What Causes a Transmission to Get Stuck in Gear (Problem & Solutions)

Transmission getting stuck in gear is a consequential problem because according to NHTSA, 2% of car accidents are caused by mechanical failures of vehicles. 2% might seem like a little number, but imagine people losing their lives because of the faults of vehicles.

But, what causes a transmission to get stuck in gear?

If your transmission is a manual type, then the reasons might be a low-level or incorrect type of oil inserted into the engine, the gearbox or gearstick getting stuck, clutch slips, and so on. 

As for an automatic transmission, the reasons are low transmission fluid, limp mode, torque converter failure, solenoid getting stuck, and more.

Different issues require different solutions. And, we are going to walk you through all the details you need to know regarding the transmission stuck in gear manual.

Let’s go through the details about why the transmission gets stuck in gear and how can you fix it.

What Causes a Manual Transmission to Get Stuck in Gear?

This time, we’ll be discussing the reasons why a manual transmission gets stuck in gear and how you can master manual transmission stuck in gear troubleshooting.

Reason 1: Low Level or Incorrect Type of Gear Oil

Gear oil in a manual transmission does the same thing that transmission fluid does for an automatic transmission. It lubricates the gears of your manual gearbox.

For proper maintenance, you need to flush or change the oil periodically. If you fail to do that or the transmission leaks oil, you’ll notice it becoming harder to shift or other damage to the transmission. Eventually, you’ll experience the car stuck in gear manual.

The most common signs of the issue are poor vehicle performance and strange noises from the gearbox.

In addition, problems might also come up when you use the incorrect type of gear oil in the transmission. It’s a must to ensure the right viscosity and specification of your gear oil if you want smooth shifting.

Solution: Ensure an Adequate Amount of Gear Oil

Opt for the right type and amount of gear oil for your vehicle. It’s also important to make sure that the oil isn’t very old or burnt.

If this is not the issue, check the hydraulic clutch system and find any leaks around the clutch cylinders. If you find any, get professional help to seal the leaks.

If this is not the culprit for making the manual gearbox stuck in gear, check the whole clutch system to remove the transmission and see if there’s any damage to the clutch parts.

Reason 2: Gearbox or Gearstick Is Stuck

A manual transmission can get stuck because of a physical problem with the gearbox or the gearstick itself. And, if you mistreat them, chances are you’ll end up with misalignment or damaged teeth.

Solution: Replace the Damaged Parts

You can open the transmission box and tap the affected part using a hammer; it will make the gearbox shift easily if the situation isn’t bad enough. Otherwise, severe damage will need replacement.

And for a gearstick, there’s also a temporary solution; you can tap its top off and force the shifter into neutral.

Reason 3: Damaged Clutch System

The clutch system of a vehicle connects its engine to its wheels. When you give pressure on the clutch pedal, the pressure spreads to the clutch master cylinder and lets your engine not spin.

This means the engine power doesn’t transmit to the transmission so you can change gears easily using a manual shift stick.

But the problem arises when the clutch master cylinder gets damaged or leaked; you experience hard-to-shift gears.

Solution: Remove and Replace Broken or Worn Clutches

To inspect what’s wrong with the clutch parts of your vehicle and how to free a stuck clutch, you must remove the transmission first. Although you doubt that the issue is within the clutch, it’s better to inspect other parts including the hydraulic parts too.

Once you’re sure that there are worn-out or broken clutches, make sure you get rid of them or you may need to replace the entire transmission in the future.

We’re done talking about the most common reasons and solutions regarding how to fix a manual transmission stuck in gear. However, there are other issues like worn hub sleeves, faulty synchronizer rings, and damaged gears. It’s better if you inspect those parts as well.

What Causes an Automatic Transmission to Get Stuck in Gear?

Moving into the topic named ‘automatic transmission stuck in gear’. We’ll be sharing the reasons why automatic transmissions can get stuck and how you can deal with the situation.

