5 Reasons Why Your Shifter Moves But Doesn’t Change Gears

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shifter moves but doesn t change gears

Countless people are puzzled by the car’s transmission and for fair reason. It’s a sophisticated portion of your car made up of various parts that usually need little interaction. If you operate a vehicle with a manual gearbox or transmission, you’ll undoubtedly think about it more, yet it might become second nature pretty soon that you might not notice.

That is, till it stops working. There are several causes why a transmission shifter moves but doesn’t change gears. In this article, we’ve highlighted the most prevalent. We’ll begin by looking at an issue that could impact both automatic and manual transmissions before delving further into frequent difficulties with both varieties. Read on to learn more!

Reasons Why Your Shifter Moves But Doesn’t Change Gears

The real reason for a faulty gear shifter differs from vehicle to vehicle. However, the most significant probable cause is a poor construction or attachment of a flexible cable to the gear selector and transmission connection.

Low Transmission Fluid

Regardless of whether your transmission is manual or automatic, transmission fluid is required for optimal operation. This fluid lubricates your transmission’s operating elements, preventing them from engaging in excessive friction. This liquid could deteriorate and get contaminated over time. It may be pretty challenging to shift gears when the contaminated fluid remains in your car’s transmission for extended periods. In addition, dirty or outdated fluids may cause transmission damages; therefore, it’s recommended to examine and replace them quickly.

Broken Shifter Cable

The cable that links your shifter and transmission tends to stretch, distort, and deteriorate through time. The switch could change gears relative to its position when the shift linkage is stretched.

For instance, if your switch has an elongated switch cable change gear like Park to Drive, the gear reported on your dashboard might be Neutral or Low gear. Sometimes, your shifter cable might break entirely, severing your shifter and transmission connection.

For most cars, a total breakage of its flexible cable seldomly happens. Assume your convertible cable is undamaged and securely connected to your transmission end. Then the fault might originate with the transmission line sensor or your car’s transmission itself. Nevertheless, this is unusual.

Worn-out Clutch Disc (Manual Transmission)

Even though your clutch disc is a durable component, it eventually wears out. A worn-out clutch could rapidly render the transmission inoperable. And although clutch maintenance is a typical service procedure for manual cars, there are precautions you can carry to avoid premature clutch wear. Don’t “ride” your clutch; put your vehicle in neutral whenever you pause for longer than a second, and use your clutch with care.

Faulty Torque Converter

Generally speaking, automatic transmissions feature a torque converter, which consists of a pump, a rotor, and a turbine. These components could malfunction, causing a “sliding” as your transmission shifting gears. It can also hinder your transmission from changing gears properly even though you can move your shift lever.

Loose Shifter Wiring

The shift cable links your transmission range sensor to your shifter, AKA neutral safety switch, or AKA transmission range sensor. This cable is held at each end with bolts and nuts, and either end is adjustable if the shifter cable requires a replacement with one of a different length.

Vibrations and normal deterioration may weaken the connections at both ends. This allows the linking ends of your shifter cable to move openly in the adjusting gap rather than being fixed in a preset position. Regardless of your input at the shifter end, it will operate freely without shifting gears or shifting into the incorrect gear.

Symptoms of a Damaged Shifter Cable

After learning the possible causes of shifter moves but don’t change gears, you must also understand the symptoms of the occurring problem with your shifter cable. Below are the signs of a failing shifter cable.

Shift Lever Doesn’t Shift Gears

When shifting, the gear indication on your dashboard remains unchanged. This results from a damaged or detached shifter cable, and your shifter could seem lighter when switching.

Engine Won’t Go Off

If your transmission isn’t in “Park” or “Neutral,” your engine might not be turned off. In the case of a strained or twisted shifter cable, although your shifter is geared to the P position, your car could be geared in other gear, prohibiting your vehicle from being switched off or the key from being removed.

Show An Incorrect Gear Position

A defective shifter connector or an extended or twisted shifter cable could make your automobile indicate the wrong active gear reported from the location of your shifter.

How to Examine Your Shifter Cable?

Observing your car’s shifting action can be used to analyze the shifter cable. You can execute a brief examination to confirm that your shifter cable is in excellent condition.

  1. Start your car and push your brake pedal to enable the transmission to shift from “(P) Park.”
  2. Change into “(R) Reverse,” and monitor your dashboard to verify whether the reverse position is engaged.
  3. Check whether your reverse gear is engaged by briefly releasing your car’s brakes and seeing whether your vehicle moves in reverse.
  4. Repeat the assessment using “(N) Neutral,” “(D) Drive,” and other gears on your shifter.

Is It Safe To Drive With A Damaged Transmission Cable?

It’s risky to operate a vehicle with a damaged transmission cable. A car with a damaged flexible cable won’t shift gears in response to user input. If your vehicle’s cable is broken, you must contact a local mechanic to replace your flexible cable or tow your vehicle to the nearest repair shop.

What To Do If My Shifter Moves But Doesn’t Change Gears?

Try to confirm each of the reasons mentioned above. Even after a comprehensive inspection, you’re still unable to shift or start your car. We advise that you examine the gearshift kit in your vehicle.

You may take the following evaluation:

  • Start your vehicle first, then depress your brake to shift the car gradually to P gear.  Place your vehicle’s shifting mechanism in the park. Apply the parking brake on.
  • Shift into reverse by moving the lever to the R gear while concurrently confirming that your reverse gear is engaged on your dashboard.
  • To ensure reverse gear is active, momentarily use your brakes and then start backing up to see whether the vehicle responds by reversing.
  • Repeat the experiment using N and D gears.

Cost To Repair A Car Shift

Transmission shifter cable replacement is a straightforward process. The task’s difficulty varies based on the distance between your switch and your transmission end. When a flexible cable link has been loose, it could be reinforced for between $30 and $50.

If you feel that your whole flexible cable is damaged, twisted, or stretched, however, new cables would cost between $80 and $120, and labor would cost an additional $100 to $200.


Whenever your gear selector moves but doesn’t shift gears, you should seek any mobile mechanic service that can drive to your location and replace your shifter cable. Although you’re able to engage your car’s Drive mode, you must never, in any circumstance,  try to drive your vehicle in these circumstances.


What causes gears not to engage?

Many factors may lead to delayed engagement of shifter or not engaging at all. Still, the most common reason is worn-out internal seals or hardened because of insufficient fluid or bad fluid condition due to a lack or failure of maintenance.

Why is my gear shift sticking in park mode?

When an open circuit in your shift interlock electrical system disrupts contacts across your brake light switch or your ignition switch and your interlock solenoid, your shifter might get stuck in Park. Inspect your shift interlock solenoid for power.

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