Car Won’t Move in Drive or Any Gear Automatic Transmission

Getting late from an important meeting? Sat in your car, switched it on and put it in D, and it didn’t even move an inch? We can understand your frustration. As a car owner, it …

car wont move in drive mode

Getting late from an important meeting? Sat in your car, switched it on and put it in D, and it didn’t even move an inch? We can understand your frustration. As a car owner, it is really a bummer when you look after your car so well and it sometimes gives you weird problems.

Your car’s transmission system is one of the most complex parts, and it is responsible for connecting the engine to the wheels. This maze-like setup of mechanical parts transfers the power generated by the engine to the wheels and if it goes bad, your car won’t function properly.

If you’ve also noticed that your car won’t move in Drive or any automatic transmission gear, there is a probable malfunction in one of the many parts of the gearbox. Unlike the engine, transmission is one of the most neglected parts during maintenance and can lead to such occurrences.

If your car is also suffering from the same problem, you’re exploring the right piece of knowledge as we’re going to share some common reasons behind this issue and how you can prevent it from happening.

Here’s Why Your Car Won’t Move in Drive or Any Other Automatic Transmission

Low Transmission Oil

One of the most potent reasons behind your car not moving in D or any other gear is the lack of automatic transmission oil. Without a lubricant, the moving parts inside the gearbox won’t function properly and your car would get stuck in a static position, despite moving the gear lever.

If the gear oil is low, you’d probably notice a leak and scratching/grinding sounds when trying to accelerate.

Faulty Torque Converter

A torque converter is a complex part that connects the gearbox to the engine and wheels, and if it becomes faulty, your transmission would fail to direct power to the wheels. Though it is a robust part, the torque converter could malfunction if not looked after at all and would prevent your car from moving, no matter in which position you shift the gear lever.

You’d probably get a check engine light if the torque converter is at fault and diagnosis becomes easy.

Problematic Transmission Control Unit

Like ECU, the transmission control unit is the master control of the gearbox and regulates everything that goes on inside the transmission system of a car. If it becomes faulty or gets damaged due to any reason, your car won’t move in Drive or any gear automatic transmission. This problem also gets picked up by the ECU and is shown as a check engine light to warn the driver about an underlying issue.

Bad Valve Body or Shift Solenoid

The transmission valve body has different parts, namely the valves, and solenoids and it ensures that gear oil reaches all the parts of the transmission for optimal functioning.

If the valve body is problematic, your gearbox would keep grinding and probably overheat if not checked and fixed in time. Without a properly working valve body or shift solenoid, your transmission would fail to transfer the engine’s power to the wheels and it won’t move in any gear.

Dirty Gear Oil Filter

The gear oil filter is the regulator of the transmission oil moving through the assembly and gets rid of any contaminants in the oil. If it gets clogged due to poor maintenance and negligence of the owner, the gears would start developing a layer of sludge and debris that impedes normal movement and functioning.

With a clogged transmission oil filter, your car won’t move in D or any gear automatic transmission.

Faulty Gear-Position Sensor

If the sensor located inside the gearbox becomes faulty, it would send the wrong signals to TCU and it would prevent the car from moving. The gears would fail to engage as the wrong signal is being fed to the car’s ECU and it would not move unless the gear position sensor is replaced.

Other Similar Maintenance Problems:
Car leaking oil even when parked?
Car overheats when idling
Car Won’t Accelerate but RPMs Go Up

How to Prevent Automatic Transmission Problems

If you want to enjoy a trouble-free car ownership experience and enhance the lifespan of your beloved vehicle, you must follow these points and ensure the tip-top condition of your car’s automatic transmission.

Always Warm Up – Some people immediately drive away after starting their cars. It is not a good habit as the fluids inside the engine and transmission haven’t circulated through the system properly and it has to be warmed up to a certain temperature for optimal functioning. To make sure your car’s transmission system remains healthy, always wait for 20-30 seconds after switching on your car.

Regularly Check Transmission Oil Level – Just like the engine oil, keeping a check on the gear oil level is also crucial as it is one of the most neglected parts. If you find the oil level to be low, check for any leaks and immediately top up with a matching gear oil grade.

Avoid Abrupt Shifting – Unlike manual gears with a clutch, an automatic transmission works differently and responds to throttle input and RPMs. If you abruptly shift the lever, it could damage the solenoid or valve body. Always top your car before changing the gear and don’t release the brakes instantly.

Regularly Change Gear oil and Filter – Always keep an eye on the viscosity and color of the gear oil and check the transmission oil filter for debris and clogging. Immediately get them replaced if found to be dirty or in non-optimal condition.

Some Other Tips

·         Do not tow any other vehicles or heavy trailers with an auto transmission car, unless it’s a purpose-built truck.

·         Do not keep the car idling in D and always shift to N

·         Shift only after stopping and avoid abrupt changes in lever position

·         Always get the TCU recalibrated at the company dealership, during routine maintenance

Final Thought

Just like the engine, the transmission is also made up of complex mechanical parts that function tirelessly to offer you premium performance and driving pleasure. But unlike the engine, the gearbox doesn’t get the required care and is usually ignored when a car is taken for routine service. If ignored for a long, the transmission would either get damaged or give up completely, making your life as a car owner, hell!

So keep a regular check on your car’s transmission system and if come across any warning signs or problems, get them diagnosed and fixed immediately.