Reason 1: Stuck or Defective Solenoid

Solenoids help automatic transmissions to shift gears. They’re used to power a starter and are connected to your vehicle’s computer. Being connected to the computer, solenoids determine and guide you on which gear should be used.

But when the solenoids get stuck, they can prevent your vehicle from shifting gears. There are several factors that make a solenoid stuck (not replacing the transmission fluid when needed is one of them).

Solution: Flush or Change Transmission Fluid Regularly

Be careful about replacing your transmission fluid when needed. The fluids are prone to contamination because small bits of debris easily get into the fluid. You can recognize contaminated fluid just by looking at its black colour.

Experts recommend changing the fluid every 30k miles. In case, the problem is still there after you change the transmission fluid, consult a mechanic for replacing faulty transmission solenoids.

Reason 2: Low or Dirty Transmission Fluid

A low level of transmission fluid or dirty fluid can make the transmission get stuck in gear. Clean transmission fluid is dark red or pinkish in colour. And, you can easily differentiate dirty fluid because it’s dark brown or black in colour.

Dirty transmission fluid can’t lubricate all the necessary parts of your vehicle well. Consequently, the transmission parts get worn or prematurely damaged.

Solution: Level Up or Change The Transmission Fluid

First off, turn on the car engine and warm it up. If the fluid level isn’t up to the required level, make sure you do this. Also, change the fluid if it’s dark brown or deep black in colour.

Even if you can make the car shift gears after doing the DIYs, it’s best to consult a mechanic and check for any leaks to eliminate higher risks.

Reason 3: Limp Mode

The shifting of all gears is controlled by your vehicle’s computer. The computer works according to the signal it receives from the solenoids. But the problem arises when it receives wrong readings or no readings at all.

And, this unwanted situation, I mean, when the computer doesn’t receive accurate signals from the solenoids, is referred to as limp mode. This is a safety mode and it helps your car gets stuck in the 2nd or 3rd gear.

But driving the car in this mode can have damaging effects since the transmission can’t shift the gears properly.

Solution: Restart The Engine

When you experience your car being in limp mode, pull the car over to a safe place first. Then, turn off the engine and let it cool down.

After a while, restart your car and it will automatically turn off the limp mode as well as re-enable the transmission to its usual condition. If the issue isn’t resolved yet, consult an auto repair specialist.

Reason 4: Faulty Shift Lock Release

If the shift lock release of your car doesn’t function properly, chances are your car won’t come out of gear.

One of the most common reasons for a faulty shift lock release is the electrical system. When the battery is dead or there are issues with the fuse, the shift lock release button doesn’t work.

Solution: Press The Locking Mechanism and The Brake simultaneously

Although this trick doesn’t work always, it can save your day if things aren’t that bad. Keep the ignition on and gently press the locking mechanism and the brake at the same time.

It should help you move the shift lever; if it doesn’t, contact an auto repair mechanic as soon as possible.

Reason 5: Faulty Torque Converter

A torque converter in your vehicle transmits power from the engine to the transmission. When the torque converter gets damaged, it can result in the gears slipping. If things are worse, the gears won’t come out.

The most common causes why a torque converter gets damaged are low or transmission fluid, too old torque converter clutch, broken converter seals, and so on.

You may experience some other torque converter problems including unusual sounds from the converter and car shuddering while driving on smooth surfaces.

Solution: Replace The Faulty Torque Converter

It’s best to avoid any DIY job in this case. Consult a professional mechanic and let him diagnose the issue as well as solve it. Don’t drive with a bad torque converter, it will damage the necessary components within your transmission.

By now, you know what causes gears to get stuck and how to fix a stuck gear shifter.

What Happens When Your Gear Shift Gets Stuck?

When your gear shift gets stuck, you will be driving your car on that specific gear where the transmission has stuck. It often becomes a horror for most people.

