Car Won't Go In Reverse

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. 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…

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 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 in this industry and know how to 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Why Won’t My Car Reverse

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.

  • 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 reverse gear has less resistance than forward gears. Thus, going in reverse at high speeds and for prolonged periods will put a lot of strain on it.

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  • Laban Says


    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?


    • 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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