of Low Transmission Fluid Level

If your car’s transmission fluid level is low, there are a few key symptoms that you might notice.

Firstly, your vehicle may experience delayed engagement. This is when there’s a delay between you shifting the gear and the car actually moving. Secondly, the car might have difficulty changing gears or may even refuse to shift gears. You might also notice a grinding or strange noise when the car is shifting gears.

Unusual noises can be an alarming symptom of low transmission fluid. Lastly, another important symptom to watch for is the transmission overheating, which is often signaled by a dashboard warning light. This occurs because there’s not enough fluid to cool down the transmission, leading to excessive heat.

Causes of Low Transmission Fluid Level

A low transmission fluid level can be due to several factors. One of the most common reasons is a fluid leak from the transmission itself. Gaskets, seals, and o-rings can wear out over time and cause fluid to leak out. In some cases, the transmission pan might have been damaged, which can also cause a leak.

Another reason for low fluid could be due to irregular maintenance. Not changing the transmission fluid regularly can lead to it becoming contaminated and not performing effectively. Also, the fluid could have evaporated if your car has been exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods.

Diagnosing Low Transmission Fluid Level

To diagnose a low transmission fluid level, start by checking the fluid level using the dipstick while the car is running and in park. The fluid level should be between the two marks on the dipstick. If it’s lower than this, there may be a problem.

Moreover, observe the color of the fluid. Good transmission fluid is a clear red color and has a slightly sweet smell. If it is dark, dirty, or has a burnt smell, this could indicate a problem. Check for leaks under your car, particularly in the area where you usually park. Puddles of red fluid are a clear sign of a transmission leak.

Repairing or Replacing Low Transmission Fluid Level

Fixing a low transmission fluid level is usually as simple as refilling the fluid. However, if there’s a leak, you’ll need to find and fix it, or the problem will just reoccur. Leaks in accessible places such as the transmission pan or drain plug can be fixed relatively easily, but a leak in the transmission itself will require professional assistance.

If you’re confident in your mechanical abilities, you can purchase a transmission fluid and filter kit for around $50-$100 and do the job yourself. But, if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, a professional transmission fluid change can cost between $100 and $200 at a reputable workshop.

If there is a more serious issue with your transmission, like a leak, the repair costs could increase, potentially costing upwards of $1000. It’s essential to address this issue promptly to avoid further costly damage.

Car Won't Go In Reverse

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #2: Transmission Fluid That Has Become Contaminated

With time, the oil in your transmission fluid, which keeps all of the transmission components functioning smoothly, becomes contaminated. Small particles in the fluid could cause the transmission to fail and prohibit the vehicle from shifting into reverse.

Keep in mind that modern transmissions are meant to last for tens of thousands of miles without needing to be changed. If your new vehicle is over 100,000 miles, it may be time to replace your fluid.

Symptoms of Contaminated Transmission Fluid

If your transmission fluid has become contaminated, there are several symptoms that can alert you to this issue. You may notice your vehicle has a hard time shifting gears, or the gears might slip, causing the car to shift unexpectedly. You could also experience a delay in the car’s movement after shifting gears.

In severe cases, your vehicle may refuse to go into certain gears, including reverse. Unusual noises such as grinding or clunking when the car is in gear are also common symptoms. If the contamination is extreme, the check engine light or the transmission warning light may turn on.

Causes of Contaminated Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid can become contaminated for a variety of reasons. Wear and tear of internal components can produce metal shavings that contaminate the fluid. Also, driving in harsh conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, can cause the fluid to break down and become contaminated more quickly.

Improper maintenance can also contribute to this problem. If the transmission fluid isn’t changed as recommended, contaminants can build up over time. Furthermore, if a leak develops in the transmission system, dust, dirt, and other particles can find their way into the fluid, causing contamination.

Diagnosing Contaminated Transmission Fluid

Diagnosing contaminated transmission fluid involves checking the fluid’s color, consistency, and smell. Fresh transmission fluid is typically a bright red color with a slightly sweet smell. If it’s contaminated, it may be dark brown or black and could have a burnt odor.

The fluid may also have a gritty texture if it’s contaminated with dirt or metal shavings. It’s recommended to use a clean white cloth to check the color and consistency of the fluid from the dipstick. If contamination is suspected, the vehicle should be taken to a professional for a more thorough examination.

Repairing or Replacing Contaminated Transmission Fluid

If the transmission fluid is found to be contaminated, it should be changed as soon as possible to prevent further damage. This usually involves draining the old fluid, changing the filter, and then refilling the system with fresh fluid.

A DIY transmission fluid change can cost between $50 and $100 for the fluid and filter. However, if the contamination has caused damage to the transmission, repair costs can quickly escalate. Major repairs can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000, while a full transmission replacement could run up to $6,000.

To avoid these hefty costs, it’s crucial to maintain your vehicle properly and address any signs of contamination promptly.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #3: Sensor For Transmission Range (Automatic)

A transmission range sensor is mounted on the outside of the gearbox in many cars. This sensor detects which gear you chose from the gearstick and whether it corresponds to the sensor on the gearstick. Using an OBD scanner, you might also notice a P0705 code.

If this sensor is malfunctioning or reading incorrect data, the transmission may not recognize that you want to move backward and will instead do nothing. The simplest way to determine this is to compare the values of the transmission control module to the engine control unit. Check live data frequently to ensure that the TCM detects when the gear stick is in R.

