Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: How Do I Fix It?

Several issues can cause your car not to move even when it’s in gear, and the source may come down to whether your vehicle has an automatic or manual transmission. You can check your car to figure out what’s happening, but if you can’t, you will have to tow your car to a mechanic for a better inspection.  If you are still wondering why does my car go into gear but not move, here is another reason.

Another reason your car is not moving even when it’s in gear is because you engage in too much aggressive driving, and your transmission has worn out. If your car has a manual transmission, it may be the reason you have bad synchros. When your synchros wear out, your vehicle may not move, or you may have transmission grinds.

If you have an automatic transmission and your car won’t move, it may be the case that your shift lock is malfunctioning. Your shift lock ensures your car does not move until it detects you in the driver’s seat and your leg on the brake. Also, your car may not move even when in gear if you have dirty transmission fluid, especially in an automatic transmission.

Car Won’t Accelerate

If your car won’t accelerate or accelerates poorly, the cause may be a faulty sensor, a slipping automatic transmission, and so on. You will get to know what the issue is when a professional helps you figure it out, or you can check this list;

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #1. Fuel And Air Delivery Problem

Your car’s engine needs enough air and fuel to function properly. If the engine operates on a poor mixture of airflow and fuel, your car won’t accelerate. Several reasons can cause air and fuel delivery issues; the reasons include;

  • Faulty fuel pressure regulator (or if you’re noticing the fuel pump low pressure symptoms)
  • Restricted fuel injector
  • A weak or defective fuel pump
  • A blocked fuel filter
  • A weak or dirty throttle body (if you want to learn more, check out our guide on how to clean a throttle body)
  • A damaged air intake or seriously blocked air filter

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #2. Exhaust Restrictions

The main function of the exhaust system is to pass exhaust gases through the engine and out of the vehicle’s tailpipe. When the exhaust system is blocked and can’t perform its functions, there will be excessive back pressure, and the exhaust gas can flow back into the engine through the valves instead of flowing out.

You can learn more in our write-up on whether can you put diesel in a gas can. The result of this is an engine that can’t breathe properly, causing acceleration issues. Some of the causes of a blocked or restricted exhaust system are;

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #3. Engine Mechanical Issues

A gas-powered internal combustion engine needs three essential ingredients: a spark, an air-fuel mixture, and compression. Compression is the pressure formed inside all the engine cylinders. The pressure increases the temperature of the air-fuel mixture and makes sure that the mixture is easy for the spark plug to ignite.

Low compression can result in poor or no acceleration, and some of the common causes are;

  • Damaged head gasket
  • Damaged piston rings, cylinder walls, and pistons
  • Valve and valve train issues
  • Timing belt and chain issues

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #4. Transmission Problems

Your car transmission system is a complex assembly that manipulates rotational force from the engine and transfers this force directly to the drive wheels. An issue with the internal automatic transmission results in “slippage,” and your engine’s RPM will increase, but your vehicle speed won’t increase.

In addition, a weak or faulty automatic transmission torque converter can result in poor acceleration. Some transmission issues that can cause acceleration problem includes;

  • Worn clutch in manual transmission
  • Internal automatic transmission malfunction
  • Torque converter failure in automatic transmission

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #5. Ignition System Issues

The primary function of your car’s ignition system is to ignite the air-fuel mixture inside the engine to create the force and energy required to move your car down the road. When there is any form of the ignition system, your engine will begin to misfire, which will lead to poor acceleration. Some common ignition problems include;

  • A faulty distributor
  • Damaged spark plugs
  • A poor ignition control module
  • Damaged spark plug wires
  • A damaged ignition coil

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #6. Sensor And Module Problems

The engine sensors of your car are also referred to as the Powertrain Control Module (PCM), and their primary function is to provide data to a computer. The PCM will then use the data to control how the devices work.

