Why Car Pops Out Of Gear While Driving?

Are you noticing your car popping out of gear all of a sudden while driving? This is not at all a desirable situation to be in and it can be frustrating. You are probably confused as to why this happens. 

When a car pops out of gear while driving, the most probable reason for such a situation is a faulty car transmission. You may have enough knowledge to know that this is not at all a good sign and have safety risks. This article tries to analyse the most common causes of such an issue so read on!

Why Car Pops Out Of Gear While Driving?

Your car popping out of gear while driving may not always mean a failed transmission. But it is showing signs that you must get your car’s transmission checked by a mechanic. If your car has a manual transmission, the clutch is the main cause of the issue. However, there can be many reasons if your car is automatic. 

1. Symptoms That You Should Look For

Do you notice some other symptoms when your car pops out of gear while driving? It is usual to have such symptoms and they will further help you understand what the issue is. You can see if your car has the following symptoms 

Automatic Transmission

  • Check if the engine light is on
  • Transmission tries to upshift, then falls back into a lower gear
  • Refuses to upshift by transmission
  • Transmission falls into a lower gear, causing the engine to run at a high RPM
  • You step on the gas, engine RPMs increase, but the vehicle speed doesn’t
  • Reverse won’t engage
  • Strange or burning smell
  • Unusual noises when shifting
  • Hard/rough gear changes

Manual Transmission

  • Transmission won’t go into gear
  • Transmission inexplicably falls out of gear
  • Unusual noises (like grinding) during gear change

2. Common Reasons Why This Issue Happens

There can be a few reasons why a car pops out of gear while driving. An issue with the car transmission is the main problem that causes such an issue. Here are the possible faults in the transmission that cause such an issue. 

a. Low Fluid Level

A vehicle with automatic transmission relies on hydraulic pressure to change gears. However, if the fluid levels are low, the transmission won’t get enough pressure to perform gear changes. Low fluid levels can indicate a leak. And this can lead to overheating, and significant internal damage in the transmission of your car. 

b. Transmission Fluid Leak

Automatic transmission makes use of hydraulic pressure to change gears. So when there are fluid leaks in the transmission, it would be difficult to change gears. Sometimes the problem may just be a bad transmission pan gasket that is not faulty seals, a complicated issue. But it can also be because of faulty seals, ruptured fluid lines, a leak in the pan or a crack in the torque converter. All these issues can make a car pops out of gear while driving. Check the fluid level and the underside of your car to locate any leaks. 

c. Burn/Worn Out Fluid

The composition of the fluid breaks down with time and this causes the fluid to get thinner. The fluid in such a state will be filled with contaminants. If the fluid is too thin or burnt, it will not be effective in removing heat from the transmission. Thus it won’t be able to keep the bands and clutches properly cool. This will result in the overheating of the transmission which in turn makes it difficult to shift gears. Thus this is one of the reasons why a car pops out of gear while driving. 

d. Broken Or Worn Out Transmission Bands

Transmission metal bands are responsible for linking gears together on an automatic vehicle. If any one of these transmission bands is broken mostly due to overheating, that particular gear will be incapable of engaging properly resulting in your car popping out of gear while driving. 

e. Clutch Issues

If your car which has a manual transmission pops out of gear while driving, you have a faulty clutch. A clutch disc usually lasts from 20,000 to 200,000 miles depending on your driving habits. 

90% of the time, the clutch is the culprit when your car acts weird like popping out of gear while driving. The clutch makes use of friction material like a brake pad to grab onto the engine flywheel and transport the engine from the transmission during a gear change. However, if this friction material or throw out bearing is worn, the clutch won’t be able to successfully initiate the gear change. 

f. Worn Out Gears

Gears can wear with time due to several reasons like normal wear and tear due to high mileage, ineffective fluid and overheating. Worn gears are incapable of working properly and this can lead to harsh gear engagement, slipping out of gear, failure to engage a gear, and lots of grinding and clunking. 

g. Solenoid Issue

Solenoids in transmission are tiny electrically activated valves that have the function of controlling the flow of fluid inside the transmission. However, a faulty transmission solenoid is incapable of producing the proper hydraulic pressure that is needed for proper gear shifts. If you see no problems with the fluid level or any leaks then a faulty solenoid is most probably the reason that leads your car popping out of gear while driving in automatic transmission cars. 

How Can I Stop My Car From Going Out Of Gear?

As you saw, a lot of factors can cause such an issue to your car. Methods you have to adopt to fix them are different for different factors. 

  • Check and Refill if your car’s transmission fluid level is low.
  • Check, drain and refill if the fluid is burnt or worn out. 
  • Replace parts or get your car checked by a mechanic in case of fluid leaks, faulty transmission bands, clutch Issues, etc. 


It can be very frustrating when your car simply decides to pop out of gear while driving. And you mustn’t just ignore this issue since problems like these are a threat to your safety. If you are someone who has not faced issues like this, then make sure to give your car routine check-ups to prevent any such issues from happening you or your car. 

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