This sensor has an adjustment on some automobile models that need to be modified from time to time. Adjusting this sensor frequently necessitates the use of a diagnostic tool. This sensor can also be found inside your transmission, making replacement more complex.

Symptoms of a Malfunctioning Transmission Range Sensor

When a transmission range sensor, also known as a neutral safety switch, is malfunctioning, it often produces a few distinct symptoms. One of the most noticeable is that the vehicle might refuse to start or start in a different gear. Moreover, you might experience trouble shifting into reverse, or the car might not shift into any gear at all.

In some cases, the sensor could cause the vehicle to start in a different gear, such as starting in drive instead of park or neutral. The check engine light may also come on if the sensor is failing.

Causes of a Malfunctioning Transmission Range Sensor

The transmission range sensor can fail due to a few reasons. Wear and tear over time is one of the most common causes. The sensor can simply wear out and stop working, especially in older or high-mileage vehicles. You might also notice error codes such as the P0705 code.

Another possible cause is exposure to heat and elements. Since the sensor is located on the outside of the transmission in many cars, it can be exposed to extreme temperatures and other elements that can cause it to fail. Lastly, the sensor can be damaged by physical impacts, such as during an accident or while driving on rough terrain.

Diagnosing a Malfunctioning Transmission Range Sensor

To diagnose a malfunctioning transmission range sensor, a professional mechanic will typically use a digital multimeter to check the sensor’s voltage. In some cases, a diagnostic scanner tool may also be used to read the engine control unit (ECU) and transmission control module (TCM) for fault codes.

DIY enthusiasts can also check for visible signs of damage to the sensor or its wiring. However, due to the complexity of modern transmission systems, it’s generally recommended to have these checks performed by a professional.

Repairing or Replacing a Malfunctioning Transmission Range Sensor

If the transmission range sensor is found to be faulty, it will need to be replaced. The cost for a new sensor can range from $30 to $300, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. If you’re mechanically inclined, you can replace the sensor yourself.

However, keep in mind that some sensors, particularly those located inside the transmission, can be difficult to access and may require special tools. If you choose to have a professional mechanic replace the sensor, the labor costs can range from $50 to $200.

It’s important to address this issue promptly, as driving with a malfunctioning sensor can potentially cause further damage to the transmission.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #4: Sensor For Gear Lever (Automatic)

Transmission position sensors are a feature of automatic transmissions. This sensor’s job is to tell the vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM) where the transmission should shift in a certain gear either drive or reverse.

In addition, the gear stick informs the PCM of which gear is selected. Even though your gear stick is in R, if the gear stick sensor indicates that your car is Neutral, the car will not move. The quickest way to diagnose this is to use a diagnostic tool to check what information the transmission control module receives from the gear stick.

When the sensor is integrated with the gear stick, the entire gear stick unit must be replaced. However, some car models do not have a gear stick sensor and instead rely on the transmission range sensor. This should be checked before any repairs to ensure that no needless parts are replaced.

Symptoms of a Faulty Gear Lever Sensor

A faulty gear lever sensor, also known as a shift position sensor, can result in a number of noticeable symptoms. You may find that your vehicle is refusing to go into reverse, or it may not go into any gear at all. In some cases, the car might mistakenly shift into a different gear than the one selected.

For example, the vehicle might not move, or it may move forward, even though the gear stick is in ‘R’ for reverse. Also, unusual or harsh shifting may occur. This could feel like a jolt or abrupt change when shifting gears. Lastly, the check engine light or transmission warning light might illuminate, indicating a problem with the transmission.

Causes of a Faulty Gear Lever Sensor

The most common cause of a faulty gear lever sensor is wear and tear over time. Like any other component of your vehicle, the gear lever sensor can wear out with regular use, particularly in high-mileage vehicles.

Another potential cause is physical damage. This can occur from an impact or jarring motion, such as hitting a pothole or curb. Moisture or debris infiltration can also damage the sensor. If the sensor is poorly sealed or if a seal fails, water, dirt, or other contaminants can get inside and cause the sensor to malfunction.

Diagnosing a Faulty Gear Lever Sensor

To diagnose a faulty gear lever sensor, a mechanic will typically use a diagnostic scanner tool to read the vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM) for fault codes. They’ll be checking to see if the PCM is receiving correct information about the gear selection from the sensor.

At home, you can check for visible signs of damage to the sensor or its wiring. However, due to the complex nature of modern transmission systems, it’s generally recommended to have these checks performed by a professional.

Repairing or Replacing a Faulty Gear Lever Sensor

If the gear lever sensor is found to be faulty, it will need to be replaced. In some vehicles, the sensor is integrated with the gear stick, meaning the entire unit must be replaced. This can cost anywhere from $200 to $600 for parts, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

If you choose to do the job yourself, remember that accessing the sensor can be difficult and may require special tools. On the other hand, having a professional mechanic do the job will add labor costs, typically ranging from $100 to $200. It’s crucial to address this issue quickly, as a faulty gear lever sensor can cause further damage to your transmission over time.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #5: Fault In Valve Body (Automatic)

Every automatic transmission’s central control is the valve body. It’s basically a maze-like channel that transmits transmission fluid to multiple valves, which then activate the proper band servo or clutch pack to smoothly shift to individual gears for each driving speed.

