Why Is It So Hard to Shift Into First Gear Unless at A Dead Stop?

After fully practicing the automotive and gear-changing skills, you must have noticed that it’s quite hard to shift into first gear. Well, what you experience is by design and work that needs to be performed by the synchronizer in the transmission process.

To understand it better and avoid damaging the car’s transmission system, let’s delve deeper into the workings of it.

Why Is It Hard to Shift Into First Gear?

Usually, in a manual transmission, the first gear is only used for starting the vehicle. This is because the first gear is unsynchronized and the ratio difference between the first and second gear is too large. What does “ratio” mean here? Well, before that let’s understand the concept of “synchronization.”

It is actually the process of shifting directly from one gear to another by pressing the clutch pedal. However, if the gears are not synchronized, the process will make it difficult to shift gears. Now, turning to the concept of the ratio in transmission, let’s consider an example. In an advanced car, the first gear’s ratio is 3.6:1. This means the gear completes one rotation on every 3.6 rotation of the crankshaft. Similarly, for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gear, the set ratio is 2.1:1, 1.4:1, 1:1, 0.8:1, and 0.7:1, respectively.

With this defined ratio, you can observe that the difference between the gear ratio gets smaller as you go for the higher gears. In other words, it’s easy to shift into a new higher gear, as they are able to match up the engine speed every time you change it.

You can simply understand, there are several reasons which could make it hard to put into first gear: 

  • Clutch issues

A worn-out clutch, faulty clutch master, or air in the hydraulic system can be the culprit which makes the clutch pedal lose its function. And that is also the reason why you have trouble when shifting into first gear. Sometimes the cause can come from the clutch fluid. If you detect the clutch fluid is run out, you should fill it up timely to avoid clutch wear and tear due to the lack of clutch fluid. 

  • Shifter problem

When you check and detect if the shifter linkage is damaged or worn, it can be another reason why it is so hard to shift into first gear. Other than that, the shifter may not be aligned properly with the gears which could make it hard to engage them. 

  • Low transmission fluid 

Another familiar cause is the low transmission fluid, this problem always causes drivers to shift including the first gear. The reason is due to the leakage in the transmission system or you forgot to fill the transmission fluid as the recommendation from automakers.

  • Having trouble with synchronizer problem

If your car uses a manual transmission, you will easily experience this problem. A manual transmission uses the synchronizer to match the speed of the gear before they engage. Over time, the synchronizer can be worn out and damaged, and the vehicle will have trouble shifting in first gear. 

It’s not easy for you to diagnose exactly the reasons why this issue is happening so let a trusted mechanic help you and have the necessary repair. 

4-Speed Manual Transmission:

Hard to shift into first gear problems
Issues of hard to shift into first gear (Photo: pinterest.com)

As you know, the ratio difference between 1st and 2nd gear is too large. Therefore, initially, the input shaft has to spin a little higher in a minute when you move into 1st gear. Similarly, you can encounter the same level of difficulty when trying to down-shift the gear.

So, if you really wish to overcome this issue of hard to shift into first gear, look for the possible solution ahead.

Hard to Shift into First Gear: Solution

The ultimate solution to downshift the gear from second to first involves a double-clutching process (as said earlier). In other words, you need to bring the car into neutral directly from the second gear and then, move into the first gear. For better comprehension, look at the systematic procedure below:

  • Press the clutch pedal,
  • Move the shifter from second to neutral,
  • Release the clutch pedal,
  • Again, Press the clutch pedal,
  • Move the shifter from neutral to first now, and
  • Finally, release the clutch pedal.
Solving Hard to shift into first gear problems
How to solve Hard to shift into first gear problems. (Photo: Autoexpress)

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Following this method will avoid any damage to the transmission, as the speed of the engine would be able to match the gear speed. For the drivers of automatic cars, this issue shouldn’t cause any worries. The downshift from second to first gear is performed automatically.

Watch the video to learn more about the process of fixing this problem:

Finally, hope these gear-changing driving tips are helpful in resolving the problem of hard to shift into first gear. And, extend the life of the transmission system in your beloved car.