Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Why is my car dropping out of gear

asked by on

The transmission will shift to neutral, and then slam into gear. This happens more often when the van is on a steep decline, and when it is cold outside. It will sometimes fail to engage, and then only go into gear when the rpms reach 2500 or more. Do I need a new transmission?

A: I have seen this issue before on vehicles w...

I have seen this issue before on vehicles with your same drive train. First I would check the transmission fluid level. Do this by starting the engine, letting it warm up to operating temperature, and with the vehicle in PARK, open your hood and check the transmission fluid level and condition. Pull the dipstick for the transmission and give it a wipe, re-insert the dipstick fully and pull it out again -- this time noting the level. There should be engraved markings on the stick indicating proper fluid level. Once you've determined the level, wipe it off with a white rag. See if the color is dark and if it has a burnt plastic smell. The color should be bright red to pink with a heavy petroleum smell.

If the level is low, have an experienced mechanic inspect your vehicle for any transmission fluid leaks. The transmission cooler lines in your vehicle are notorious for leaking, as is the fluid pan. Look underneath your vehicle for any evidence of transmission fluid. Another thing I have seen often leaks is the transmission cooler, which is integrated into the A/C condenser that sits behind your vehicles grill in front of the radiator. If the cooler is leaking, you will see saturation on the fins of the A/C condenser.

With a low fluid level condition, the pump in the transmission cannot build enough line pressure to get the gears engaged. If the fluid smells burnt and has a dark colored texture, this indicates a transmission clutch failure. If your fluid level is normal both in level and smell, you may have a faulty torque converter. This is the part that transfers power from the engine to the transmission. Another possibility is that the transmission or transmission computer (TCM) has failed, which is less likely.

Have a certified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, inspect your transmission's gear slippage to eliminate any further complications with your vehicle.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Save up to 30%

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Problem with car dying

This is a sign of a failing idle air control valve. This is a unit that is located on or near your intake manifold that monitors the air intake as it is mixed with fuel prior to being injected into...

Q: Engine running rough and light now on.

Yes you could have bad fuel in the system if that is the case. However, you may want to check and make sure your fuel filter is good, and make sure there are no extra leaks in the the air...

Q: Convertible top broken

Hi, can you move the top either direction or is it completely stuck? When you press the button can you hear the motor for the convertible moving at all? If the fluid for the top motor is full and the...

Related articles

How Long Does a Distributor O Ring Last?
The distributor is part of the ignition system in your vehicle and its purpose is to route high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plug. The spark plug then...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...