If your automatic gearbox’s reverse gear isn’t working or there’s a reverse delay, it’s likely due to a faulty transmission valve body. A transmission shift solenoid, normally found in the valve body, can sometimes prevent your car from driving into reverse. In some car models, the shift solenoid can be replaced independently, but in others, the entire valve body must be replaced.

Symptoms of a Faulty Valve Body

If your vehicle’s valve body is faulty, you may notice a few distinct symptoms. Perhaps the most obvious is trouble shifting gears, including not being able to shift into reverse. You might also experience harsh or delayed shifting, where your vehicle jolts or takes longer than usual to shift into the desired gear.

Further, the vehicle might unexpectedly slip into neutral while driving or it might refuse to shift out of a certain gear. An illuminated check engine light or transmission warning light may also be an indication of a problem with the valve body.

Causes of a Faulty Valve Body

A faulty valve body can be caused by a few things. One of the most common is the contamination of the transmission fluid. Over time, the fluid can become dirty and cause blockages in the valve body, affecting its operation.

Another cause could be a failing shift solenoid, which is often located in the valve body. The solenoid’s role is to control the flow of transmission fluid to engage the correct gear. If it fails, it can cause problems with the valve body and overall transmission operation.

Diagnosing a Faulty Valve Body

Diagnosing a faulty valve body typically requires the use of a professional diagnostic tool to read any transmission-related error codes. A mechanic may also use a pressure gauge to measure transmission fluid pressure in different parts of the transmission.

It’s recommended to have a professional mechanic perform this diagnosis, due to the complexity of the transmission system. However, you could check the transmission fluid for signs of contamination as a basic troubleshooting step.

Repairing or Replacing a Faulty Valve Body

Repairing or replacing a faulty valve body can be a complex job. In some vehicles, the shift solenoid can be replaced independently, which can be a less costly repair. However, in other cases, the entire valve body may need to be replaced.

The cost for a new valve body can range from $200 to $1000 for parts, depending on your vehicle’s make and model. Labor costs can vary, but expect to pay between $200 and $500 for a professional to do the job.

Attempting this repair at home is not typically recommended, due to the specialized tools and knowledge required. It’s crucial to address a faulty valve body promptly, as it could cause further damage to your transmission over time.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #6: Fault In Gear Shifter Mechanism (Manual)

Let’s look at the most common reasons for problems with manual transmissions now. It’s possible that the shifter is to blame for your transmission’s problems. You will most likely be aware of the problem if this is the situation with your transmission.

The shifter will feel as though it can’t get into reverse, or it will require a lot of effort. To find the source of the problem, examine through the shifter’s numerous components for any bent or damaged cables or bushings.

Symptoms of a Faulty Gear Shifter Mechanism

When the gear shifter mechanism in your manual transmission car is faulty, several symptoms might surface. One clear sign is a difficulty or inability to shift into reverse. You might feel as though you have to exert excessive force to get the shifter into reverse, or it might feel unusually loose.

Additionally, you might notice difficulty in shifting into other gears or an inability to do so. You may also hear a grinding or clicking noise when trying to shift gears. An unusual vibration in the shifter during gear changes can also be a telltale sign.

Causes of a Faulty Gear Shifter Mechanism

The gear shifter mechanism can fail due to several reasons. Normal wear and tear over time can lead to problems, especially in high-mileage vehicles. Poor maintenance, such as neglecting to replace the transmission fluid at the recommended intervals, can also lead to premature wear.

Physical damage to the shifter mechanism can also cause failure. This could be due to rough gear changes or other abrupt actions. Sometimes, the cables or bushings associated with the gear shifter can get bent, damaged, or worn out.

Diagnosing a Faulty Gear Shifter Mechanism

Diagnosing a faulty gear shifter mechanism usually involves a physical inspection of the shifter and its related components. You or a mechanic will need to look for any visible signs of damage, such as bent or broken cables, worn bushings, or any other abnormalities.

An experienced mechanic can often tell by the feel of the shifter whether the issue lies within the mechanism. However, without professional training, it can be difficult to diagnose a problem with the gear shifter mechanism.

Repairing or Replacing a Faulty Gear Shifter Mechanism

Repairing or replacing a faulty gear shifter mechanism can vary greatly in cost, depending on the exact nature of the problem. If a single component like a cable or bushing is damaged, replacement parts typically cost between $50 and $200, and you might be able to do the repair yourself with some mechanical knowledge.

However, if the entire mechanism needs to be replaced, the parts can run anywhere from $200 to $500, with labor adding another $100 to $300 to the total cost. Whether you choose to do it yourself or have it done professionally, addressing a faulty gear shifter mechanism as soon as possible is crucial to avoid further damage to your transmission.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #7: Fault In Shifter Cables (Manual)

The shift selector cable shifts the gearbox into the appropriate gear, and the shift selector indicates that the driver has moved it. Manual transmission vehicles often have two cables running from the transmission to the shifter assembly, whereas automatic transmission vehicles typically have one.

When they start to go bad, they both show the same indications. If you haven’t modified these adjustments in a long time, it’s possible that it won’t go into certain gears, such as reverse. Check your repair manual for advice on how to adjust these cables. The adjustment is sometimes found on the gearbox’s shifter housing of the car’s gear shifter.

