Top Five Reasons Your Car Refuses to Reverse

If you head out to start your morning commute and your car refuses to reverse out of the garage, Mr. Transmission has the solution to get your day moving in the right direction again.


Putting your car in reverse to back out of a parking space is something we do every day without much thought. When your car decides backing up is for the birds, it can be a shock and a major inconvenience. If your car refuses to back up, the likely culprit is a problem with your transmission. The transmission is your car’s gearbox. The modern car transmission is made up of five or six gear sets that control the amount of power the car has without impacting the speed. Changing gears at the correct time improves fuel consumption and ensures your engine does not get strained while you are driving.


In cars with automatic transmissions, a built-in torque converter will automatically shift gears and transfer power to the wheels to enable acceleration. Drivers with manual transmissions change gears with a shifter. While manual transmissions are less common today, driving aficionados typically enjoy having the improved control and ability to slow down without braking. Manual transmissions are also less expensive. Automatic transmissions provide a comfortable ride and improved fuel economy.


Not only does being unable to reverse inhibit your ability to drive, but it could mean your car needs a major repair. Your first move should be to check to make sure your parking brake is not engaged. Before making another attempt at backing up, let your car idle to heat up the transmission fluid, especially if it’s cold outside. If those simple fixes don’t solve the problem, take a deep, calming breath and see if one of these five reasons is why your car decided to start being stubborn before calling a tow truck.


  1. Low automatic transmission fluid. Transmission fluid is required to lubricate the engine and dissipate heat. If your transmission fluid is low, your gears could overheat, slip, or cause difficulty shifting. Checking your transmission fluid level in an automatic car is a breeze. Simply pop the hood, locate the transmission dipstick and see if your fluid needs topped off. If you need to add fluid, make sure to check your owner’s manual to get the fluid your car requires. Determining if your manual transmission ride needs more fluid is trickier. It requires you to jack up your car and access it from the bottom.


Experts recommend changing your transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles or as needed. Your mechanic will check your transmission fluid levels as part of your regular car maintenance. If you do need to top off your transmission fluid, you should follow up by getting your transmission checked for leaks.


  1. Faulty transmission position sensor. The gearshift on automatic transmission cars has a sensor that tells the transmission to reverse. If there is a problem with the sensor, your car’s check engine light should come on. A temporary fix for this problem is to slowly shift the car from park to low several times to remove potential corrosion. This will enable you to drive to the repair shop to get the problem checked out.


  1. Dirty transmission fluid. Over time, the fluid in your transmission gets dirty and contaminated. Contaminated fluid will stop properly lubricating your transmission’s external transmission gaskets, seals, and O-rings and cause sludge to build up. Sludge can cause seals to leak and inhibit shifting. The fix is to flush the transmission and replace the fluid.


  1. Faulty shifter or lockout ring. In manual cars, shifter linkage cables can bend or break and make it hard to shift. The lockout ring, which prevents you from shifting to reverse while the car is moving forward, may be malfunctioning.


  1. Broken gears. If you hear a grinding or clicking when you shift to reverse, your reverse gear may be broken. A stripped-out automatic transmission reverse gear set or broken manual transmission reverse idler gear can prevent your car from reversing. Fixing a broken gear is a job for a mechanic.


If your car is refusing to reverse and a simple fix fails to solve the problem, check out your nearest Mr. Transmission location, and our experts will get you back on the road in no time.


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