The PCM controls all the electronics, such as sensors and modules, and ensures the vehicle runs at its best. Common sensor and module issues that may cause poor acceleration include;

  • Date network issues
  • Powertrain control module issues
  • A failed sensor
  • Loose connections and several circuit issues

Transmission Light On Car

Most drivers are only familiar with the check engine light but don’t pay attention when the transmission light illuminates to signal a problem with the transmission. Most old vehicles don’t have this feature, but modern cars, especially those with automatic transmissions, have a transmission light that serves as an advanced warning system.

What does it mean when the transmission light comes on? Your car transmission light coming on can mean that there is an issue with your automatic transmission or other related elements. You most likely will see this light when your transmission is overheating, or there is an override or traction control light or the service traction control warning (for more insight, check out our guide on what’s traction control on a car and what is traction control in a car). Also, check out our guide on what does service traction control mean.

You should also note that the transmission light coming on can also mean there is a need for maintenance. Probably the transmission fluid is low, and it needs topping up, and so on. If you can’t figure out why the light is on, contact a professional to help you.

Truck Won’t Move In Any Gear Automatic Transmission

Low transmission fluid or a leak is the most common reason your car won’t move in any gear (if you noticed low transmission fluid on dipstick or the sign of low transmission fluid). Your vehicle may not move due to a clogged filter, failed torque converter, valve body, bad gear position sensor, etc. Below is a detailed list of why your truck won’t move in any gear;

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #1. Lack Of Transmission Fluid

This is the most common reason. Your car needs the fluid to keep the gears shifting and the car moving forward. This activity will be undermined if the transmission fluid is not enough. One of the reasons for low transmission fluid is a leak that needs proper repair attention. If the fluid is low, top it up and get rid of it as soon as possible if there is a leak.

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #2. Clogged Transmission Filter

The transmission filter is responsible for keeping harmful contaminants away from the system. When you don’t change the filter, debris and harmful contaminants will build up inside and block the transmission filter. A clogged filter will affect your truck’s movement. Replace your truck’s transmission filter after every two years.

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #3. Bad Valve Body

There is a hydraulic channel in the transmission valve body. It is where the fluid flows during shift solenoid operation. As you use your car daily, the shift solenoid can begin to malfunction, and the valve body will be blocked when the fluid is dirty.

When the valve body starts to malfunction, you will notice that your car vibrates any time you change gears; the truck may begin to stall and won’t move when it gets too bad.

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #4. Failed Torque Converter

The leading cause of a failed torque converter is poor maintenance practice. If your transmission fluid is dirty, your transmission filter is clogged, and if you keep using them that way, the torque converter will also break down.

Once the torque converter breaks down, your car begins to make annoying noise on start-up, your truck will start stalling, and it may stop moving as the issue becomes more complicated.

Why Does My Car Go Into Gear But Not Move: #5. Damaged Clutches

The clutches in a manual and automatic transmission are similar in that when they get damaged, the truck won’t move anymore. The clutch connects the transmission to the engine, and when it fails, the problem arises. You will hear a blowing or grinding noise as you change the gear, or the gear-changing process becomes difficult and rough.

Car Starts But Won’t Move

Have you ever experienced starting your car, the engine revs, but it won’t move no matter how hard you try? Then you begin to wonder why that is happening; here are some reasons;

1. Your Car Has A Worn-Out Clutch Disc

If you are driving a car with manual transmission and experience this issue, you may have to check and replace your car’s clutch disc. Your clutch disc is worn out because of consistent use and as soon as you notice any malfunction, replace it immediately.

2. Dirty Transmission Fluid

If you are using a car with automatic transmission, the transmission fluid is essential for the car and transmission system to function properly. The transmission fluid and the torque converter work together to move engine power to the wheel for your car to move. Over time, the fluid will get dirty, and the engine will begin to run roughly or cause the car not to move at all. Change the transmission fluid from time to time.

3. A Faulty Fuel Injection System

Your car gets proper combustion when there is a good mixture of fuel and air in the engine’s cylinder. If the air filter is not working properly, your engine won’t get enough air. If the fuel pump is not working properly, your engine won’t get enough gas, and it will cause your car not to move even if you have started it.