Symptoms of Faulty Shifter Cables

Faulty shifter cables in a manual transmission car can lead to a variety of symptoms. The most obvious is difficulty or inability to shift into certain gears, including reverse. You might find that the shifter feels loose or unresponsive, or it might require more force than usual to move.

Another symptom could be that the car doesn’t respond correctly to the gear you’ve selected. For instance, you might shift into reverse, but the car moves forward, or vice versa. This is because the faulty cables are not correctly conveying your gear selections to the transmission.

Causes of Faulty Shifter Cables

Several issues can lead to faulty shifter cables. Normal wear and tear is a common cause, especially in older or high-mileage vehicles. Over time, the cables can stretch, fray, or break.

Physical damage, such as from an accident or rough handling, can also lead to cable issues. Incorrect adjustments can also cause problems; if the cables are not correctly tensioned, they may not correctly relay gear selections to the transmission.

Diagnosing Faulty Shifter Cables

Diagnosing faulty shifter cables usually involves a visual inspection and some testing. You or a mechanic will need to examine the cables for any visible signs of damage or wear.

You can also test the shifter cables by trying to shift into each gear while the car is off. If the shifter is difficult to move or if it doesn’t seem to engage each gear properly, there may be an issue with the cables. A professional mechanic will also be able to check the cable adjustment to ensure it is correct.

Repairing or Replacing Faulty Shifter Cables

Repairing faulty shifter cables often involves adjusting them to the correct tension.

However, if the cables are frayed, stretched, or broken, they will need to be replaced. The cost of new shifter cables can range from $50 to $200, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Labor costs can vary, but expect to pay between $100 and $200 for a professional to do the job.

Replacing shifter cables is not typically a DIY job, as it requires a certain level of mechanical knowledge and skill. However, if you have experience with car repairs, you might be able to do it yourself. As always, it’s essential to address these issues promptly to avoid further transmission damage.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #8: Fault In Clutch (Manual)

A faulty clutch is something you don’t want to happen because it may be very costly to fix. A defective clutch may make shifting difficult. When the clutch fails, it usually affects all gears, although, in some circumstances, it may only impact the reverse gear.

If your automobile has an outdated clutch that is pulled by a cable, you may need to adjust the cable according to the instructions in your repair manual. It could be a bad clutch if you’re having trouble shifting in all gears.

Symptoms of a Faulty Clutch

If your manual transmission vehicle has a faulty clutch, you will likely experience several symptoms. The most common is a difficulty or inability to engage or disengage gears, including reverse. This might be accompanied by a grinding or squealing noise when you attempt to shift.

You might also notice that the vehicle is slipping out of gear, or you may experience a loss of acceleration. Some drivers describe a “burning” smell, which is typically due to an overheating clutch.

Causes of a Faulty Clutch

A clutch can become faulty due to various factors. Normal wear and tear is the most common cause, especially in older or high-mileage vehicles. Overuse or misuse, such as frequently riding the clutch or harsh gear changes, can lead to premature wear and damage.

A clutch can also fail due to physical damage, such as from an accident or other abrupt impact. In some vehicles, a faulty or misadjusted clutch cable can cause clutch problems.

Diagnosing a Faulty Clutch

Diagnosing a faulty clutch usually involves a series of tests. You or a mechanic can test the clutch by attempting to shift into each gear while the car is running. If there’s difficulty or an inability to engage gears, this might indicate a clutch problem.

Physical inspections can reveal visible signs of wear or damage. This might include checking the clutch disc for signs of wear, checking the pressure plate for warping, or checking the clutch cable for correct adjustment.

Repairing or Replacing a Faulty Clutch

Repairing or replacing a faulty clutch can be costly, but it’s necessary to ensure the proper function of your vehicle. If the clutch cable is the issue, adjusting or replacing it might fix the problem. This is a less expensive repair, usually costing between $100 and $200.

However, if the clutch itself is the problem, replacement is usually the best option. This can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500, depending on the make and model of your vehicle and whether other parts of the clutch system also need replacing.

It’s not typically a job for a DIYer, as it requires specialized tools and skills. As always, it’s important to address these issues as soon as they arise to prevent further damage to your vehicle.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #9: Reverse Gear Teeth Broken (Manual And Automatic)

When shifting, damaged gear sets are prone to make a grating or grinding sound. A reverse gear must be connected for the car to move in reverse. If this reverse gear is destroyed, your car may not be able to reverse at all.

Repairing the reverse gear is sometimes highly costly, and replacing the entire gearbox or transmission with a secondhand one is often more cost-effective. However, this is a rare occurrence, and you should rule out all other possibilities before looking at this.

Symptoms of Broken Reverse Gear Teeth

A clear symptom of broken reverse gear teeth is an inability to shift into reverse. This could be characterized by the gear shifter moving into the reverse position, but the car not moving backward. Alternatively, you might find that the gear shifter won’t move into reverse at all.

A grinding or grating noise when you attempt to shift into reverse is another symptom. You might also notice a decrease in overall vehicle performance, especially when attempting to shift gears.

Causes of Broken Reverse Gear Teeth

Gears can become broken due to harsh or improper shifting, such as forceful shifting without the clutch fully disengaged. Age and general wear and tear also contribute to gear teeth breaking. In some cases, a heavy impact or collision can damage the gears.

