Why won't my car go in reverse?
November 23, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Please diagnose my car problem!

My 2000 Dodge Neon has stopped going in reverse. It's a 5-speed manual that has worked fine until about a week ago, when it began randomly refusing to go into reverse. Previously, I could eventually get it to work by messing with the gear shift long enough. Now I can't get it to work at all.

You guys, I know NOTHING about cars. I am also flat broke. Does this mean I need a new transmission? I realize you need to have a look at it to know for sure, but what does it sound like to you?

posted by orrnyereg to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Could either be a bad linkage, or a bum synchro. Does it just flat not go into gear, or does it grind when you try to do it? Can you put it in reverse with the engine off?
posted by hwyengr at 12:09 PM on November 23, 2008

Have you tried holding it against the position (when it won't go in) and slightly lifting your foot and seeing if it clunks in (the car may move).

Also, with the engine running, try getting it into gear. If it won't, just lift your foot up and down on the clutch while in neutral (to spin the gearbox, basically) and try again. Doe sit make any difference?

This is quite likely (as noted) to be either a linkage issue or some bizarre gearbox internal issue. I would be extremely surprised if reverse has a syncromesh on it, however.
posted by Brockles at 12:15 PM on November 23, 2008

When you say won't go into reverse, what, exactly, is happening? Can you not get the shifter to where reverse ought to be, or if you do put it there and press the gas, the engine just spins. Or something even weirder?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:20 PM on November 23, 2008

Response by poster: It won't shift into reverse gear at all. It's as though reverse doesn't exist anymore--though second and fourth gears (which both pull "down", as does reverse) work fine.

Here's what I've tried: shifting into other gears repeatedly and then moving to reverse, trying it with the engine off; trying it with the parking brake on; leaving it in neutral and pushing the car in reverse. As I said, I know nothing about cars. The engine is not behaving any differently, so far as I can tell.
posted by orrnyereg at 12:35 PM on November 23, 2008

So reverse is behind fifth? Do you have any problems getting into fifth? It's probably a misaligned lockout ring, which is supposed to prevent you from accidentally going into reverse from fifth.
posted by hwyengr at 12:41 PM on November 23, 2008

If you're completely unable to move the shifter into the reverse position, then hwyengr probably has the right answer.
posted by no1hatchling at 1:14 PM on November 23, 2008

when you are pushing the shifter down into reverse; you must clarify if the shifter DOES go all the way into where its supposed to, or if the shifter is hitting something and not going all the way in.

In either case .. not good news; the solution will probably be expensive as the transmission will have to come out. Whether or not it needs to be replaced, rebuilt, or repaired is something we cannot answer unless we see the inside of it.

Unless something catastrophic happened (a very bad grind, missed gear, loud bang sound), chances are its just getting worn and becoming harder and harder to shift.

Try rolling forward with first gear, then trying reverse again, and again.

If you can shift all the way into R and the car goes no where .. not much you can do but call a transmission shop.
posted by Ryaske at 5:28 PM on November 23, 2008

Ryaske is just guessing. I am too, but I know a lot about cars.

There's almost no chance that the transmission has to come out, or that the repair should be expensive (varying definitions of expensive aside). It's almost certainly a problem with the shifter, not the transmission. Meaning that the repair will cost hundreds (mostly labor), not thousands (mostly parts).

It's also probably something that someone handy with cars could fix for free. Know anyone like that?
posted by Dorri732 at 5:56 AM on November 24, 2008

Can you put the shifter in the reverse position with the car turned off?
posted by miles at 9:26 AM on November 24, 2008

doh, I should try actually reading the thread before posting. I would lean towards an internal transmission problem ($$$) as opposed to a problem with the shifter or linkage. Though i am not familiar with the neon's shifting systems.
posted by miles at 10:00 AM on November 24, 2008

Response by poster: It turned out one of the shifter cables was broken. That's how it was explained to me. Anyway, it only took 1.5 days and $450 to fix, which was a huge relief. Thanks again, everybody!
posted by orrnyereg at 10:59 AM on December 24, 2008

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