What's Causing Your Transmission To Shift So Hard?

26 October 2021
 Categories: , Blog


Most modern automatic transmissions are so smooth that you can barely even recognize the individual shift points. If you aren't watching your tachometer, you might not even notice your car changing gears. While this means many newer vehicles have incredibly comfortable rides, it also makes it all the more jarring when something goes wrong.

In many cases, hard shifting is one of the earliest signs of a problem with an automatic transmission. There's no technical definition for what constitutes a "hard" shift, but it's something you'll notice when it happens to you. If you're experiencing this problem with your car, it might be due to one of these three relatively common issues.

1. Clogged Transmission Filter

Like most other components in your car that utilize oil or fluids, your transmission uses a filter to help catch unwanted debris and contaminants. This filter keeps the transmission fluid relatively clean, but normal wear and tear inside your transmission can produce a significant amount of particulate matter. Over time, these particles can begin to jam up the filter.

A clogged filter restricts fluid flow, impacting the transmission's ability to shift smoothly or quickly. Replacing or cleaning a clogged filter is usually a straightforward repair, but accessing it may be challenging on some newer vehicles. If you suspect this problem, always have a transmission shop conduct a repair as soon as possible to avoid causing further damage to the transmission.

2. Failing or Dirty Shift Solenoids

Your shift solenoids control the flow of fluid through your transmission, regulating its ability to shift when needed. Transmission solenoids are effectively electromagnetically controlled valves that open and close based on instructions from the computer. Critical parts of a solenoid include the valve, wiring, and inlet and outlet ports for fluid.

Just like your transmission filter, your solenoids can get clogged up over time. Each solenoid typically includes an integral screen to catch small particles, and these may eventually become dirty enough to impede fluid flow and impact shifting performance. Repairing the problem requires cleaning the screen or, in some cases, replacing the solenoid.

3. Faulty Transmission Control Module (TCM)

The TCM is mission control for your transmission. This integrated electronic component monitors data from sensors all around your car and controls the transmission's behavior. Like many computer-related vehicle faults, TCM problems can cause a range of symptoms, including hard shifting. TCM problems will also often be accompanied by a check engine light, although the error codes may not be entirely helpful.

A failed TCM is a major issue on most cars, and you'll usually need a shop to remove your transmission to repair this problem. If your vehicle is shifting erratically and you have one or more error codes, it's a good idea to stop driving it until a mechanic can take a look.

Contact a company that offers transmission repair services to learn more.