Car Transmissions

Reasons Manual Transmission Wont Go Into Gear When Running And What To Do?

Mike Cross
Updated October 17, 2020

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 to 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 Wont 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 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 broke. If the wire is not broke, 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.

Using best bluetooth obd2 scanner to check your car is the best way to check bad transmission.

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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