BMW M235i gear shift.

Having shifting problems? Here are some possible causes.

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Have you noticed any changes when shifting gears? Shifting problems may appear out of nowhere and worsen as time goes on.

The symptoms that drivers experience can vary. When having the issue checked out, you may be asked what you are noticing and when.

For some, it may feel like it’s slipping or clunking into gear. Others may experience a fluttering or hear a noise. Perhaps they are having trouble shifting out of park.

Then, there are various circumstances during which the issue occurs. Does it happen at specific gears, when you’re accelerating, or as you travel up hills? 

How do shifting problems occur?

A wide range of transmission problems lead to gear switching issues.

The issue could lie with low or contaminated transmission fluid. If impurities are in the fluid, the auto repair shop or mechanic might recommend a transmission fluid exchange. When performing this service, technicians replace the fluid, which breaks down overtime.

They may look for any transmission leaks if the car has low transmission fluid.

Shifting problems can also be caused by bad components. For example, seals on the transfer case sometimes fail and send the fluid from the transmission into the transfer case.

A bad brake light switch or the shift interlock solenoid sticking could prevent drivers from switching gears (usually out of park).

There’s also the news that a lot of drivers dread – a bad transmission. Crunching and grinding noises, a whining sound, and a vehicle slipping out of gear are some symptoms you may notice when the transmission is going bad.

Overheating of the transmission or transmission fluid is another possible culprit behind shifting issues. 

Certain vehicles have transmission coolers that cool the fluid. Some of them even have thermostats built into them. They need to reach a specific temperature before the transmission fluid starts flowing. They can become clogged or stop working.

Electronic issues – such as sensor inputs, a shift solenoid or a speed sensor – may occur, as well.

Torque converters malfunctioning and clutch discs in the automatic transmission wearing out can also make it difficult to switch gears.

What can be mistaken for a shifting problem

We’ve discussed many different culprits behind shifting problems. However, it’s important to note that something that seems like a transmission issue may be stemming from another problem.

With a lot of cars now, they’ll have a knob in the center console as the gear selector. People sometimes spill coffee and soda on them, ruining the switch.

Another item to check – as silly as it may sound – is whether you took the parking brake off. This can make it feel like the transmission is having a shifting or slipping problem. It happens more often than you think.

It might also be worth it to have an automotive expert check the brakes. A harder shift might be a result of brakes dragging, due to a bad disc brake caliper.

Clogged exhaust or a bad catalytic converter mimic a transmission problem, at times. This could change the shift points and give the impression that it’s slipping. 

Whether the problem is related to the transmission or not, schedule an appointment with an automotive professional to ensure that if it is a major issue it’s addressed immediately.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located near Dale City, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.