4. Bad Throttle Body

In modern cars, the computer controls the amount of gas that goes into the engine based on the amount of air that enters the cylinder. Most car users believe the engine gets more as they put their foot on the pedal. However, the gas pedal controls the throttle body.

As you press the gas pedal, the throttle body valve opens wide and more air goes into the engine, which means more fuel. When the throttle body becomes weak because of too much carbon deposit, enough air won’t go into the engine, which may prevent the engine from starting, and even if it starts, the car may not move.

Transmission problems diagnose troubleshooting repair

Gears Not Shifting In Car

Suppose you notice that your car is not shifting between gears, and you don’t know why; you will find out shortly. First, you should understand that most gear issue has something to do with the transmission. Below are common reasons why your car won’t shift gears.

1. Transmission Won’t Stay In Gear

If your car doesn’t shift gears, the issue may be the gear shifter, shifter cable, or faulty transmission valve body. Modern vehicles depend on the computer to tell the transmission when to change gears based on what you want; once the computer is faulty, gear shifting may become impossible.

2. Delayed Gear Shift Or Missing Gear

Your car may not shift gears if your transmission takes a long time to go into gear, which may be an issue of low transmission fluid. Another problem may be that the engine prevents the computer from shifting your car to higher gears.

3. Slipping Transmission Or High-Revving Engine

A slipping transmission high-revving engine can also result from low transmission fluid, which may prevent your car from shifting gears. Your engine revving high is an indication that you have a worn-out clutch.

Automatic Transmission Won’t Move In Any Gear

In most cases, cars with automatic transmissions always generate more issues than the ones with manual transmissions. One of the reasons your automatic transmission does not move in any gear is a faulty automatic transmission control unit, inadequate transmission fluid level, damaged torque converter, faulty clutches, and so on.

Sometimes your car will go into emergency or failsafe mode, and you will see some display of error on your dashboard to know that something is going on. If your automatic transmission won’t move in any gear, it means there is;

1. Inadequate Transmission Fluid

This is one of the common reasons your automatic transmission won’t move in any gear. The best solution is to top up your transmission fluid and check for possible leaks.

2. A Faulty Automatic Transmission Control Unit

This is another reason your automatic transmission won’t move in any gear. When the control unit is damaged, it will display a different gear from the one you are currently on. Check if your battery is in good shape because it can affect the functionality of the control unit.

If the battery is in good condition, you must take your car to a professional for repair because automatic transmission requires special skills and tools.

3. Issues From The Automatic Transmission Valve Body

A faulty transmission valve body causes clogged hydraulic channels, the car may be vibrating when shifting gears, and the car may stall.

4. Faulty Torque Converter

A faulty torque converter may be why your automatic transmission is not moving in any gear. The torque converter may be faulty because of a dirty transmission filter, low-quality transmission fluid, etc.

Manual Transmission Goes Into Gear But Won’t Move

If you have a car that uses a manual transmission and it goes into gear, but your car still does not move, the issue may be one of the following;

1. Failed Clutch System

The clutch system ensures engine power engagement and disengagement to the whole transmission system while at the center of the engine’s flywheel. The clutch system has six components: clutch disc, master cylinder, release cylinder, release bearing, release fork, and clutch cover.

If any of the components is faulty, it will affect the whole system, and your manual transmission won’t move. The disc connects to the driver input shaft, and the cover and engine flywheel works together. When you press the clutch pedal, pressure will go into the master cylinder, pushing the release cylinder and the release fork to release the cover and disc.

If the slave cylinder or master cylinder is faulty, the fluid pressure will reduce, making it impossible for the clutch to disengage; this results in manual transmission going into gear but won’t move.

2. Damaged Synchronizer Ring

The primary function of the synchronizer ring is to engage the car’s single gear effectively. This component has minor teeth, and its pattern makes it possible for the hub sleeve to engage with it and make the synchro ring go into gear. If your manual transmission goes into gear and won’t move, it means the circle part is damaged or malfunctioning, thus making complete transmission impossible.

