Hard Shifting Transmission

Transmission ShiftingHaving transmission problems in your vehicle can be frustrating and costly.  Most of us don’t have a good idea how an automatic transmission works or have the tools to remove and repair it if it breaks.  This means if you are having transmission problems you are at the mercy of your mechanic.  The reality is your transmission is a specialty part that works entirely different than any other device in your car.  So just because your mechanic can change your oil and brakes doesn’t necessarily mean he can replace or rebuild your transmission. Make sure you are getting a qualified opinion from a transmission specialist.

Automatic transmission technology has gotten significantly better over the years, but for the most part your transmission is going to be the weak link in your drive train.  This means that your engine, differential and axles will usually outlast your transmission.  The best thing you can do to keep your transmission going strong for miles to come is to change your transmission fluid at the factory recommended intervals and use the appropriate transmission fluids.  Fresh fluid helps things work properly, stay lubricated and wear more slowly in your transmission.  Also making sure you have the proper fluid level in your transmission can keep it operating at the proper temperature and pressures.  If you discover your transmission fluid level is dropping, you likely have a leak and should seal it using BlueDevil Transmission Sealer available here.

Transmission SludgeHere, it is important to bring up a rumor about changing your transmission fluid in an older car.  In some cases, if your transmission is overdue for a fluid change, many mechanics will recommend you do not perform a transmission fluid change or flush.  The reason for this seemingly counter-intuitive advice is that, over time, the old transmission fluid will deposit sludge and gunk in the passages of your transmission, around the pump, or near the seals.  In some cases performing a fluid change or flush can remove this sludge and reveal leaks, worn components, change the operating pressures or other uncover other problems and cause the transmission to stop working as you expect with the new fluid.  If your transmission is in this bad of shape, it is worth starting to plan on having it replaced or repaired.

If you are confident your transmission fluid is the right type, clean, and at the proper level, and you are still having transmission problems, it can be very difficult to diagnose what the problem is.  Often problems come in the form of a hard or weak shift in between gears.  In the end, even if you can diagnose the problem to be with a particular gear, servo or valve in the transmission, you still probably won’t be able to repair that part without removing the entire transmission.  Since transmissions are often hard to get to, require the removal of a lot of other components and are heavy and cumbersome, the labor costs simply to remove them are very high.  Because of the high labor costs to remove them, it often can be more economical to have the transmission completely rebuilt or replaced even if there is only a small or single problem with it once it is removed to avoid having to pay for removal again in the near future if there is another failure.

If you are having automatic transmission problems besides a fluid leak, we recommend having the work done by a transmission specialist to ensure you are getting high quality work done that you can trust.  This will keep you from having to return in the future, or from being left stranded.  Even though transmission rebuilds or replacement can be expensive, having a good working transmission in your vehicle can give you great peace of mind, and gives your car a significant boost in resale value.

Pictures provided by: www.cameros.net and www.shiftworks.com

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44 responses to “Hard Shifting Transmission

  1. My automatic transmission has a grind sound when shifting into 1st gear, and also shifts hard on 2nd gear. What could it possibly be? Transmission needs replacement? Should I get an transmission flush?

    1. Nhia,

      Thanks for asking a question about your automatic transmission. I’m sorry to hear your vehicle’s transmission isn’t working well. Those sounds do sound like an indication that there are some major problems with your transmission. If you have been regularly maintaining your vehicle, a transmission flush may help with the problem. Either way it would be wise to take it to a transmission specialist to get a professional opinion. Depending on your budget and plans for the car there are some other additives available that may help extend the life of your transmission for a few more miles. You can get those at your local autoparts stores or by asking your mechanic.