Diagnosing Broken Reverse Gear Teeth

Diagnosing broken reverse gear teeth usually involves a thorough inspection of the transmission. This often requires disassembling the transmission, which should be done by a qualified mechanic. During this process, they’ll be able to identify any visible signs of damage to the gears.

Repairing or Replacing Broken Reverse Gear Teeth

Repairing or replacing broken reverse gear teeth is a complex and costly job. It typically involves taking apart the transmission, which is labor-intensive and requires specialized tools and knowledge. The cost can range from $1,500 to $3,000 or more, depending on your vehicle’s make and model and the extent of the damage.

In some cases, it might be more cost-effective to replace the entire transmission, especially if it’s old or has other problems. A used or rebuilt transmission can be a good option, but it’s important to ensure it’s in good condition and compatible with your vehicle. Always consult a professional mechanic before making a decision.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #10: Lockout Ring Failure

A lockout mechanism on modern manual transmissions stops drivers from changing into reverse while the car is moving forward. If the lockout ring breaks, it can prevent shifting into reverse while the vehicle is parked.

Should this be the situation with your vehicle, you can sometimes experiment with the shifter by moving it left and right before attempting to shift back into reverse. If that doesn’t work, try turning your key to the accessory or lock position and then shifting it into reverse. However, you will eventually need to repair or replace your lockout ring.

Symptoms of Lockout Ring Failure

Symptoms of a failing lockout ring include difficulty or an outright inability to shift your car into reverse. While moving the gear shifter, you might also hear unusual noises such as grinding or clicking, indicating a mechanical problem.

Furthermore, if you find that moving the shifter around or adjusting the ignition key allows you to shift into reverse, this may be another sign of lockout ring failure.

Causes of Lockout Ring Failure

The main causes of lockout ring failure include wear and tear over time, improper shifting techniques, or physical impacts to the shifter mechanism. This component can wear down over time due to frequent use, causing it to malfunction. Sudden, forceful gear changes can also put undue stress on the lockout ring, leading to premature failure.

Diagnosing Lockout Ring Failure

To diagnose a failing lockout ring, a mechanic will typically examine the shifting mechanism and operation of your vehicle. They may visually inspect the area for obvious signs of damage and try to replicate the issue by operating the gear shifter. In some cases, the transmission may need to be partially disassembled for a closer look.

Repairing or Replacing a Faulty Lockout Ring

Repairing or replacing a faulty lockout ring requires a professional mechanic due to the complexity of the transmission system. The mechanic will need to access and remove the lockout ring from inside the transmission, a task that can be labor-intensive.

The cost of this repair can vary widely depending on the make and model of your car and the severity of the damage. On average, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for parts and labor. Always seek a second opinion if the cost seems exorbitantly high.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse, Causes #11: Problems With The Engine – Gaskets

Aside from the transmission, the engine gaskets are another system that might cause shifting issues. Lift the hood and inspect the seal and link beneath it to ensure everything is in working order inside the engine.

If you discover a damaged gasket, it may be the source of your reversing issues. In certain circumstances, simply changing the rubber seals will solve the problem. This task may require special tools, or if you’re unsure about doing it yourself, a mechanic may manage it easily.

Symptoms of Engine Gasket Issues Affecting Reverse Gear

The most common symptoms of engine gasket issues that can affect your car’s ability to go in reverse include noticing visible leaks underneath your vehicle, especially around the transmission area, and experiencing difficulty when shifting gears.

You might also observe a decrease in your car’s overall performance and fuel efficiency, or even overheating, if the problem is severe.

Causes of Engine Gasket Issues

Engine gasket issues often arise from wear and tear over time. However, they can also result from overheating, which can cause the gaskets to warp and crack, leading to leaks. Other causes include improper installation of gaskets and using poor-quality gasket materials.

Diagnosing Engine Gasket Issues

Diagnosing engine gasket problems can be done by performing a visual inspection for leaks around the engine and transmission. Additionally, check your vehicle’s coolant and oil levels. If they are low and there are signs of a leak, a faulty gasket could be the cause. A mechanic can also perform a compression test to determine if a gasket is failing.

Repairing or Replacing Engine Gaskets

To fix engine gasket issues, you usually need to replace the faulty gaskets. This can be a complex task, especially if the gaskets are located deep within the engine or transmission. The cost of this repair can vary widely depending on the location and type of the gasket, but it generally ranges from $200 to $500 for parts and labor.

In some cases, you might need to replace multiple gaskets if they’re located in the same area, which can increase the cost. Always consult a professional mechanic to handle this task, as it requires a thorough understanding of your car’s engine and transmission systems.

Car Won't Go In Reverse

How To Fix A Car That Won’t Go In Reverse

The transmission selector switch is used as the first and most fundamental component. Transmission switches may be the primary cause of transmission system failure. To fix this, move it rapidly from high to low several times to see whether any corrosion or rust has formed so that the switch can function properly. Take it to a trusted mechanic if it still doesn’t function.

The lack of transmission oil is another key cause of transmission system failure. If you’re trying to pour extra oil instead of refilling it, this may not work because the impurities are still present. It’s time to change the fluid and the filter.

