Car Won’t Go in Reverse but Drives Fine

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A car’s gears are used to change the speed and power of the car. The gears are in a particular order, with the first being the slowest and the fifth being the fastest. When trying to back up, you would use the reverse gear. If your car won’t go in reverse but drives fine, it is likely because there is something blocking the gear from moving. 

This can be caused by a number of things, such as the car being low on transmission fluid or there being a problem with the gear itself. If your car will not go into reverse, it is important to take it to a mechanic to determine the exact cause. 

It is not advised to continue to drive the car if it will not go into reverse, as this could cause further damage to the transmission and lead to costly repairs. Instead, find a safe place to park your car and call a tow truck to take it to a mechanic if possible

What Helps a Car to Go in Reverse?

What Helps a Car to Go in Reverse?

Simply speaking, a car can go in reverse when the gear shift is placed in the “R” position and the driver steps on the brake pedal. The car’s transmission transfers engine power to the drive axle, which turns the wheels in reverse. 

However, if we get into the nitpicky details, things are a bit more complicated than that. There are three factors that need to be in balance for a car to go in reverse: the engine, the transmission, and the drive axle. When any one of these factors is out of balance, the car will either not move at all or it will move in an unpredictable manner. Learn how to fix your car won’t go in reverse but drives fine.

Car Won’t Go In Reverse But Drives Fine – Causes & Reasons

Car Won't Go In Reverse But Drives Fine - Causes & Reasons

It’s not that simple to determine why a car might not go in reverse. There are many potential factors that could be causing the problem. Some of the more common causes include:

1. Low Transmission Fluid (Manual or Automatic)

Low Transmission Fluid (Manual or Automatic)

Low fluid levels indicate that the gears are not receiving enough lubrication. Overheating, as a result of this point, can then lead to transmission failure. The aforementioned issues can also be caused by dirty transmission fluid or a clogged filter, which lowers the fluid’s ability to lubricate the internal transmission mechanisms. 

When there is a lack of fluid in the transmission, it can cause numerous transmission system problems such as overheating, erratic shifting, engine stallage, and the car not going in reverse. Sadly, if the issue is neglected too long, the reverse gear problems are just the beginning. When shifting, you might notice that it’s difficult to get into other gear and that your shifts are jerky. You may also experience difficulties in switching gears, such as rear shifts or “bunny-hop” downshifts. Other concerns include spikes in RPMs when changing gear, and erratic changes in speed.

The simple solution to this, if caught in time is to simply add more fluid or have the filter cleaned or replaced. If the transmission is regularly inspected it can help avoid this problem altogether. 

2. Faulty Transmission Position Sensor (Automatic)

If you have an automatic transmission, a faulty position sensor could be the culprit if your car won’t go in reverse. The position sensor monitors the gear selection and sends that information to the transmission control module. If there is a problem with the sensor, it can cause the car to shift gears incorrectly or not at all.

A faulty position sensor may initially cause the car to jerk when shifting gears, or the gear may not change at all. In more severe cases, the transmission will go into “limp mode” in which only first and second gears are available. The car will usually still move forward even with these limited gears, but still not be able to go in reverse. 

To fix this problem, you will need to replace the position sensor. It is a relatively easy fix, but it can be expensive depending on the make and model of your car. 

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3. Worn Out Valve Body (Automatic)

Worn Out Valve Body (Automatic)

In some cases going undetected, a worn-out valve body can affect your ability to go into reverse. The valve body is a major component in the automatic transmission and its function is to direct hydraulic fluid to the correct valves. When it is worn out, it can cause the car to shift gears erratically or not at all. 

This is because the valve body is responsible for regulating the amount of hydraulic fluid that goes to the transmission. When it’s not working properly, the transmission can’t function as it should. Symptoms of a worn-out valve body can include difficulty shifting gears, “banging” into gear, and the car not going in reverse. 

The only fix for this problem is to replace the valve body. It is a major repair, but it is less expensive than replacing the entire transmission. 

4. Faulty Shifter Mechanism (Manual)

A bit rarer than the other issues, a faulty shifter mechanism can keep a car from going into reverse. The shifter mechanism is responsible for connecting the transmission to the gear shift on the floor. When it is faulty, it can prevent the driver from being able to change gears. 

This problem is usually caused by wear and tear on the shifter mechanism. Over time, the gears can become misaligned or the mechanism can break completely. If this is the case, the only solution is to replace the shifter mechanism. 

It is a relatively easy fix, but it can be expensive depending on the make and model of your car.

5. Dirty Transmission Fluid or Filter (Manual or Automatic)

Dirty Transmission Fluid or Filter (Manual or Automatic)

A more common problem that can cause your car to not go in reverse is dirty transmission fluid or a clogged filter. If the transmission fluid is not clean, it can cause the gears to stick or not shift properly. This is because the transmission relies on the fluid to lubricate and cool the gears. When it’s dirty, the gears can overheat and become damaged. 

The same is true for the transmission filter. If it becomes clogged, it can’t do its job of filtering out debris and contaminants. This can cause the fluid to become dirty and the gears to overheat. 

If you have a manual transmission, you can clean the fluid and filter yourself. If you have an automatic transmission, you will need to take it to a mechanic to be cleaned. 

6. Broken Teeth on Reverse Gear (Manual or Automatic)

This is a painful problem, but thankfully it is also a rare one. A broken gear tooth can keep a car from going into reverse. This is because the gear tooth is responsible for engaging the reverse gear. When it is broken, the transmission can’t go into reverse. 

This problem is usually caused by wear and tear on the gears. Over time, the gears can become misaligned or the teeth can break off. If this is the case, the only solution is to replace the gears. 

It is a major repair, and you may even end up having to replace the entire transmission due to damage done to the gears.

7. Faulty Lockout Ring (Manual)

A lockout ring works by preventing the driver from being able to put the car in gear unless it is in the correct position. This is done to prevent the driver from accidentally putting the car into gear while it is still moving. When the lockout ring is faulty, it can keep the car from going into reverse even if it is in the correct position. This is because the lockout ring is not allowing the gear to engage. 

This problem is usually caused by wear and tear on the lockout ring. Over time, the gears can become misaligned or the ring can break completely. If this is the case, the only solution is to replace the lockout ring. 

It is a relatively easy fix, but it can be expensive depending on the make and model of your car.

FAQ

What causes delayed engagement in a transmission?

There are multiple variables that come into play when the transmission does not engage quickly or at all. The most common reasons are low transmission fluid, a faulty transmission position sensor, worn-out valve body, bad shifter mechanism, dirty transmission fluid or filter, and broken teeth on the reverse gear. If it is a manual transmission, the lockout ring may be at fault.

How much does it cost to replace reverse gear?

This too will vary depending on the make and model of the transmission. Generally, it will cost anywhere from $300 to $1000 to fix and resolve the reverse gear issue. That is because it requires a significant amount of labor to remove the transmission and then replace the reverse gear.

Conclusion 

So, if your car won’t go in reverse, it is most likely due to one of the seven issues we have outlined. While some of these problems are more serious than others, all of them require either a significant amount of labor or money to fix. The best way to determine the issue is to take your car to a mechanic and have them diagnose the problem.

They will be able to tell you which issue is causing the reverse gear to not function and then give you a price estimate for repairing it. Thanks for reading!

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