Car Won’t Reverse – But Will Go Forward? (5 Solutions)

This article highlights some reasons why your car won’t reverse.

But before we dive into it, first things first?

Why can’t your car reverse?

If something is wrong with your transmission, the first gear that is likely to fail is your reverse.

Several things can affect your reverse gear.

They include low transmission fluid, dirty fluid, or clogged filters. If your hydraulic and mechanical systems don’t work together seamlessly, your reverse will also be affected by this.

You should also check this –> If your car won’t go in reverse OR forward.

Let’s look at some reasons why your car won’t reverse:

1. Broken Teeth on Reverse Gear (Manual or Automatic)

If your car breaks reverse gear teeth, that will automatically prevent your vehicle from moving backward. This problem is common in manual cars.

But it can affect automatic vehicles, too.

Signs that your car has broken teeth in reverse gear:

  • You hear clicking noises when you shift gears.
  • You hear a loud clunk when you try to shift into reverse.
  • Your car can’t go into reverse.


The teeth on reverse may break when new drivers struggle to shift gears properly. But experienced drivers can break teeth on the reverse as well.

Especially if they are not gentle when they shift gears.

This may also cause your car to get stuck in reverse.


The best way to solve this problem is by pulling out the entire transmission and replacing the reverse broken teeth.

Don’t try to do this on your own.

Or even allow an inexperienced mechanic to replace them. We recommend you contact only a qualified mechanic.

The cost of replacing reverse broken teeth is around $300.

2. Faulty Lockout Ring (Manual)

Your car may not reverse because of a faulty lockout ring. The purpose of a lockout ring is to prevent you from shifting your car into reverse by accident.

If something like that happens, it will destroy the entire transmission.

So if the lockout ring of the car is damaged or misaligned, it will prevent you from shifting into reverse.

Signs that your car has a faulty lockout ring:

  • You hear grinding noise when you try to reverse.
  • You smell a burning odor from your transmission.
  • Your car can’t go into reverse at all
  • Your vehicle keeps on popping out of gear into neutral.
  • When you step on the throttle, your car pops out of gear.
  • Once you get your vehicle into reverse, you can’t get it to another gear.


The only way to fix this problem is to replace a faulty lockout ring.

However, consider pulling it out and rebuilding it if the defective lockout ring is misaligned.

3. Bad Automatic Transmission Fluid

Another possible reason your car won’t come out of gear is the wrong automatic transmission fluid. How do you know your transmission fluid is terrible?

Your automatic transmission fluid is awful when it is too thin or dirty.

Your car works on the principle of fluid dynamics.

If the fluid no longer lubricates your vehicle as it should, it will have problems shifting gears. So if you spot a bad automatic transmission fluid, replace it with a good one.

Read also, what fluids are found in electric cars?

Signs that your automatic transmission fluid is bad:

You notice that the transmission fluid is more dirty than usual.

  • You hear a transmission whining noise.
  • Your gears begin to slip.
  • You struggle to go into reverse gear.
  • You notice that your gears start to slip out.
  • Your engine is running hot.
  • You hear a grinding noise.


You can solve this problem by replacing your automatic transmission fluid.

But make sure you replace the automatic transmission fluid according to your owner’s manual.

4. Faulty Transmission Position Sensor (Automatic)

If your car has a faulty transmission position sensor, expect it not to go into reverse.

Usually, when you shift your vehicle into reverse, an electronic sensor communicates with the powertrain control module. Then your car will roll into reverse.

If your transmission position sensor is faulty, it won’t allow your car to shift into reverse.

Signs that your transmission position sensor is faulty:

  • Your car fails to move out of the park mode;
  • Your transmission shifts into the wrong gear;
  • Your vehicle becomes locked in a single gear.


The best way to fix this problem is by taking your car to a qualified mechanic.

A mechanic will remove the connector between the sensor and your vehicle’s wiring.

Mechanics usually use a proper socket to remove the faulty sensor. They will connect the new sensor to the car’s wiring. Once your mechanic has connected the new sensor, they will install it.

5. Worn Out Valve Body (Automatic)

If you are driving an automatic car, it will have a valve body. If you are unsure how a valve body looks, here is a simple explanation:

A valve body is a sizable maze-like component that directs the flow of hydraulic fluid to the valves.

Once the valve body wears out, your car’s gears won’t shift smoothly as they should.

Signs that your car has a worn-out valve body:

  • You notice an unusual delay when you shift gears;
  • When you drive, your transmission shifts into higher or low gears at the wrong times.
  • Your gears begin to slip.
  • Your car fails to move out of the park mode;
  • Your transmission shifts into the wrong gear;
  • Your vehicle becomes locked in a single gear.


Consider taking your car to a technician to replace a worn-out valve body.

You have a cheaper option of repairing and rebuilding a valve body that isn’t working correctly. But that will depend on how worn-out or damaged your valve body is.

4. Shift mechanisms

Another possible reason your car won’t reverse is faulty shift mechanisms. Your automatic vehicle has an electronic Transmission Selector Switch that communicates with the computer (ECM).

So if the ECM can’t signal other sensors and components of your car, it won’t reverse.

Signs that your car has shift mechanisms issues:

  • You notice leaking fluids.
  • Your car can’t go into reverse.
  • You hear strange noises.


Take your car to a technician to take a look at your ECM.

Car technicians use cutting-edge tools that can detect issues.

5. The transmission has a severed linkage wire.

A severed linkage wire on your transmission may cause your car not to go into reverse. A linkage wire connects the gearshift or gear selector to the transmission.

So your shift knob will have trouble communicating with the transmission, which is usually underneath your vehicle.

Signs that the transmission of your car has a severed linkage wire:

  • Your vehicle starts another gear besides park or neutral.
  • Your car won’t go into reverse.
  • Your gears will make a grinding noise.


Several things can sever your linkage wires.

For instance, rodents can gnaw at your wires and pinch them. Or a sharp object can also damage the cables.

If your linkage wire is severed, your car won’t get into gear, regardless of what kind of transmission fluid you use.


Fixing this problem can be tricky. So you need to contact a trained technician to come over to replace your linkage cable.

Technicians use advanced tools that help them diagnose the problem faster.

Final Thoughts

Remember, it’s easy to confuse the grinding noise of a car with a worn-out clutch and a stretched cable.

Here is a difference: if your clutch is worn-out, you will hear gears grind as you try to engage them. However, the cable is stretched. You will only hear the grinding noise when you release the clutch.

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