Transmission is one of the important components of a car; it’s the heart of a car engine. It directs the right amount of power to a car’s wheels from the engine. A properly functioning transmission will allow your vehicle to shift between different gears smoothly to provide the necessary power. However, neutral dropout is one of the common problems with automatic transmissions.
What is a Neutral Drop Out?
Neutral dropout is when an automatic transmission drops into neutral gear by itself and when you press the accelerator, it revs the engine rather than move the car. This scenario can take place when a car comes to a stop or while driving at lower speeds.
What Causes Neutral Drop Out?
Below are five issues that cause an automatic transmission to shift to neutral while driving:
Overused or low transmission fluid levels
Transmission fluid is designed to lubricate and protect moving parts in your transmission. It also keeps the transmission cool.
Overused transmission fluid gradually becomes ineffective in achieving the above functions. Consequently, it causes the transmission to behave abnormally, including slipping, which leads to neutral dropout.
Low fluid levels in your transmission system could also easily cause neutral dropout. How? An automatic transmission depends on the hydraulic pressure the transmission fluid produces to engage gears. As a result, the transmission ends up shifting to neutral while driving.
Worn-out internal parts
If internal parts of the transmission, like the transmission bands, are worn out, you will likely deal with a neutral dropout issue. These bands keep gears locked together for smoother operation. A worn-out transmission band makes it difficult to change gears in your car.
Usually, worn-out transmission bands are caused by natural wear and tear or insufficient lubrication. Also, over-tightened bands may wear out way faster.
If you’ve been running a car on low transmission fluid levels for a while, it causes the gears to work improperly due to increased friction. It also damages the gears; thus, they don’t transition smoothly due to inadequate power.
A faulty torque converter
A damaged torque converter in automatic transmission hardly provides enough hydraulic pressure, causing slippage or an engine stall.
Similarly, a manual car clutch helps trigger and stop the transmission to channel the engine’s power to the wheels. A worn-out or faulty clutch may contribute to gears slipping because there is minimal pressure to shift the gears. Other signs of a defective clutch include a sticking clutch and a burning odor.
How to Fix Neutral Drop Out
Below are possible solutions to each of the above causes of neutral dropout.
A possible solution to overused or low transmission fluid levels
A dark color or particles in transmission fluid depicts old or burnt transmission fluid, and it’s time to change it.
Change your transmission fluid regularly or as per your car’s service intervals. Changing transmission fluid after every 60,000 miles in an automatic transmission and 30,000 miles in a manual transmission is recommended.
You can always check your transmission fluid levels by starting the engine and letting it warm up for a few minutes before using the dipstick to check its levels. The dipstick has engraved markings to show the appropriate fluid level. If the levels are low, consider a refill.
Notably, you might consider checking what is causing a low transmission fluid. Often, it’s caused by a leak around the fluid lines, torque converter, or gaskets.
A possible solution to worn-out or broken transmission bands
Consider replacing broken or worn-out transmission bands. However, if your transmission bands are okay yet there is slipping out, you may opt to adjust them.
A possible solution to damaged gears
If your transmission fluid and bands are okay, the gears might be the problem causing neutral dropout. You should consider replacing damaged or worn-out gear parts. Alternatively, you may replace the entire automatic transmission gearbox with a new one, especially when most parts are severely damaged.
A possible solution to a faulty torque converter
Once you notice your transmission has started slipping or shuddering, you should first check your transmission fluid level. Also, check whether the torque converter seals have any leaks. If any, consider a replacement.
However, other torque converter components, such as the solenoid or needle bearings, may cause the issue. Therefore, you may replace the entire torque converter before it damages your transmission, which is more expensive to fix.
Can a dirty transmission filter cause slipping?
Yes, a dirty or clogged transmission filter may contribute to slipping transmission and shifting issues. It blocks the transmission fluid; therefore, there is no smooth flow in the system. Consequently, it causes minimal lubrication in the internal components, leading to slipping in the transmission, shifting issues, and grinding gears.
Why does my car jerk from 1st to 2nd gear?
Often the issue of a car jerking from the 1st to 2nd gear is caused by low transmission fluid level or old low-quality transmission fluid. Additionally, worn-out gear or clutch (for the manual) and damaged transmission components are likely to cause this issue.
If your car has a neutral dropout, you shouldn’t hesitate to the level of your transmission fluid and its quality. Low levels or poor quality transmission fluid are often common causes of neutral dropout. Damaged transmission bands, torque converters, and gears may also cause the same issue in your car. The earlier you notice any of these problems and fix them, the better to save your car’s transmission.
More importantly, you shouldn’t ignore any signs of neutral dropout in your automatic car. It may have detrimental effects, including damaging your entire transmission and making you prone to causing accidents while driving.