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A car that is shifting hard can be very unpleasant to drive. Regardless of whether it is an automatic or a manual, a transmission that is not shifting correctly can cause serious problems out on the road and under the hood.
A car that refuses to shift or go into gear easily is trying to tell you something is wrong and in most cases the culprit is the clutch or transmission. Transmissions are very complicated and have many moving parts, ignoring a hard to shift issue can quickly spiral into a very expensive transmission repair.
Automatic transmissions use a planetary system of gears that transfers power using different gear ratios. A planetary gear set has a central gear, known as the sun gear, an outer ring that has internal gear teeth which is called the ring gear and two or three other gears which are called planet gears and allow the gear ratio to change as the vehicle accelerates.
The vehicle drive train is coupled to a torque converter that acts like a clutch between the transmission and drivetrain. The transmission changes gears as the vehicle accelerates or slows downs.
In a manual transmission, a flywheel is attached to the engine crankshaft and spins with it. A clutch disk is located between the pressure plate and the flywheel, which is held against the flywheel due to pressure from the pressure plate. When the clutch is engaged the flywheel spins the clutch plate and the transmission, moving the car. When the clutch is depressed, the pressure plate stops applying pressure to the clutch disk allowing the gear to be changed without damaging the transmission.
Most modern cars with a manual transmission have 5 or 6 gears.
Transmission Fluid Leak: Transmissions are a sealed system so leaking fluid indicates a serious problem. Leaks can occur in the pan gasket as well as other areas of the transmission. Transmission fluid is bright red or brown, as it gets older. If there is fluid under the car it should be inspected immediately. Transmission fluid is essential for the proper operation of the transmission and low fluid levels due to a leak can cause the transmission to basically self-destruct, which will result in a very expensive repair.
Failing Transmission Solenoids: Transmission Solenoids control the flow of transmission fluid around the transmission. Trouble shifting is a common indicator that the solenoids are failing.
Dirty or Contaminated Transmission Fluid: Transmission fluid gets dirty and contaminated over time and must be replaced. Difficulty in shifting can indicate that it is time to change the fluid. Transmission fluid should be flushed and replace roughly every 100,000 miles.
Failing Transmission: Over time, especially as a vehicle goes over the 100,000 mile mark, parts and gears inside the transmission simply wear out. This process can be dramatically accelerated if the car is driven with low levels of transmission fluid. The transmission will have to be rebuilt or replaced which is a very expensive repair. Symptoms of a failing transmission include hard shifting, humming, clunking or grinding.
Bad Shifter Cable: Some vehicles use a cable to link the shifter handle to the transmission. Typically an automatic transmission will have one cable while a manual transmission will have two. Over time the cable can stretch or break. A stretched cable can make the vehicle hard to shift into gear and the indictor needle may not line up with the gear the vehicle is actually in.
Worn Out Clutch: Over time a clutch will wear out. The lifespan of a clutch can vary depending on the how the car is driven. Symptoms of a failing clutch not only include hard shifting but also a spongy feel to the clutch and a possible burning smell.
A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to determine the source and cause of the Car is hard to shift issue, and will then provide a detailed inspection report that includes the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.
A mechanic will inspect your car's transmission and other important components. This will include your transmission fluid for leaks and contamination, failing solenoids, shifter cable and clutch. This will allow your mechanic to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your hard shifting transmission.
Transmission repairs can range from a simple and inexpensive adjustment to a major rebuild that can be very expensive. A car that is hard to shift is signaling that something is malfunctioning in the transmission or clutch and ignoring the problem will most likely lead to further damage, which can dramatically increase the cost of the repair.