The engine can also be a problem. So double-check the seals and look under the engine to see if the link is broken. If you discover a faulty connection or worn gaskets, repair them right away. Keep in mind that these are the parts of your car that make it run smoothly. As a result, look into every possibility.

If none of the previous methods works, thoroughly inspect the entire transmission system. Now you must examine the transmission system from point to point for any possible flaws. Take it to a mechanic if you find it challenging. This will assist you in determining the exact location of the issue. This is the last choice.

Why Won’t My Car Reverse

If your vehicle is equipped with a manual transmission (as is the case with a manual transmission RAV4), then pump the clutches for a few minutes.  When shifting to reverse, let go of the clutch pedal. If you notice that the transmission is not working, turn off the car engine.

Next is to shift to First gear and then Neutral. If the automobile shifts into reverse even while the engine is turned off, the fault is most likely with your clutches rather than the transmission.

If your vehicle doesn’t move when you put it in gear, you should take it to a trained technician for an inspection. This effect could be caused by a fault in transmission due to leaks, shifter cables, or shifters. Or it could even be caused by a defective valve body in automatic transmissions.

1. Clogged Transmission Filter

Your transmission filter is in charge of keeping the fluid in your transmission clean. Contaminants can clog it, just like any other filter in your car. The inability to shift into reverse is one of the warning signals that this has happened.

When the automobile is stationary and in reverse, as well as when traveling in other gears, you may hear a screech. In most cases, this will not fully block your reversal, but it can happen in rare circumstances.

2. Would An Oil Change Affect The Transmission

The way your transmission works should not be affected by changing your engine oil. However, if you have your transmission fluid changed as part of your service, you might notice some differences.

Clean transmission oil will improve the smoothness and crispness of your shifts. Unfortunately, if something is poorly managed, such as forgetting to refill the transmission fluid after cleansing it (for more insight, check out our write-up on will a torque converter fill itself), severe damage can happen.

3. Black Fluid In The Transmission

The color of your car’s transmission fluid should be pink or red. If you discover that your’s has turned black, it may be time to have it serviced. Because black or dark brown fluid implies an accumulation of impurities or that your fluid has been burned, which you should avoid keeping your car running smoothly.

4. Signs That Your Transmission Fluid Filter Is Dirty

A blocked transmission filter can cause difficulty shifting into reverse, as previously stated. However, there are also other warning signals to look out for:

  • Leakage

If your filter is blocked, it is not allowing the fluid to pass through quickly enough. When the fluid becomes backed up, it seeks other exits, such as through the vent tube and onto the ground. So, if you observe transmission fluid typically red or pink on the ground, it’s probably time for a new filter.

  • Smell Of Burning

Some parts inside the gearbox can heat up if the filter does not allow enough oil to pass through to the transmission. The car may emit a burning odor as a result of the excessive heat buildup. If you notice a burning odor in your car, you should not drive. Stop right away to give your transmission a chance to cool down and avoid permanent damage (to learn more, check out our write-up on how long does it take for a car to cool down).

  • Rattling Sound

Your car may rattle as a result of a filthy filter. If you’ve checked all the typical suspects like exhaust, bolts, and catalytic converter are working properly then the problem could be with your transmission. For that, you need to examine the filter.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Transmission

The cost of repairing a reverse gear is determined by several factors, including the origin of the problem, the make and model of your car, and the mechanic you choose. If the problem is caused by low or dirty transmission fluid, then the repair will only cost you $100-$200.

Can The Transmission Be Damaged By Changing The Transmission Fluid

Flushing your gearbox regularly, which entails draining and replacing all of the fluid, appears to be a good idea. The reason for this is that the new fluid performs better than the old, contaminated fluid.

They can, however, have undesirable outcomes on occasion. The main problem with the new fluid is that as it flows backward, it might dislodge contaminants and debris. This may eventually cause transmission problems.

Facts: 7 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Go in Reverse & How to Fix It

  1. A car not going in reverse is a sign of a problem with the transmission system that could range from a simple fix to a complete tear-down repair.
  2. In some cases, a car will not engage the reverse gear at all, while in others, it may engage but not move backward.
  3. Low transmission fluid is a common cause of automatic transmission failure, leading to fluctuating shifting or overheating/stalling engines.
  4. To correct low transmission fluid, check the fluid level, replace the remaining fluid and filter, and look for any leaks that may have caused the problem.
  5. A faulty transmission selector switch may cause the reverse gear to malfunction, usually resulting in a check engine light.
  6. Dirty fluid or clogged filters can also cause transmission troubles that result in the car not going into reverse.
  7. Manual transmission problems that prevent the car from going into reverse can be caused by issues like a faulty shifter mechanism, damaged reverse gear, defective lockout ring, or bad clutch.
  8. Simple fixes like replacing transmission fluid and filters can cost $20-$30, while minor adjustments can cost $100-$200.
  9. Complex repairs like replacing the entire transmission can cost up to $1,000-$3,000.
  10. It’s essential to start with simple solutions when dealing with a car that won’t go into reverse, and understand that minor adjustments or part replacements can sometimes fix the problem.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse: In Conclusion…

So, hopefully, you now know what’s causing your transmission problems and what you can do about it. If you suspect something is wrong, it’s always a good idea to have a competent mechanic look it over. Since a tiny problem is much less expensive to correct than a huge one later.