      If you have any further questions feel free to comment again on our article “Hard Shifting Transmission here: https://www.gobdp.com/blog/hard-shifting-transmission/

      Thanks!
      -BlueDevil Pro

      1. Shifts hard sometimes, and when it’s in drives it want shift sometimes,but work fine in 3 2 1 what could this be ? it only does it when it get hot after driving for awhile, It’s a 1999 Chevorlet dully 4×4 Gas 5.7 vortex engine

        1. Mitchell,

          Thanks for your question about your 1999 Chevy truck. Since the problem you’re having is intermittent, it’s really hard to diagnose. The first thing to do with any transmission problem is to check the level and condition if your transmission fluid. If the fluid is not clean and bright and at the correct level then we would recommend starting with a fluid flush. If the fluid is in good shape, you may consider taking your truck by an auto parts store to have the engine codes read. Transmission error codes won’t trip your check engine light but will be stored in the computer and may help you get on the right track with your repairs.

          Thanks again for your question!
          -BD Auto Pro

  2. I have a 2008 Hyundai Tiburon with almost 60,000 miles on it. I have been the only owner and have had no problems with it until last week. It jerks/kicks very hard when going from a complete stop in 1st gear. Doesn’t seem to have any problems in any other gears. Also, a couple of times the stick has gotten stuck in gear (1st and reverse) when I came to a stop and then tried to switch gears, and I had to shut the engine off to get the shifter unstuck. I took it to a mechanic this week who changed a hydraulic part of the clutch that had a leak and added clutch fluid. Still having the same problems, though. Any suggestions? Trying to avoid replacing the entire clutch…

    1. Erin,
      Thanks for your question about your Tiburon. I’m sorry your transmission is giving you problems. It does sound like it is related to your clutch if it is sticking in both 1st and reverse as those gears use different shift forks. It doesn’t sound like your clutch has failed all together since that is usually a gradual problem, not all of a sudden like you are describing. I would start by checking your transmission fluid level and possibly having your transmission fluid changed if it is near due for new fluid. If you find a leak add BlueDevil Transmission Sealer with the new fluid, available here: http://bit.ly/16JIVMM. This can help rule out this being a problem with your transmission. There is a remote possibility that the detent ball and spring that keeps your transmission in the gear you have selected are out of adjustment for 1st gear and reverse, but that would be something you would probably need to take your car to a transmission shop to get checked.
      Hopefully your problem still lies with your clutch and is an easy fix. If you had a leak in your clutch hydraulic line that could have allowed air into the system so even as you are pressing down the clutch pedal the clutch isn’t disengaging entirely causing the jerking you are having in low gears. For more information about how to remove the air from your clutch system you can read our article about it here: https://www.gobdp.com/blog/bleed-clutch/

  3. Hello There,

    I recently purchased A VW PASSAT 2008 MODEL,

    Ihave been cruising it with no problem, but of few days it has developed hard knock in shifting gear from 1to 2 and from 2 to 1, and all other gears are okay.

    I have changed the ATF but the problem still insist,
    What could be the problem.

    1. Patrick,
      Thanks for your question about your Passat. There may be a few solutions to the problem you are having. First great job getting a fluid change, as it is important to keep fresh transmission fluid in your car to keep it working right. The first possibility is that there is an update to the software for your computer controlled transmission. Some late 2000s VWs have a software update to help the transmission shift more smoothly. Try calling your local Volkswagen dealer and giving them your VIN number to see if there is an update for your vehicle. The other possibility is that you are in need of a new valve body as yours is getting worn and having trouble modulating the fluid pressure that makes that gear change. If that is the case it would be best to have a dealer or transmission specialist take a look at it.

  4. I have an 04 Chevy z71 4×4 and it has a really bad kick when shifting into 2nd gear, it shifts like butter when I first leave and the tranny is cold but once it warms up it kicks harder and harder into 2nd , I have taken it to the dealer and 3 other places including a Chevy dealer and a transmission specialist and they have all told me the same thing, they can’t find anything wrong but I know there is otherwise I wouldn’t bother talking it so many places. What can I do and is there something I can add or do to fix this. I thought it might be the filter but I just had the tranny flushed a few months ago and I’m sure changing the filter is part of that service. Please help

    1. Wesley-

      Thanks for your question about your Chevy Z71! The harsh shift from first to second especially after being warmed up seems to be a common issue with your year truck. There is a service bulletin out for your vehicle I believe Chevy TSB 09-07-30-017B has to do with this problem and recommends installing a new 1-2 accumulator valve kit to solve to problem. You can try calling your dealership and see if they know anything about that technical service bulletin for your truck.

