What Is The Reason My Car Won’t Downshift To First?

In most cars, shifting to the first gear is a very hard job. You may have noticed this situation after completely learning the automotive and heat changing skills. Then you maybe wondering if this is just the issue of your car. Car won’t downshift to first is a very common issue. In the transmission process, a synchronizer performs this process. This article helps you understand more about this situation. Knowing them will come in handy to you and it will prevent you from damaging the transmission system so read on!

Car Won’t Downshift To First: Why?

The reason it’s physically harder to downshift into 1st gear from 2nd has to do with the additional work that the synchronizers have to do to bring the transmission’s “input shaft” (the part connected to the clutch) up to speed with the transmission’s output shaft – connected to the wheels.

If you are using a car with a manual transmission, you may know that it only uses the first gear to start the car. This is because of the unsynchronized manner of the first gear. The ratio difference between the first and the second gear is huge. But what does “ratio” and “synchronization” mean in this concept? Let’s find out!

What Does Synchronisation Mean Here?

Let’s first try and understand the concept of “synchronization”, shall we? It is the process of shifting directly from one gear to another by pressing the clutch pedal. Thus synchronization ensures smooth shifting of the gear. However, if the gears are not synchronized, you will find it difficult to shift gears. 

What Does Ratio Mean Here?

Now to the concept of ratio in transmission, we might have to consider an example. In an advanced car, the first gear is usually 3:6:1. This means that the gear completes one rotation on every 3.6 rotation of the crankshaft. Similarly for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gear, the set ratio is 2.1:1, 1.4:1, 1:1, 0.8:1, and 0.7:1, respectively.

With these ratio distributions, you may have understood that the difference between the ratios gets smaller as you go up the higher gears. In other words, it is much easier to shift in new higher gears as they can match up the engine speed every time you change it. 

4-Speed Manual Transmission

You may have noticed how huge the ratio difference is in 1st and 2nd gears. Therefore, initially, the input shaft has to spin a little higher in a minute when you move into 1st gear. Similarly, you can encounter the same level of difficulty when trying to down-shift the gear.

So if you need a solution to the problem your car won’t downshift to first, you can read on to find out the possible solutions ahead.

How To Get My Car To Downshift To First Gear?

Are you looking for a solution to the issue, the car won’t downshift to first? Of course, you are, that’s why you are here! The ultimate solution to make your car downshift first is the process of double clutching. In other words, you have to bring your car to neutral directly from the second gear and then shift the gear to the first. Here is a systematic procedure to help you understand how to perform the process well. 

  • While driving in 2nd gear, let off the gas and press in the clutch pedal as with a normal downshift.
  • Shift the car into neutral and release the clutch pedal. Now that the car is in neutral with the clutch engaged, your engine is directly connected to the transmission’s input shaft. 
  • Rev the engine up to the RPM you would expect to be in if driving in 1st gear (perhaps 2k RPM higher than you were driving in 2nd gear)

  • Before the engine revs drop, put in the clutch and shift into 1st gear. If you rev-matched correctly while the clutch was engaged in neutral, the gear selection should be quite easy (the synchros don’t need to work as hard since the input shaft is already spinning at the correct speed)
  • At this point, you can quickly release the clutch and continue driving in 1st gear

Following this method directly will prevent any damage that can be caused to the transmission otherwise and will help you stop the condition, my car won’t downshift to first. In this situation, the speed of the car will match the gear change which is what allows us to successfully change the gear to first. However, car owners with an automatic transmission need not worry about this at all since the downshift from second to first is done automatically. 

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Downshift Solenoid

However, if your car won’t downshift to first even if it is an automatic transmission, the issue may be different. You shouldn’t be experiencing such difficulty if your car has an automatic transmission. In such a situation, the reason may be a bad or failing to downshift solenoid. 

The downshift solenoid is what is responsible for controlling the transmission to shift from a higher gear to a lower gear in an automatic transmission, such as when the vehicle is slowing down to come to a stop. When the downshift solenoid is failing or has any issues, it will cause problems with the vehicle’s shifting. If you are confused as to how you can identify a failing downshift solenoid, here are some symptoms that can help you alert you of such an issue that needs to be fixed immediately. The common symptoms of a bad or failing downshift solenoid is

  • Erratic Shifting
  • Late Shifting
  • Engine Lights Come On Randomly

If you see any of these symptoms often, you can conclude that you have a bad or failing to downshift solenoid. This is what is stopping your automatic transmission car from going to the first gear. In such a situation, you should immediately take your car to your trusted mechanic to get it fixed. 


In most cases, if your car with a Manual Transmission refuses to downshift to first gear, you needn’t worry because that’s how it is built. But if your car is an automatic transmission, you must get your car checked by a trusted mechanic. This article has explained the different causes of such an issue and the solution in case of a manual transmission. Hope you find the article helpful!

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