If you’re having trouble solving this problem, try one of the methods listed above. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you have or how big it is; you must properly maintain it. You never know when you’ll need to reverse a car, so address the problem as soon as you notice it.

FAQs On Car Won’t Go In Reverse

If you’re still curious about why your car won’t go in reverse, our FAQs here might help…

What Causes Automatic Transmission To Fail

There are numerous factors that lead to your car’s transmission failing. For the most part, irregular transmission fluid changes and fluid filter replacements are the leading cause of transmission failure. Good transmission fluid is critical in a car, as it helps to lubricate your gearbox and provide cooling. When the fluids are burnt out or if it contains impurities and debris inside them, they won’t be able to lubricate or cool your transmission nearly as well. Thus, this puts excess strain on your gearbox, including a build-up of added friction and heat. Over time, this accelerated wear and tear can destroy your transmission.

How Long Does It Take To Fix A Transmission

The amount of time required to fix a transmission can vary wildly depending on what needs doing. For example, a simple transmission fluid change can be done in under 1 hour. However, more extensive repairs that require a mechanic to remove the transmission from your car. Then, taking it apart to service its innards will no doubt take longer. It could sometimes take upwards of 3 to 4 days if the transmission needs a full rebuild or significant repairs done. But depending on the seriousness of the underlying issue, most transmission repairs can be done in a day or two, if the local workshop isn’t too busy with other cars.

How Much Is It To Fix A Transmission

Transmission repairs differ substantially in price, depending on the underlying cause and what needs repairing. For instance, if all it needs is a new bottle of transmission fluids, then it would cost you around $80 to $250. But, if there’s a transmission fluid leak, replacing the seals and gaskets could rise to about $150 to $200. Meanwhile, an entirely new transmission shift solenoid would set you back at least $150 to $400 to replace. Nonetheless, if the faults are too severe, more extensive repairs and a rebuild would cost you a lot more. Specifically, between $2,500 to $4,500 to rebuild a gearbox, on average.

Why Is My Automatic Car Not Changing Gear

There could be several reasons why your automatic transmission isn’t changing gears. It could be that the transmission fluids are dirty, burnt up, or there’s an insufficient amount of it. After all, hydraulic pressure from the transmission fluids is crucial to the gearbox physically actuating a gear change. Other than that, a bad sensor, on top of faulty wiring, linkages, and cables around it would also interfere with the gearbox’s operations. Worse, the underlying issue might be more mechanical, such as broken and misaligned gears, thus preventing your (automatic) transmission from being able to shift up or down.

How Fast Can A Car Go In Reverse

Although movies might sometimes portray cars going at ludicrous speeds while in reverse, the truth is hardly so. On most cars, the top speed that you should be able to get in reverse gear should be roughly similar (or slightly below) that of 1st gear. So, that’s around 20 to 30mph, while revving it out at top RPMs. Even the fastest cars could only clock in just under 40mph (around 36 to 38mph) while going in reverse. It’s not a good idea to try this out on your car, though. Mainly, this is because the reverse gear has less resistance than the forward gears. Thus, going in reverse at high speeds and for prolonged periods will put a lot of strain on it.

How to Fix a Car That Won’t Go in Reverse

To fix a car that won’t go in reverse, the problem could lie anywhere from the transmission fluid to the linkage, clutch, or transmission itself. Begin by checking the transmission fluid level. If it’s low, replenish it. If that doesn’t solve the issue, inspect the linkage for any signs of damage or wear. In manual transmissions, the clutch could be the culprit; it might need adjustment or replacement. If none of these are the cause, you might need a professional to inspect the transmission for more serious issues.

How to Reverse a Car

Reversing a car requires careful maneuvering. With your foot on the brake, shift the gear into reverse (R). Check all mirrors and the rearview camera, if available, to ensure the path is clear. Release the brake gently while pressing the accelerator lightly. Always be cautious and slow when reversing a car to avoid any mishaps.

What Happens if My Drive Shaft Breaks While Driving

If your driveshaft breaks while driving, you’ll likely lose power quickly because the engine is no longer able to send power to the wheels. The car might vibrate violently, and you might hear loud clanging noises. Depending on where it breaks, the driveshaft could potentially damage other parts of your vehicle as it falls off. It’s crucial to pull over and stop driving as quickly and safely as possible if you suspect a driveshaft issue.

Why Won’t My Car Move When I Put It in Drive or Reverse

If your car won’t move when you put it in drive or reverse, it could be due to a variety of issues. Low transmission fluid, a faulty shift solenoid, or a worn-out transmission belt could be the culprits. Alternatively, it could be a problem with the clutch in manual cars or a severe transmission failure. It’s recommended to get your car inspected by a professional mechanic to diagnose and repair the issue.

Should RPM Be at 0 When Parked

When a car is parked and the engine is off, the RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) should indeed be at 0, as the engine is not running. However, when the car is parked with the engine running, the RPM will be slightly above 0, typically between 600 and 1000 RPM, which is known as the idle speed.

What Does Neutral Mean on a Car

Neutral refers to a state in a car’s transmission where no gears are engaged, meaning power from the engine is not transmitted to the drive wheels. In this state, a car can roll freely, whether the engine is running or not. It’s often used when the car needs to be pushed or towed, or sometimes during downhill driving to conserve fuel in manual cars.