      The other possibility is that you have a dirty mass air flow sensor. On Chevy trucks, the mass air flow sensor is an input into when the transmission shifts and what the line pressure should be. If yours is dirty, it could be sending an incorrect signal to the transmission raising the line pressure and causing the hard shift.

      Thanks again for your question!

      -BDP

      1. I have exactly the same problem with my 2006 G6! It shifts hard into 1st and 2nd but only after its warmed up and driven for awhile. We had a transmission flush and still the same issue. Is there a way to see if this is a know problem with my car since it’s the same manufacturer? Thanks!

        1. Sarah-

          Thanks for your question about your Pontiac G6. The best way to find out if the problem with your car is a known problem and has any fixes available is to call a Pontiac dealership. If you give them your vehicle ID (VIN) number they will be able to tell you if there are any recalls available for your car, and also if there are any technical service bulletins for your car. A technical service bulletin or TSB is a statement automobile manufactures issue about certain cars or components stating known issues and how to fix them.

          -BDP

  5. I have a 2009 Ford Escape. I recently (a few months ago) had the transmission looked at up and down and they said it was perfectly fine but the oil seemed a little dark. They recommended flushing but I also found out my serpentine belt was shredded and needed to replace that so I didn’t have the cash, I just had them top the transmission fluid off. It is an automatic. Recently, it has been jerking when driving from 1 to 2 gear. It’s kinda freaking me out. It’s also making a weird chugging noise (not very loud, just louder than what It was before I think) my boyfriend said it may just need an oil change and he was going to check the transmission fluid. If the transmission oil needs changed, how do you do that? Drain it all and re-add it or do I need to take it and get it flushed? (Flushing is so expensive -.- for something so easy!) anything you can help with would be great! Also, it seems like it’s jerking when braking also although I just got the brakes changed! I live in a very trafficy area

    1. Abby-

      If the mechanics said the transmission fluid was a little dark then it is probably time to get it changed. Flushing the transmission will get all of the old fluid out, but changing the fluid will get 30%-50% of the fluid out and is almost as easy as changing your oil. You may have to remove some splash guards first, but you should be able to find your transmission oil pan with a plug in it much like your engine oil pan. You can drain the fluid out, replace the plug, then refill it through the transmission dipstick tube using a small funnel and some patience. Make sure to check your owner’s manual for the proper type and amount of fluid to refill it with. If you start here, hopefully that will solve most of your problems and we can from there.

      Thank You!

      -BDP

  6. I’m having a shifting problem with my 04 Chrysler Pacifica I’m not sure if this is normal. When the car is hot or cold when leaving a complete stop It shifts hard into first gea.I just change the fluid and filter. any ideas what this can be?

    1. David-

      Thank you for your question about your 2004 Pacifica. It was a great idea to change your transmission fluid and filter to keep up with regular maintenance on your vehicle. At this point it would be a good idea to recheck to the fluid level and make sure it is not too high or too low. If the level is on par you are still experiencing the hard shift then you may want to have your Chrysler looked at by a transmission specialist.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

      Feel free to contact us with any questions.

      Thanks,

  7. 2011 F250 6.7 w/6 speed auto (159000 mi)
    Shifts hard especially when downshifting only when fluid is cold. Once it’s warm, seems smooth. Tried changing fluid/filter. Still the same, but only drove it a few miles after the service. Trying to sell the truck but buyers are skeptical…Is there a chance it will get better after the new fluid works through? Is it a major concern that it may fail soon?

