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How to Fix When Automatic Transmission Won’t Shift into 3rd Gear

A transmission is a complex piece of machinery the runs of lots of complicated mechanisms. Upkeep and maintenance of these machines are tricky since the glitch with a tiny component can mess up with the gearbox. Such a problem is automatic transmission won’t shift into 3rd gear.

The Signs of Automatic Transmission Won’t Shift into 3rd Gear

The problem could occur in a couple of forms such as:

  • The transmission shifts into the first and then to second gear but does not move into the third gear. It seems that the gear slips into neutral when you push it to the third.
  • Another instance could be the automatic transmission won’t shift into 3rd gear at all. It smoothly glides between the first and second and vice versa, but it just stays in second when you try to push it to the third. In that case, the catalytic converter can touch the side of the valve body area, overheating the transmission and creating metal shavings in the pan.
automatic transmission
Take immediate action when facing problems with shifting gears. Source: DriveSpark

Things to Do When Automatic Transmission Won’t Shift into 3rd Gear

Functional auto gearbox will shift up, down, and rest upon appropriate commands. But, when it fails to do so, there must be an internal hitch affecting the performance. If you ignore the signs for too long, it could lead to a possible failure of the transmission.

Let’s see what could be the reasons for the auto gearbox not to shift from second gear to the third.

Low Level of Fluid

Overheating could be a reason for the gear to stick and the low fluid level is the culprit for making the transmission overheated. Actually, low fluid levels are the source of several transmission-related issues. So, your first response to the gear-sticking problem should be to check the transmission oil.

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If the level is low, check for a leak in the input and output shaft seal, fluid lines, pan gasket, and the cooler. If there is no leak, flush out the old oil and refill the container. Also, don’t forget to look into the radiator for checking the coolant fluid. Sometimes, the cooler inside the radiator can leak and spoil the radiator coolant.

Check the Throttle Cables

Changing the fluid solves plenty of transmission issues but if the problem of automatic transmission won’t shift into 3rd gear persists, the parts you should check are the throttle cables. A defective cable with excessive slack is likely to create issues with smooth shifting of the gears. It may also totally stall the shifting.

Examine the PCM

automatic transmission wont shift into 3rd gear
A defective PCM could be the reason too. Source: AutoYas

A faulty PCM (powertrain control module) will affect the transmission performance because it controls the gearbox mechanism in most car models. The PCM will have no input if the speed sensor fails. In that case, the transmission will not shift properly. To solve this problem, you have to check the speedometer to see that it is functioning. Otherwise, replacing the VSS could be the solution.

  1. Cynthia A Castro says

    I had my transmission replace twice and it still not catching 3 gear is there something else causing this problem that may have nothing to do with the transmission I have a 94 Dodge caravan

    1. greg says

      @cynthia check your throttle cable length and your tcm. start with those 2 since u have replaced it twice. after that, have the electrical harness checked leading to the trans.

  2. samir says

    i have mazda mpv 2000 ,transmission problem
    when changing gear from 1 to 2 the gear box has a very hard shake (junks) shaking the whole car, kindly advise i ive in tanzania

    1. braden barone says

      motor and transmission mounts are bad.

  3. Carl L Hayes says

    I have a 2005 tahoe and I started having this problem on Friday. What should I check first.

  4. Forster says

    I use a GMC terrain 2010 model and it finds it difficult to change into third especially in the morning when you move, unless you cover some distance then off the engine for about 10sec and on it again then it now changes smoothly all the gears

  5. Sean Stevens says

    I did not see in the article where the transmission might just be junk if it does not shift past 2nd.
    Is this because that wouldn’t be a cause? If first and second work fine then, the cause of it not upshifting past second should be something other than a broken trans. Auto transmissions are black magic to me. I hear they are simple…but have yet to see that side of them.

    1. Dan says

      The article explains the most common and cheaper things to try before spending $1500 to $3000 on a transmission. And yes they are kinda simple. The main thing is to do a fluid and filter change( if it has a filter) regularly and make sure fluid levels are good all the time. A neglected trans can become a junk trans quickly

      1. Rocky says

        I have a 1997 Honda Civic with A continuous drive transmission sluggish as first take off but drives fine should I change the oil and filter

  6. M Aalam says

    I have GMC Acadia, 2010. It doesn’t shift into 3rd or 4th gear all the time. Sometimes it works fine but, on occasion, it seems to stick in 3rd or 4th. I have tried manually shifting down then up but it still stays in 3rd or 4th. The fluid is full and looks/smells OK. I recently changed fluid. The problem happens in between 40km/h to 60km/h speed, and then if I press accelerator hard then RPM is moving up but speeding is very slow and huge sound as gear not shifting as per desired.
    At that point if I stop the car and moving gear lever from Parking to Drive, the problem goes out and it looks okay for the day.

    What could be the issue, and how can i get rid off this problem.

    1. cebo says

      did yo solveit what was the problem?

      1. M Aalam says

        No, still i couldn’t find any soloution@Cebo

  7. Roderick Lungu says

    Am Rodrick,I have a problem with transmission not upshifting into 3rd and 4th gears,what could be the problem(Toyota Allison)

  8. Cortez says

    I have my 2004 Silverado 4×4. In 2 wheel drive it runs fine off the line then seems like it kicks into neutral after 2nd gear instead of continuing through the grears with acceleration. I have checked the fuses, the power supply and fluids. Before dropping my transmission to check internal condition what else can I troubleshoot?