You can’t change your gears, meaning if you’re stuck in 4th or 3rd gear, you will be driving the car in that gear the whole time. You’ll fail to control the speed of your car which can cause the engine to overheat and even fail. 2nd and 1st gear is the safest.

What to Do If My Transmission is Stuck in Gear?

When your transmission ever gets stuck in one gear, please don’t force the shifter into action. Instead, stop the car first. Otherwise, it can cause further damage to the transmission. Although there are some scenarios.

If your automatic transmission stuck in 2nd gear, you need to keep going. Your car won’t go beyond a specific speed limit and the speed limit is safe for driving.

But if they get stuck in 1st or 3rd gear, you need to engage the clutch and after that engage the brake until your car stops completely. While you have your foot still on the clutch, turn off your car.

Stay calm throughout the process. Inspect and troubleshoot the issues if you can. Or simply call a professional mechanic (it’s the best option). Professionals know the best how to fix transmission stuck in gear without making further damage.

Where to Fix a Transmission Stuck In Gear?

To fix your transmission, you probably go straight toward a car mechanic. It’s not always something you can fix on your own. Solving a transmission failure for a short period of time and fixing it up for good are not the exact same. You can’t deactivate limp mode on your own. Multinational automobile companies like Tesla offer maintenance services like this.

Why Is My Transmission Stuck in 1st Gear?

Transmission stuck in 1st gear can be frustrating as 1st gears are always stuck to 10 km/h speed. But the speed we are talking about here is pretty low. You need to stop your car first to see what went wrong with your car.

The most common reason for your transmission being stuck in 1st gear would be problems with the gearbox or the gearstick. Normally limp mode doesn’t stick your transmission to 1st gear. They usually get stuck in 2nd and 3rd gear.

So, the problem with your 1st gear would most likely be something wrong with the gearbox or the gearstick.

Transmission Stuck in 2nd Gear- What’s The Reason?

Transmission stuck in 2nd gear is mainly caused by limp mode or solenoid getting stuck. In other words, automatic transmissions are most likely to be stuck in 2nd gear.

When you are stuck in 2nd gear, you can drive along as the speed limit is somewhat ideal for driving, which is 15 km/h. And if you want to halt your car, you can do it just like you can stop your car in 1st or 3rd mode.

Why Is The Transmission Stuck in 3rd Gear?

Transmission stuck in 3rd gear can be a horrific experience. Your speed limit would be 35 km/h on average.

The first thing you should be doing is stopping your car. You should never drive your car when your transmission gets stuck in 3rd gear. Stop the car using a clutch and brake simultaneously.

How Do You Prevent Cars Stuck in Gear Automatic Transmission?

Generally, the metal debris gets mixed up with the transmission fluid and when it gets into the solenoid, the debris gets stuck, resulting in the solenoid getting stuck.

So, to prevent cars stuck in gear automatic transmission, you need to clean your transmission fluid regularly.

Moreover, be careful not to overfill the fluid, overload your car, or tow your car in overdrive. Try to use the handbrake when you park the car in a sloped place. These are some gentle practices for having a long journey with your vehicle. If you’re concerned about preventing the limp mode, well, it’s something you can’t change manually all by yourself. You should go check it up at some automobile garage like North Star Auto Repair Center.

transmission get stuck in gear Infographic


Transmissions getting stuck while driving could be a terrible trauma for us. That’s why we should never speed on roads or highways even if they are completely clear.

You know 2% of the road accidents are caused by a mechanical failure like transmission getting stuck, so we should know what to do when this happens and take measures before it happens. And when it gets stuck, we should go check it up by an automobile engineer or garage.

1 thought on “What Causes a Transmission to Get Stuck in Gear (Problem & Solutions)”

  1. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.


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William Baldwin

This Is William Baldwin, The Founder & Managing Editor of this website. Me and my team share automotive tips, tricks, and news

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Talha Atta

Talha Atta, a Mechanical Engineer and experienced technical content writer and editor at Autoglobes.com with a passion for the automotive industry.