    1. John,

      Thanks for your question about your F150. The problem you’re experiencing seems like it is a common problem with your rear and model Ford. It doesn’t seem to indicate the transmission will fail soon, just a problem with the computer controlled shifting. There is a technical service bulletin out to reflash the computer to adjust the shifting so if you haven’t tried that, you could take it to a dealership to have that reprogram performed.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  8. yes i have an 02 focus my car shifts hard in all gears and once i hit 45mph it wont shift anymore so it can get to 55 and be well over 3k rpms any idea whats wrong

    1. David,

      Thanks for your question about your Ford Focus. With your car, the only thing you can do is check the transmission fluid level and condition. If your fluid is clean and bright and at the proper level then you most likely have some internal transmission problems and may need a rebuild. If that is the case, we would recommend taking your car to a transmission specialist.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  9. Hi, I have a Grand Am Pontiac 2002. My car wouldn’t drive forward or backwards until I replaced the fluids and filter. Now that it’s driving again, the gears are hesitating to switch gears before they do so. I never switched my transmission fluids in three years because I never knew to do so. Plus, I have over 200,000 miles on it. I want to just give up on it but feels there maybe a chance to save it without replacing my transmission. While changing the filter, we noticed metal trash. Do you think I’ve messed up my tranmission?

    1. Chantel,

      based on the amount of miles you have on your car and the metal shavings in your transmission filter it does sound like your transmission is worn out. You may be able to get a little more life out of it by adding a transmission fluid additive designed to increase the fluid viscosity. These transmission additives are designed to get a little more life out of an old transmission and can be found at most auto parts stores.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  10. Hi i have a 2009 Cadilac SRX. Just two weeks ago, it feels like i am going over bumps at about 60-70 mph and even when i let off the gas, it jerks. it has 120k miles on it, and the transmission fluid was never flushed. I brought it to Firestone, and they wone do a flush due to this issue. do i need ot breakdown and just get a new transmission?

    1. Craig,

      Thanks for your question about your Cadilac SRX. Usually, transmission problems manifest themselves in the lower gears as those get the most wear and tear. if you’re experiencing problems at highway speed you may have a smaller problem and not need a whole new transmission. The first thing we would recommend is taking your car to a Cadilac dealership and having them scan the engine and transmission computer for error codes. Dealerships have more advanced computers to interact with your car and should be able to tell you if the car thinks anything is wrong. Also, their mechanics will be able to take you for a test drive with the computer hooked up to measure transmission pressures and temperatures to help you figure out what is going on. That diagnostic may cost money, but it will certainly be less expensive than a whole new transmission.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  11. my 2007 uplander sometimes kicks when i stop and go (first gear) it migh also do it when i slow down and reaccelerate. this problem goes away when i change transmission fluid but comes back again after few months. do u know what the problem might be??

    1. Arthur,

      Thanks for your question about your Uplander. The problem you’re experiencing does seem to be common to your year Uplander so you may consider taking it to a Chevy dealership to see if there are any fixes for this known issue. The problem seems to be with the shift solenoids no properly controlling the shift in 1st gear. Since changing the transmission fluid seems to help in your car, it sounds like that is the problem you’re having. If you haven’t changed the transmission fluid filter yet you can try that. Some people have had success installing a strong magnet in the transmission pan to catch excess wear particles, but we would recommend finding a shop that has had experience with the transmission in your car for better advice.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  12. Hi,
    I have a Nissan Altima 2004 automatic. When the car shifts from 1st to 2nd gear I feel like the car jerks (RPM boosts up to 2000 in order to shift gear from 1st to 2nd). Same thing happened from 2nd to 3rd but not that much jerky, only 1st to 2nd is noticeable. Also, when I push the gas pedal smoothly, then I feel the car jerks more than the time that I push the gas pedal quickly with higher RPM.
    The Transmission fluid gauge shows normal condition.
    What would be the problem?
    hope it is not much expensive !

