Vehicle Won't Reverse? What Should You Do?

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Few things can cause your stomach to sink more quickly than hearing a loud grinding sound when you attempt to put your vehicle into gear. Even worse may be when your vehicle refuses to travel in a specific direction at all. What should you do if your vehicle suddenly refuses to shift into reverse? Read on to learn more about some of the transmission issues that can manifest into problems with the reverse gear, as well as the potential repairs you may be facing.

What problems can cause a vehicle not to travel in reverse?

Generally speaking, if your vehicle begins making grinding or squealing noises, hitching, or stalling when you attempt to shift gears, you're dealing with a transmission problem. If your vehicle completely refuses to shift into a specific gear, including reverse, you're almost certainly facing a transmission repair (unless you have a manual transmission that will shift perfectly with the engine turned off -- in which case, you're dealing with a worn-out clutch). However, repairing this issue could be a fairly simple and inexpensive process. 

If your vehicle is older and has been through some harsh winters, you may be dealing with corrosion on the transmission selector switch. Shift your vehicle from Park to Low (or first gear) back and forth a few times to see if this is enough to dislodge the corrosion and allow your vehicle to continue shifting. Your issues with shifting may also be due to debris in the transmission fluid. By draining and replacing the fluid and filter, you'll be able to remove any particles or dirt that could be causing problems.

However, if these quick fixes aren't enough to allow your car or truck to travel in reverse, you may need to have your transmission rebuilt or replaced.

What should you do if your vehicle suddenly refuses to go into reverse?

It's generally a good rule to begin avoiding parking in places that require you to reverse as soon as you notice trouble with the way your transmission shifts. However, in some cases a problem with the reverse gear may manifest itself suddenly, without giving you time to adequately prepare. If you're unable to reverse your vehicle at all, you'll want to put the transmission into neutral and allow it to roll out of the parking space (giving it a push if necessary). Once you've cleared the surrounding vehicles, you should be able to put your vehicle into drive and continue on your way.

Your next stop should be to a dealership that specializes in your make and model of vehicle (particularly if yours is still under a manufacturer's warranty), or a transmission repair shop. Mechanics should be able to carefully look your transmission over and determine whether the issue causing your shifting problems is easily fixable without replacing your transmission.