Car Transmissions

Why Manual Transmission Won't Go Into Gear When Running And What To Do?

Mike Cross
Updated Feb 8, 2022
Reasons Manual Transmission Wont Go Into Gear When Running And What To Do

Have you ever been faced with a situation where your manual vehicle wouldn't go into gear with the engine running?

Well, this can be a frustrating position to be in if you are ever faced with it. A car won't go anywhere in the park. In order to drive you have to shift it into first gear, but what if it won't go into first gear.

Well, there are a few things that can be going on, and after reading this, you will learn what those are. We will also provide some solutions for the common problems.

Reasons Manual Transmission Wont Go Into Gear When Running And What To Do
Reasons Manual Transmission Won't Go Into Gear When Running And What To Do

Reasons Manual Transmission Wont Go Into Gear

Before going into detail we will list out the main reasons, and if you think your issue is being caused by one of those, then you can jump straight to that section. If you don't know what is going on though, then you can just read through all the potential problems.

The common reasons why a manual transmission won't go into gear while driving is:

  • Parked on Incline
  • Clutch Problems
  • Low Fluids
  • Bad Transmission


1. Parked on Incline

Parked on Incline
Parked on Incline

The first thing that is pretty common to cause your car not to be able to go into gear while running is being parked on an incline.

If you are parked on a hill, especially a steep one, then the car might not be able to go into gear because there is too much pressure on the park pawl. This pressure can cause it so it can't move out of the way when you try to put it in gear.

Some pressure is good and needed though because that is what keeps your car from rolling down the hill while parked.

This problem is pretty easy to fix though if it is a problem you are having. All you have to do is roll the car a little. You shouldn't have to move it much to get the park pawl to loosen up. Then you can put your car into gear like normal and be able to go about your day.

When moving the car, you can turn it off and sometimes you might be able to put it in gear with it off. If that is the case, then it will be even easier to roll your car a little to remove the pressure on the park pawl. If you are parked on a hill, then this is the first thing you should try.

2. Clutch Problems

The next thing that is the most common reason why a manual won't go into gear while running is issues with the clutch.

The clutch is the pedal on the floor that you have to press to shift. When you press it, it loosens the pressure plate and clutch disk. Then these move out of the way it allows the new gear to drop into place when shifting. If these are stuck or won't move, then you won't be able to put your car into gear.

The first thing that could cause the plate or disk not to move is if your clutch became disconnected. If the clutch wire broke, then it will not send the signal to the disk to move.

You can get under the car to check if that is the problem and if it is, then you need a new clutch wire. Before getting under the car though, you can probably use feel to see if that is the problem. When you push the clutch to peddle in, if there is little or no resistance, then that is probably because the wire is broken.

If the wire is not broken, then the clutch disk or pressure plate might just be worn out. The only way to know if they are worn out though is by dismantling the system and checking them.

Another thing that you can do though before dismantling is making sure you have enough transmission fluid and also the right type. Also, if you have resent flushed the fluid, then that might be why the plates aren't moving.

The fluid gets pieces of metal in it over time, and sometimes it is these pieces of metal that are making contact with the plat to get it to move. If that is the problem, then things will need to be replaced. If the fluid is low though, then topping it off can help give it the fluid it needs to lubricate the pressure plate or clutch disk to help it move.

One way to narrow down if it is the clutch or something else is to use your ears when trying to shift. If you don't hear anything when trying to put it in gear, then odds are it is the clutch and not a different problem. Also, if you can put it in gear when off, but not on, then it is probably a clutch issue.

3. Low Fluids

Low Fluids
Low Fluids

We have already touched on low fluids, but we will briefly explain here why the fluids are so important, and why it is so important to use the right ones.

The transmission fluid is responsible for lubricating the system and keeping heat from building up which can cause damage. If the fluid is low, then there may not be enough lubrication to allow things to shift. This is the least of your problems though.

The big issues come about when it is low, and heat builds up causing the gears to get damaged. If the gears expand and contract too much from heat, then they can crack, or teeth can break. Not enough lubrication can cause them to break as well though because you have metal rubbing against metal.

To minimize the metal on metal rubbing, you need to keep your fluids full. Also, you need to make sure you are using the right transmission fluid for your transmission. Some are thicker than others and handles heat differently. If you use the wrong type, then it might not be dissipating the heat right, or it might be too thick for the gears to move properly in.

