Reasons Why Your Automatic Transmission Shifts Hard Between Gears

Posted on: 17 September 2021


When you drive your car with a traditional automatic transmission, you expect smooth shifts. Hard shifts, such as from first to second, indicate a problem. While an occasional rough shift is not an issue, frequent ones may indicate a repair need. Read on to learn more about hard shifts in automatic transmissions and what to do about them.

What Is a Hard Shift?

When your automatic transmission is about to move up in gear, your engine's RPM will rise. Then, after gear shifts, the RPM will drop down again. You will feel the change in shifts, but it shouldn't jerk or make any loud noises. When your transmission shifts hard, not only will you feel a distinct jerk, but you may hear a clunk.

Hard shifts may be normal when you downshift. Hard shifts may be normal when you downshift. Downshifting is when you push on the accelerator to quickly speed up the car. You may experience this when you pass another car. At other times, it could indicate something is wrong. Many people notice the problem occurs most when shifting from first to second, though it can also happen in other gears. In addition to a hard shift, some transmissions may also have delayed shifting, also known as gear slipping.

What Causes Hard Shifts?

The most common reason for hard shifts is a lack of transmission fluid. You can easily remedy this if you have a traditional transmission. Leaks also mean you have another problem. Your vehicle should not leak transmission fluid. If it does, then you likely have a leak in the unit. The fluid may also be dirty or contaminated.

You could also have damaged or worn components both externally and internally. Some cars have a vacuum modulator, which helps smooth out shifts. You could also have a problem with sensors that is unable to relay information to your car's computer.

What Repairs Do Cars With Hard Shifts Need?

If you are losing transmission fluid, then have a mechanic check for a leak. You could have internal or external leaks. External leaks, like a leaking pan, are easy to remedy. Internal leaks may or may not be repairable, and they require more extensive work. An external part, like a vacuum modulator, may also be repairable. Broken internal parts may be harder to repair.

While automatic transmissions are generally trouble-free, they are not perfect. One way to extend the life of your automatic transmission is with regular service. Many owners' manuals may claim that their transmissions are maintenance-free. However, talk to a transmission mechanic for further information. If your transmission is already giving your trouble, take it into a transmission shop for repairs.