  9. John Shearin says

    Hello, My 2009 Nissan Versa Base with auto transmission (NOT CVT) will shift from 1st to 2nd then slip never changing into third. If I put it in D2 it will shift from 1st to 2nd and hold 2nd and never slip at any speed. Has 139000 issue free miles till this point. Trans fluid was replaced (Madic D) along with shift solenoids and tranny looks like new on the inside with no burnt fluid and no burnt smells. Any suggestions would be most appreciated. Thank you for your time and have a great day.

    1. Obaro says

      I have the same problem and have not found a solution. Its a Europe 2007 rav4. It changes 1st and 2nd gear fine but never changes into 3rd gear and above, what you will notice is the engine speed going higher as you accelerate but the gear will never change. please I need a solution. There is also no trouble code

  10. Cushla says

    Hi I have a Nissan mistral diesel turbo auto it won’t go in to 3rd on dash the light flashs 16 times then wot do I do please

  11. Martin says

    Hi, I have a 2001 Nissan xtrail it is starting to take long to change into top gear.

  12. Chet says

    I have a Chrysler Sebring 2004 2.7 Liter I have replaced the shift solenoid but my car still won’t shift past 2nd gear I have checked the fluid levels and they are good pink Color not burnt can anyone offer advice .

  13. James Harris says

    I have a 2002 Oldsmobile Bravado it slips in third and drive. Will take off in all gears fluid level is full.

  14. Hamid kc says

    I have corolla 2010 , I changed the oil and filter of auto transmission after 20 minute the transmission
    Will not shift to 4th gear. At higher speeds (50 mph+), the tach would read 5000rpm and not shift to 4th.

    1. Lynne Murphy says

      Same here – same car, same problem.
      Was running fine until I gave to mechanic for servicing.
      Now does exactly as you described.
      Fluid levels are good.
      Took car back to mechanic twice, still not fixed.

    2. James Morris says

      I have the same problem, did you figure it out?

  15. Precious says

    Hi, please I will appreciate your advice, I have Mercedes Benz A- class 160 model 2003. I just changed complete set of engine and gearbox but the car won’t load or select gear. What might be the cause?

  16. manie kriel says

    my gearbox shift from 1st to 2nd and then to 3rd and stays there. I have a1980 ford Cortina. I want to know it is suppose to shift to 4th and if why not.

  17. Sandra Garza says

    My 2001 dodge ram 1500 5.9 won’t shift out 30 mph rpms rev up right after I remove the gas pedal it sometimes you feel it catch gear and drives great in higher gears I cleaned catylic converter and changed speed sensor it still

  18. Joseph Mabos says

    I have an automatic Opel vita car, when moving the gear shift from one then to three immediately the service light comes up, I have done several servicing including changing of the transmission oil, pls assist me, what can I do?

  19. Jimmy says

    I had this problem with my hino truck and finally it was resolved by changing the brake sensor.

  20. Chrissy says

    I have a Ford Focus 2007 it’s a automatic plus gears I cant move it out or park it’s stuck what would be the problem it’s only done sixty five thousand ks

    1. Gregg says

      Broken Pin. Common of the Ford. I have a video on my youtube.

      1. DT says

        you have 250 videos….which one is it??

  21. Wachira says

    Hi, my nissan march 2004 would not shift into gear 3 , i changed the transmission fluid , and throttle was checked but it did not improve, i changed some sensors but nothing changed but luckily about two days ago the windows got stuck and the parking lights went out..after fixing the wiring problem the gear bounced back to normal immediately, is it possible that the car had some wiring that was affecting the transmission or am just Lucky

  22. Zakes says

    I have a BMW e36 328i 1996 model with automatic transmission the problem is that it is stuck on the fourth gear the transmission oil is full but the light for the transmission oil is on on the dashboard what could be the problem

  23. Barry gud2knw says

    People use wrong atf that mostly causes the gearbox to fail to shift from one gear to another let us be particular on the type specified in the manual book from the manufacturer

  24. Ashik ali says

    Toyota AQUA ENGINE RISES AS IF gear not changing

  25. Joshua T. Roach says

    I have a 94 Ford Mustang with the 3.8L V6. It is stuck in drive now. It will not shift to any of the lower gears, which is weird because it was stuck in 2nd, until I took the water pump off and flushed the engine. (It was running hot) of course that’s a whole discussion. Any ideas as to what I should check/change other than fluid level and new filter?

  26. helalia says

    I have a Nissan tiida 2010 it have these issues of not shifting to gear first the mechanic said it was a cvt that was broken, we replaced it but the same things happen. I replace all most everything from but still the same issue. Could this be maybe electrical shock?

  27. Justin says

    I have a 2001 Honda Civic. 3rd and 4th gear don’t work. 2nd gear works. Do I need to replace my transmission?

  28. transport compovine says

    i have toyota Avensis 2005 and the transmission wont shift from the 2nd gear to the 3rd gear i have change the transmission oil ans filter and it still wont shift and i scan it today i got the code C1330 which is right wheel speed sensor can this be the reason why the gear wouldst shift?

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