4. Bad Transmission

Bad Transmission
Bad Transmission

The last reason why your car may not go into gear when running is the transmission itself could be damaged or bad.

The best way to determine if that is the case is to use your ears when trying to shift. If you hear grinding when trying to shift and you know the fluids are right, then odds are the gears in the transmission are damaged.

If the gears are damaged, then they won't lock into place right to put them into gear. If this is the case, then the only way to fix it is to have the transmission rebuilt. When you have the transmission rebuilt it might be one or two gears that need to be replaced, or it might be the whole thing. You don't know though until you get in their and tear it apart.

The best way to determine if the transmission needs to be rebuilt outside of using your ears is by trying to put the car into gear with the car off. If the car will not go into gear even when the car is off, then it is most likely a damaged transmission.


So as you can see, there are only a few things that can lead to a transmission not going into gear when running. If could be you are parked on too steep a hill, or it could be a fluid issue. These two are easy to fix.

The bigger ones that cost more to fix are if the clutch is bad or the pressure plate or clutch disk is bad. The worst of all though is if the transmission itself is bad. If that is the case, then it will need to be rebuilt. After reading this though you should be able to narrow down the problem you are having if your car won't go into gear when running and have an idea of where to start to fix the problem.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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10 comments on “Why Manual Transmission Won't Go Into Gear When Running And What To Do?”

  1. Hi, my name is Hector and recently put my car in first while going in high speeds. I put the gear in first thinking it was third gear. Then put it in the right gear, but later traffic started getting heavy and when I came into a complete stop it turned off while the clutch was all the way down. It turns on just doesn’t go into gears no more. Any ideas?

  2. My daughter's 2004 Acura TSX runs and sounds great. Recently, it revs up in 2nd and 3rd gear (6 speed manual) and doesn't pick up speed. Now, it goes into gear, but isn't moving. Help!


    1. The problem here is your clutch disc as I have the same problem before. Buy a new clutch disc and get a mechanic to install the new one.

  3. i checked my car gears shift with no problem while the car is off. its only when the car is on driving that the gears are hard to get into place /does that sound like transmission or clutch its a 6 speed manual thanks for any reply so when i take to be diagnostic i will close notes to what what they say, i am a woman so i don/t want some one tricking me please reply someone

  4. I have a honda accord that when you are driving the gear will go out but if u turn it off an start it back up its fine again for a few miles what is the problem do u think

  5. I have a 1956 Chevy bel air. Recently, my brother in law came over to help install an ignition switch. That was successful, but in the process, he was leaning against the 4 speed shift lever, and now I can’t get the car in any gear. Can you help me figure this out?

  6. I just changed my throw out bearing in my 2000 for mustang 3.8 it shifts fine when off I turn the car on won't go in gear. If, I start it in first it cranks up while it starts to go. I showed of checked the pressure plate but was in a yank didn't think it would be a problem was shifting fine before the throwout bearing went bad.

  7. I have a Bmw 1er 118D, recently I have changed a new clutch set, and changed the gearbox oil, the car goes in 1st,2nd and reverse a little bit harder than before, from parked position when engine is running. When you shut down the engine it goes fine, should I check/replace the master/slave clutch cylinders?

  8. My car is manual transmission and it was driving good when I left the house. After a a few minutes of driving, I noticed the difficulty of changing gears. I was able to cover a few more miles until I can't hardly shift to any gear. For me to be able to get home, I have to turn off the engine and put the shift to first gear and just drove slowly on the road (about 15 miles). I noticed while driving it back home that I can shift at times (not always) all the way up to the fourth gear. But when I get to a complete traffic stop I couldn't get it back to any gear so I switch off the car, change to first gear and start over. Now I notice that even with engine off, changing to first to first gear is kind of difficult. I suspect I may have damage the transmission when driving at low gear for an extended time (speed at 20 miles/hr). Any ideas please?

  9. I have a 2015 jeep patriot with a manual transmission t355. Just had new transmission, throw out bearing,clutch,put in. It drove fine for about 10 minutes then it just wouldn't go into gear. Now it will only go in gear when the car is off and parking brake is off. WTF is going on. Please any advice or info would be greatly appreciated.

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