3. Bad Gears

There are about six gears, all of which have a big tooth and a small counterpart. The small teeth take part in the engagement between the hub sleeve and synchro ring, and when it’s weak and faulty, your manual transmission will go into gear and won’t move.

4. Hub Gear

The clutch disc hub can take on two different gears. It stays in the middle of the first and second gear, then the third and fourth. If the hub has issues, your manual transmission will go into gear but won’t move.

Symptoms Of Bad Clutch In Automatic Transmission

Knowing what to look out for whenever your automatic transmission malfunctions will always be to your advantage. Below are the signs that your clutch is acting up;

  • A soft clutch pedal
  • Your clutch can’t stay in gear for long
  • You perceive a burning smell while driving
  • You hear a grinding sound when you want to switch between gears
  • Stuck clutch pedal.

Transmission Not Shifting Out Of First Gear

If your car transmission is not shifting out of first gear, there are several reasons for that, and they include the following (and you can learn more in our guide on the transmission speed sensor location);

Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes Automatic Transmission To Fail

There are several reasons for automatic transmission failure; they may include dirty transmission fluid, transmission fluid leaks, overheating, slipping, annoying noise, and several other outward factors.

Why Won’t My Car Accelerate

If your car has been having issues with acceleration, common causes include; a clogged airflow sensor, malfunctioning oxygen sensor, throttle position sensor, dirty fuel filter, dirty air filters, and bad timing belts.

Is It Bad To Rev Your Engine

Revving your engine means placing unnecessary pressure on the car and the engine. Also, revving your engine when it has not warmed up is bad and can cause it to shut down earlier than expected.

What Is A Transmission In A Car

Simply put, a car transmission is its gearbox, and its primary function is to shift the gears. It also prevents the engine from being damaged, ensures regular fuel consumption, and ensures that the gears do not overload the engine.

When To Shift Gears

The best time to shift gears is when the car reaches 2,500 to 3,000 RPM. You should shift your gear when you are on high acceleration, and it drops off. Another time to shift gears is when you slow down, and revs drop to 1000 rpm.

Why Is My Automatic Car Not Changing Gear

If your automatic car is not changing gears, one of the common reasons is that your ECM is malfunctioning. Get in touch with an expert to help you fix it. Other reasons for this may include bad connections, faulty solenoids, and worn-out sensors.

When Should You Downshift Automatic Transmissions

The best time to downshift an automatic transmission is in low traction situations. Downshift the automatic transmission when it shifts through all gears, it’s spinning the wheels, and your car isn’t moving.

What Does The Transmission In A Car Do

Whether your car uses an automatic or manual transmission, the primary function is to ensure that the gear ratio between the drive wheels and the engine is balanced as the car slows down and speeds up.

When Did Automatic Transmissions Come Out

The first automatic transmission came out in 1921 with four forward gears but no reverse or parking gears. Alfred Horner Munro, a steam engineer from Canada, designed it and used air pressure instead of hydraulic fluid.

Why Does My RPM Go Up And Down While Parked

If your rpm goes up and down while parked, it’s a sign that you have fouled spark plugs, the engine vacuum is bad, or there is a leak. Another reason may be that you have a clogged or dirty fuel or air filter.

What Causes A Transmission To Slip

The main cause of a slipping transmission is low or burnt transmission fluid. It may also mean that transmission bands are worn-out, the torque converter is faulty, or the shift solenoid is damaged. In rare cases, a bad TCM can cause the transmission to slip.

What Happens When Transmission Goes Out

When the transmission goes out, the engine power deteriorates, the RPM will increase, and the engine will begin to smell bad. When the transmission goes out, your car won’t move because the engine can no longer produce adequate power for the car.


Your car not moving even when it goes into gear results from transmission or engine issues. There are several transmission issues; check which one your car is experiencing and call a professional to help you repair it.

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