How Much to Fix a Car That Doesn’t Reverse

The cost to fix a car that doesn’t reverse can vary greatly based on the root cause of the problem. If it’s a simple issue like low transmission fluid, it might be resolved for less than $100. However, if it’s a major issue such as a failing transmission, the repair cost can run anywhere from $1,800 to $3,500. Be sure to get a comprehensive diagnosis to understand the severity of the issue.

What Does It Mean When Your Transmission Is Slipping

Transmission slipping refers to when a car’s transmission unexpectedly shifts or falls out of the intended gear while driving. This can be caused by a variety of issues, such as worn gears, low transmission fluid, a faulty shift solenoid, or even the computer system. It’s a serious issue that could potentially lead to transmission failure and should be addressed by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.

What Causes a Transmission to Not Shift

The inability of a transmission to shift could be due to low or dirty transmission fluid, worn-out gears, a bad shift solenoid, a failing torque converter, or even issues with the car’s computer system. In some cases, it could be a symptom of a more serious transmission problem. If your car’s transmission is not shifting, it’s best to have it inspected by a mechanic promptly.

Why Does My Car Go into Gear But Not Move

When a car goes into gear but does not move, it’s likely a sign of a transmission problem. This could be due to low transmission fluid, a broken shift cable, a worn clutch in manual transmissions, or a failing torque converter in automatic ones. In severe cases, it could be due to a complete transmission failure. It’s recommended to seek professional help if your car is experiencing this issue.

How to Install a Transmission by Yourself

Installing a transmission by yourself requires mechanical expertise and appropriate tools. First, drain the existing transmission fluid and disconnect everything connected to the transmission, such as the drive shaft and linkage. Using a transmission jack, remove the old transmission from the vehicle. Install the new transmission in reverse order of removal. Refill with new transmission fluid. Remember, this is a complex task, so if you’re not confident in your mechanical skills, it’s best to seek professional help.

How to Rev a Car Automatic

To rev an automatic car, start the engine and keep the car in Park or Neutral. Lightly press the accelerator to increase the engine RPM. Be careful not to excessively rev the engine, as this can lead to engine damage. It’s also important to know that frequent and unnecessary revving is generally discouraged due to potential wear and tear on the engine.

Can a Bad Differential Cause Transmission Problems

Yes, a bad differential can cause transmission problems. The differential and the transmission work together to deliver power from the engine to the wheels. If the differential is failing, it can put extra stress on the transmission, leading to premature wear and possible failure. Symptoms of a bad differential include vibrations, noises during driving, or difficulty handling, and should be addressed by a professional mechanic.

What to Do if Your Transmission Goes Out While Driving

If your transmission goes out while driving, try to safely maneuver your car to the side of the road and call for roadside assistance. Continuing to drive with a failed transmission could lead to further damage. Depending on the severity of the transmission failure, a tow to a repair shop will likely be necessary. From there, a professional can diagnose and repair the issue.

Can You Drive with a Bad Shift Solenoid

Driving with a bad shift solenoid is not recommended. A faulty shift solenoid can cause your car to shift erratically or not at all, potentially leading to dangerous driving situations or further transmission damage. It’s important to have the issue diagnosed and repaired by a mechanic as soon as possible to prevent more serious problems.

Why Is My Automatic Gear Shift Hard to Move

If your automatic gear shift is hard to move, it could be due to several issues. These could include a problem with the shift linkage, a locked steering wheel, or even a low transmission fluid level. In some cases, it could be due to a more serious issue within the transmission. It’s best to have the issue inspected by a professional to avoid potential further damage.

What Causes a Transmission to Go Bad

Several factors can cause a transmission to go bad. These can include poor maintenance, such as infrequent fluid changes, driving habits like abrupt starts and stops, overheating, and towing heavy loads without the necessary equipment. Additionally, internal issues such as worn gears, bad solenoids, and damaged clutch plates can cause a transmission to fail.

Do You Put Transmission Fluid in While the Car Is Running

While some manufacturers recommend checking the transmission fluid level while the car is running and the fluid is warm, it’s typically not recommended to add transmission fluid while the car is running due to safety concerns. Always refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for the recommended procedure and ensure the car is on a level surface before checking or adding fluid.

What Locks the Output Gears onto the Output Shaft

In a manual transmission, the output gears are locked onto the output shaft using synchronizers, also known as synchro rings. These components match the speed of the gears to the speed of the output shaft, allowing them to engage, or ‘lock’, smoothly without grinding. In an automatic transmission, planetary gearsets and clutches are used to achieve this.

Can You Bump Start an Automatic

Generally, you cannot bump start an automatic car in the same way you can with a manual. Automatic transmissions require fluid pressure to shift gears, which is only available when the engine is running. However, some hybrid and electric cars have features that allow a form of ‘bump start’, but it’s always best to refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for the correct procedure in case of a dead battery.


  1. Laban


    I have a Toyota Harrier model MCU10. Car does not move either on drive or reverse. I just flushed the transmission with ATF oil and problem is still there. What do I do?


    1. Harry Gibson

      Great work on doing the flush. That is typically the main reason these things fail. But sadly that might not have been your case. Next, I would get a decent cod read done and check for any sensor errors and if possible get the car towed down to the local dealer for an inspection as you might have a bigger failure that needs resolving. Please keep me updated with how you get on.


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