My Car Won't Go Into Neutral

by Naoma Serna
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When your car shifter seems stuck and will not move to any gear from neutral, you may have problems with the transmission, the shifter or clutch (for manual transmissions). Before panicking and calling a tow truck you can troubleshoot the issue to see if you can get it to shift. However, after experiencing this problem, if the problem was not caused by low level transmission fluid, you should take the vehicle to a mechanic even if you do get it moving.

Automatic Transmission

Step 1

Put your hand brake on so if the car moves while you are working, it won't back into anything or run over you.

Step 2

Pull the latch that pops the hood and turn off the car. Go to the front of the car and open the hood. Pull out the transmission dipstick. Refer to your operator's manual if you are unsure of where this is. Clean the dipstick and reinsert it. Pull it again to check the transmission fluid level. If the level is low add transmission fluid and check the dipstick level again.

Step 3

Smell the dipstick as you are pulling it out. If it smells burnt or has a brownish color, this indicates that the fluid is burnt and cant lubricate the transmission. Take the car to a mechanic to have the fluid changed, but it may be too late and you may need transmission repair work done.

Step 4

Re-enter the car, place your right foot on the brake, turn on the car and try to shift to "Drive" or reverse. Many cars have a safety feature that will not allow you to shift, if the brake is not depressed.

Step 5

Call a mechanic if none of these solutions worked for a vehicle that is an automatic.

Manual Transmission

Step 1

Turn off the care and while pressing slightly on the brake, press down hard on the clutch with your left foot. Press the clutch in as far as you can. Move the shifter into first or second gear with your right hand. Press the brake pad with your right foot and turn on the car. Accelerate to see if the car will move. You may only be able to use it in one gear, so you will need to take it to the repair shop. The ability to engage a gear with the car turned off is an indication of a bad clutch disk.

Step 2

Clean the area around the shifter of dust and dirt. Get as much as you can out from between the brushes and rubber panels. Blow air into the area with a compressor or use compressed air. Dirt and sticky substances can prevent you from moving the shifter.

Step 3

Remove the plastics from around the shifter by unfastening the screws. Look into the hole to see if anything is obstructing the shifter. Look to see if the shifter has has moved from it's position. If this is the case call a mechanic to have it picked up and repaired.

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