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Why Is Your Car Difficult to Reverse? Here Are 6 Possible Reasons

A car’s transmission plays a vital role in its functions. Its gears allow the car to speed up, as well as go in reverse. It’s a complex piece of machinery, and quite expensive to diagnose and repair. When your car has a hard time going into reverse, the damage could be internal. However, before taking your car to the shop, you can troubleshoot these six possible causes.

1. Low or no transmission fluid (manual and automatic)

First and foremost, check your transmission fluid levels. Very often, low or no fluid can lead to a poor-functioning transmission and cause all kinds of performance issues, including the inability to shift in reverse. If levels are low or empty, top up your fluid to the recommended amount.

2. Contaminated transmission fluid (manual and automatic)

While checking your transmission fluid level, look at the condition of the fluid. Is it thick, with many solid particles? When you have contaminated transmission fluid, hardened particles can get stuck in the discs, which can prevent the reverse gear from kicking in. Check your owner’s manual on how to drain and replace the fluid in your transmission system. While you’re at it, make sure to change the filter as well.

3. Missing teeth on reverse gear (manual)

This is a common problem in manual transmissions that have been abused by beginner drivers. When you have a missing teeth problem in your reverse gear, you will often hear loud clicking or clunking noises as you attempt to reverse shift. The only solution to this problem is to have your reverse gear replaced.

4. Defective transmission position sensor (automatic)

Automatic transmissions have an electronic sensor that commands the powertrain control module when to shift the transmission in reverse. If this sensor is faulty, you’ll see a check engine light or error code appear on your dash.

5. Problem in the shifter assembly (manual)

A manual transmission’s shifter linkage or cables can get worn over time. They could also get bent or broken when they hit a rock or some other obstacle on the road. Get underneath your vehicle and check these parts when you’re having trouble shifting in reverse. Hopefully, the shifter bushings are your only problem, as these are easy and inexpensive to replace.

6. Deteriorated valve body (automatic)

The valve body of an automatic transmission system is a maze-like metal component that sends hydraulic fluid to the valves. When this metal component is heavily worn out, you’ll experience delayed reverse shifting or no effect at all even when the reverse is already in gear.

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