    1. Amir,

      Thanks for your question about your Nissan Altima! The jerking you are experiencing seems to be a relatively common problem with your car. The first thing you may do is consider calling your local Nissan dealership and giving them your VIN number. They will be able to tell you if there are any service bulletins or recalls for your car, and there should be one for a transmission solenoid that may cause the problems you’re having.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  13. Hello,

    So I have a 1997 Chevrolet Corvette and have been having an issue. My car will jerk into gear only from a complete stop when I accelerate. This is only when my car gets to its regular cruising temperature. It does not over heat and does not happen when my car is cold; again, only after I drive my car for awhile or on the freeway. Then when at a complete stop and when I accelerate my car will pause and then jerk. . I have had my transmission replaced about 50,000 miles ago at 120,000. It currently has around 170,000 on it. I appreciate your help!!

    1. Larry,

      Thanks for your question about your Corvette. Unfortunately, when it comes to the transmission in your car, there isn’t much you can do besides check the transmission fluid level and condition. If you haven’t had the fluid replaced since you had the new transmission installed you might consider starting there. The fact that it only happens when your car is warmed up could be because your older fluid is losing some of its properties at higher temperatures.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  14. I have a 2006 vw passat 2.0 turbo. Its automatic. it jerks sometimes when i take off or if im trying to accelerate when getting on the highway or when i slow down sometimes. What could this be?

    1. Michelle-

      If you haven’t already done so, the best place to start would be to change your transmission fluid and filter and then double check to make sure the fluid level is correct. Having dirty/old transmission fluid or the fluid level too high or too low can cause the transmission to act up and not shift properly.

      If you are still experiencing the “jerk” after changing the fluid and filter and topping it off to the proper level then you may want to have your VW looked at by a transmission specialist.

      Thanks!

      -BDP

  15. I have a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and drove 2000+ miles to Canada on a ski trip, upon coming home my service engine light came on. I stopped at an auto zone and it showed gear ratio error. I brought it into the dealer and they changed all my transmission fluids and transfer case and updated software on my transmission. They said I will need to get my differentials changed soon. When I drive and pick up speed everything shifts fine but when I let off the gas and it slows down on its own, I feel a tug or thud, like it’s slipping. Could this be related to needing to get my differentials changed or is it much more than that? Something transmission related? :/

    1. Katie,

      Thanks for your question about your Jeep Grand Cherokee. The gear ratio error you received could indicate an actual problem with your transmission or simply a bad sensor, shift solenoid or bad electrical connection. The fact that you notice a difference in deceleration makes us think there is an actual mechanical problem in your transmission. It could be due to normal wear or just a failed shift solenoid. Either way, this most likely doesn’t indicate you have a problem with your transfer case or differentials, just your transmission.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto pro

  16. I have a 1992 Ford Ranger XLT with a 3.0 V6 and an A4LD transmission, both of them are fairly well built giving the truck 268 horsepower to the tires. I noticed that the front of the transmission started leaking slightly, and I think it’s the input shaft seal. Also it hard shifts in to reverse and does have a hard shift throughout. With your products will this help my transmission?

    1. David-

      Thank you for asking about your Ford Ranger. The best place to start would be to change your transmission fluid and filter and then double check to make sure the fluid level is correct. Having dirty/old transmission fluid or the fluid level too high or too low can cause the transmission to act up and not shift properly.
      Once you’ve verified your fluid is at the proper level, you can use the BlueDevil Transmission Sealer to seal your leak. You should expect to see results after about 100-200 miles of driving.
      If you are still experiencing the erratic shifting after changing the fluid and filter and topping it off to the proper level then you may want to have your vehicle looked at by a transmission specialist.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  17. I have a 08 Nissan Titan and recently engine light came on and said gear ratio error. I have a Nismo CAI, Nismo Exhaust, and headers. I have it tuned and everything has been driving smoothly and nice for couple years. When I received this error message, it would either jerky or over rev to get into the gear 4 and had issues going over 45 or 50mph. I reset the ECU and the engine light is off but issue still occurs. Only time it shifts smoothly and able to go over is if I floor it. Do you know what could be wrong?

