Cadillac Transmission Shift Problems

by Rob Wagner
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Image by, courtesy of Mike

Cadillac has enjoyed a good reputation for producing quality luxury automobiles with few signficiant shifting problems with its automatic transmissions. Cadillac's transmissions are produced by its parent company, General Motors, which supplies automatics and manual transmissions to the rest of its automotive lineup. Many Chevrolet and GMC vehicles are equipped with transmissions identical to those in Cadillacs.


Cadillacs are variously powered by Hydramatic four-, five- and six-speed automatic transmissions with only a handful equipped with the six-speed Tremec TR-6060 manual. The latest Cadillacs feature GM's 6L90 six-speed automatic or the 5L40/5L50 five-speeds. Models from the 1980s and 1990s featured the 4T60 and 4T80 automatics.

Hard Shift

Mid-1990s Cadillacs may experience illuminated "service engine" and "service transmission" lights at highway speeds with hard shifting. The problem may come and go, but the onboard computer will initiate a backup program to maintain the transmission's performance if the problem is not addressed. The transmission also may become increasingly difficult to shift. Only an authorized Cadillac dealer can diagnose the cause, according to

No Dipstick

Cadillacs equipped with the 5L40 or 5L50-E five-speed automatic, such as the Catera, feature no transmission dipstick because transmission shifting problems and failures are often caused by over-filling or using the wrong fluid, according to To check the fluid, the owner must warm up the car and park it on a level surface and then all four wheels must be raised. Once raised, the fill plug is removed and a small amount of fluid will trickle out. If the fluid is flush at the bottom of the side plug hole, it's at a proper level.

No Gasket

If a Cadillac doesn't go into gear when the transmission fluid is cold following a transmission filter change, it probably means the gasket or filter "O" ring was not installed properly. It could also mean the wrong filter was installed, according to

Shift Without Key

The 1995 Cadillac Fleetwoods have tendency to shift from Park with the ignition key removed, which may cause the car to roll away. General Motors issued a recall notice for 83,400 Fleetwoods to properly adjust the transmission shift control linkage to solve the problem.


Some Cadillac Concours Devilles have a "check engine" illuminated light that shows a torque and converter clutch error. This is likely due to a faulty torque converter clutch solenoid. The solenoid is difficult to replace and installation should be performed by a Cadillac mechanic.


According to, more than 17,000 2004 Cadillac SRX models were recalled by GM because the transmission can be shifted out of Park without the brake pedal depressed and with the ignition turned off. The vehicle could roll away. Replacing the pawl stopper and bushing in the shifter assembly will solve the problem.

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