P0731 code definition
When the automatic transmission in a vehicle cannot shift into first gear, the PCM (powertrain control module) will detect and store a P0731 code, and the Check Engine light will illuminate.
What the P0731 code means
An automatic transmission is designed to detect the driver’s acceleration and deceleration patterns, and to use that information to match the engine’s best torque and power characteristics to select the appropriate gear. The P0731 code occurs when the PCM detects a discrepancy between the speeds of first gear’s input RPM sensor and transmission output RPM sensor. As a result, the vehicle cannot shift into first gear, and it could indicate that the transmission is slipping.
What causes the P0731 code?
A number of scenarios can lead to a P0731 code being detected and stored. These include:
- Insufficient or contaminated transmission fluid
- A defective shift solenoid
- A mechanical problem or blockage within the transmission
- A defective transmission control module (TCM)
- A shorted or open transmission control circuit
What are the symptoms of the P0731 code?
In addition to the Check Engine light coming on, drivers may notice a few other symptoms:
- Inability to start the vehicle in first gear.
- Slipping transmission
- Lack of acceleration
- Decrease in fuel efficiency
- Inefficient or incorrect shifting
How does a mechanic diagnose the P0731 code?
After identifying the P0731 code with an OBD-II scanner, the mechanic will first check the level and quality of the transmission fluid. If the fluid is low, they will add more and retest the system. If the transmission fluid appears dirty or contaminated, and/or it smells burnt, the mechanic will flush the system, change the transmission fluid, clear the code, and retest once more.
They will then move on to inspect and test the transmission for internal mechanical problems, circuit problems, and issues with the shift solenoid. After each repair, they will clear all codes and retest the vehicle to see if the P0731 code appears again.
Common mistakes when diagnosing the P0731 code
The P0731 code is often misdiagnosed as an engine misfiring issue or a problem with the vehicle’s driveline. If the system is not thoroughly inspected and diagnosed, it can also look like an internal transmission problem when it’s actually a much simpler and less expensive issue.
How serious is the P0731 code?
If your transmission is unable to shift into or out of first gear, the vehicle can become inoperable in very short order. Symptoms may worsen as you continue to drive without resolving the P0731 code, and this can lead to dangerous driving situations, such as being unable to accelerate to get out of the way of oncoming traffic.
What repairs can fix the P0731 code?
Some of the most common repairs to resolve a P0731 code include:
- Adding more transmission fluid or changing the transmission fluid.
- Replacing a defective shift solenoid.
- Replacing or reprogramming a defective TCM.
- Replacing wiring and/or connectors for a damaged transmission control circuit.
Additional comments for consideration regarding the P0731 code
A detected P0731 code is a serious issue that should be resolved as soon as possible, even if the vehicle is still driving relatively normally. Failure to shift into first gear can result in a number of other transmission problems, and if the problem is caused by a slipping transmission, further shifting problems can be expected soon if this one isn’t dealt with.
In addition to making the car unreliable and/or unsafe to drive, a P0731 code will always be accompanied by a Check Engine light. An Illuminated Check Engine light will prevent your vehicle from passing an OBD-II emissions test, so it’s essential that you get the problem resolved before you need to pass an emissions test to renew your vehicle’s registration.
Need help with a P0731 code?
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