    1. Simon,

      Thanks for your question about your Nissan Titan! Most likely, the upgraded components you have installed on your truck wouldn’t have anything to do with this problem that you’re having. The code indicates that your computer thinks the gear is slipping and by your description, it’s 4th gear that is the problem. On some Titans, this could be the cause of old or overheated fluid so you may try a transmission fluid flush if you haven’t done that recently. Unfortunately, this could also be an early indication that your transmission is starting to wear out. This problem is relatively common on your truck so you may also call your local Nissan dealership and see if there are any service bulletins out for that problem.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  18. I have a Vw 2.0 fsi Gt.
    After getting warm about 20′ driving, it starts shifting gear hardly like a sever shock. I took it to a specialist but they were incompetent to find the problem
    Could you please give me some information on it?

    1. Ali,

      Thanks for your question about your VW FSI GT. Unfortunately, when it comes to automatic transmissions really the only thing you can do as the vehicle owner is the check the transmission fluid level and condition. If you find a low fluid level, use BlueDevil Transmission Sealer (available here: http://store.gobdp.com/transmission-sealer-00236/) to seal the leak then top off your transmission with the correct type of fluid. If the fluid is dark or smells burnt you may consider having a transmission fluid flush.

      If the transmission level is good and the fluid is new, you may try taking your car to a VW dealership to see if they can find the problem.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  19. I have a 2004 Hyundai Tiburon (automatic tranny) that I bought last year. I haven’t had any major problems with it until today. As I was driving the transmission slipped and I could not accelerate. I had to pull over and shift to park and shut down and restart car. Concerned I watched as I shifted back in to drive, but the the digital odometer went blank. I shifted into reverse and it shifted really, really hard. I dropped it back into drive and nothing. I did this a couple of times and it finally kicked into drive. As I was driving home, when I slowed to a stop the car would not accelerate again. So I would have to play the gear shift a few more times to get into drive. All the while my odometer can’t make up its mind as to whether I’m in N, R, D or park as I’m driving along. What could be the cause of this? I know a speed sensor is a little iffy. It bounces around sometimes as I drive, but has never caused problems otherwise. And I have also checked my fluid levels,and it’s perfect.

    1. Mary,

      Thanks for your question about your Hyundai Tiburon. The problem you’re describing could indicate a bad sensor, bad shift solenoid, or a worn out transmission. Since you mentioned the speed sensor acting up, you might start by replacing that sensor. Since your transmission has issues shifting into reverse and drive our thought is that your problem is bigger than that speed sensor. First, if your check engine light is on, we would recommend having the codes read to see if that can get you started in the right direction.

      If the check engine light doesn’t give you any hints, then unfortunately you’re probably going to have to take your vehicle to a transmission specialist or a Hyundai dealership to have the problem diagnosed.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  20. I love this form I have had a number of cars with odd ball issues and found your input very helpful .
    I just picked up a 2005 Elantra automatic shifts fantastic when cold once it heats up shift from 2nd to 3rd is a hard slam . If I do manual shifting it doesn’t slam only if I allow the rpm’s above 4.25 thousand it will shift smoothly into 3rd any lower rpm it slam shifts . Fluid flush and proper level has been preformed . Is this a failing solenoid ?? Would you have a magic wand because I don’t want to start messing with the transmission I probably just leave it and do the manual shift over 4000 RPM going from 2nd to 3rd . RPMs are a little high to do this all the time but …..

    1. Tony,

      Thanks for your question about your Elantra. Unfortunately, we don’t have a magic wand, but great job so far in checking your transmission fluid and making sure it is in good shape. First, you may try checking and replacing the speed sensor on your transmission. They are known to go bad on your make and model car and cause a variety of shifting problems. Since your problem is specific to one gear and can be done smoothly by manually shifting, our guess is that it is an electrical problem, most likely a sensor of a solenoid. You may try taking your car to a dealership that has scan tool where they can read sensor readings while driving your car to try and track down which one is causing problems.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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