What Causes Hard Shifting? Understanding & Maintaining Your Transmission

cause of hard shifting

Transmission problems have earned the reputation of being one of the most expensive car repairs that a driver can encounter, so if you experience what’s commonly called a “hard shift,” you might begin to worry that you’re in for a costly trip to the mechanic. Furthermore, transmission problems typically leave a vehicle immobile until repaired, which might require a tow depending on where the transmission broke down.

Don’t worry yet—your situation might not be as bad as all that.

First, let’s define what a hard shift in this context is actually like when you’re driving, so as to help differentiate the experience from other possible problems. A hard shift feels a bit like the transmission is “slamming” into gear. The car may feel as though it stutters and you may hear a fairly loud clunking sound. For many drivers, this is most noticeable during the shift between first and second gear.

It should be noted that hard shifting doesn’t necessarily mean difficult shifting, as you might experience with a manual transmission. The issues we’re discussing today tend to occur on vehicles with automatic transmissions. If you’re experiencing any problems with your manual transmission vehicle, make sure to take a look at our post Everything You Need to Know About Your Manual Transmission.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the causes of hard shifting. Then we’ll explain how to prevent hard shifting and other transmission problems, like slipping or chattering. Finally, we’ll tell you how to find a local mechanic with BG Certification so that you can know you’re getting the best possible service.

Let’s begin:

The Most Common Causes of Hard Shifting

We’ll go ahead and say this first: if you suspect that you’re having transmission-related problems, the best thing you can do is to take your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible—like most maintenance issues, if left unchecked, a transmission problem can ultimately cause more damage to the other engine components and end up costing a lot more unnecessarily.

The number one must common cause of hard shifting is a problem with the transmission fluid. Either not enough of it, or old, used-up transmission fluid needing to be replaced. Without enough fluid, the transmission won’t be lubricated. The same goes for old fluid. A lack of lubrication will almost always cause hard shifts, so have your transmission fluid checked by a professional. If you check it yourself, remember that it should be a transparent red color. Discolored, dark transmission fluid should be replaced.

In modern vehicles, another often-unsuspected but surprisingly common cause for hard shifting is a sensor malfunction. As you may know, cars and trucks made in recent years have a large number of sensors installed, each of which is responsible for doing things ranging from detecting temperatures in various parts of the engine to—you guessed it—telling the vehicle when it’s time to shift.

Oftentimes, the sensor responsible for hard shifting is the speed sensor, which monitors how fast or slow your vehicle is going. This information is necessary to tell the transmission when it’s time to shift, so if the sensor is reporting incorrect data, the times that your vehicle shifts will, at the very least, feel “off.” Eventually, this can lead to hard shifts. The good news is that a sensor adjustment or replacement is a substantially cheaper repair than anything to do with the transmission itself, though if left unchecked the hard shifts might lead to further damage. As with all things transmission it’s a good idea to have this problem resolved quickly.

Other causes of hard shifting are less common, but can still occur, such as clogged vacuum lines, transmission fluid leakage, faulty shifter cables, or a worn out clutch.

Read on to learn more about how to maintain your automatic transmission and prevent hard shifting.

how to prevent hard shifting

How to Prevent Your Automatic Transmission From Hard Shifting

If you’re experiencing hard shifts, slips, or chattering from your transmission, or you just want the best protection for your vehicle possible, look no further.

The BG Transmission Service is the best preventative maintenance you can get. This service helps you avoid costly repairs by dissolving deposits. In addition to flushing your old transmission fluid, the BG products used in this service can even remove suspended or “stuck” deposits in the transmission.

Finally, instead of just adding new transmission fluid, the BG Transmission Service goes the extra mile and fortifies your transmission with seal conditioners, oxidation inhibitors, and shift improvers—all specially designed products to ensure that your vehicle stays on the road.

After the service is complete, drivers can enjoy restored performance and extended lifespan for their transmission. Thanks to the special additives your transmission receives during the service, it will be far less likely to accrue deposits than it would normally.

transmission maintenance tips

How to Find Your Local BG Certified Repair Shop

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, a service advisor at your local BG certified auto shop can show you exactly what you need to do in order to keep your car in the best working condition. Please feel free to use the BG Locator to find your local BG certified mechanic.

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