Jeep Wrangler Won’t Change Gears? Here’s What to Do


Jeep Wrangler Won’t Change Gears? Here’s What to Do

It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. You’re on your way into work, and your Jeep Wrangler won’t get above twenty-five miles an hour or starts bucking like an angry bronco.

Unless you’re completely inexperienced with cars, you’ll probably associate these problems with a transmission issue.

Jeep Wrangler Won’t Change Gears?

So what do you do when your Jeep Wrangler won’t change gears?  In many cases, a gear-shifting issue in Jeep Wranglers or any other car can come down to two primary causes: a malfunction with the shifting linkage, or a malfunction with the transmission.

Issues with the shifting linkage can often be easily diagnosed and repaired for the cost of labor or maybe a bushing, but transmission issues are a different league of problems.

Stuck on the side of the road with a Jeep Wrangler that won’t shift? Here’s what you need to do.

If My Transmission Leaks When It Is Parked, Is It Serious?

Step One: Don’t Panic

The first thing that many people do when their car has a major malfunction like refusing to shift gears is get panicked or mildly hysterical.

Not only does this prevent you from effectively troubleshooting the vehicle, but it also doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

Instead, sit back and take a few deep breaths, remembering that not every issue with a Jeep Wrangler refusing to shift gears has to do with a blown transmission, and this fix might not necessarily put you out of pocket several thousand dollars.

Transmission Problems and Shifting Linkage ProblemsThe two causes of shifting problems most likely to be found in a Jeep Wrangler are related to the shift linkage and the transmission.

  • Shift linkage: Shift linkage are the cables that connect the gearshift to the transmission, and when this linkage becomes loose or disconnected, it can disable the car from accessing the transmission to shift gears. If your shift linkage is loose or disconnected, repairing it is often just a matter of tightening or reconnecting the cables, which can be done at a mechanic’s shop quite easily.
  • Transmission: The other major source of problems when shifting gears in a Jeep Wrangler is the transmission. The transmission is what controls the amount of power being delivered to the wheel system of the car at any given time. Without a transmission, the car will not gain power or accelerate properly, which leads to the symptom of not shifting gears or not accelerating past a low speed.

While shift linkage and transmission problems often present with similar symptoms, one is a simple fix that can cost less than a hundred bucks, while a transmission repair can run upwards of thousands.


Step Two: Get the Jeep Wrangler to a Mechanic

The reason this step is crucial is that an inexperienced mechanic trying to do-it-yourself on a busted car transmission can accidentally cause more damage than was initially present if they don’t know what they’re doing.

While Jeep Wranglers are fairly simple to work on in comparison to some cars, such as those with German engineering, with any major repair that involves safety such as faulty brakes, transmissions, or engines, all but the most experienced laymen should defer to automotive repair professionals.

It is important to get your Jeep Wrangler towed if it is not shifting gears properly, as continuing to drive the vehicle while it is out of correct gear can cause damage to the engine.

Not only that, but the Jeep could accidentally slip in and out of gear while driving and cause a wreck. It isn’t worth the risk to save money on a tow bill to cause a dangerous situation on the road.

Step Three: Diagnose and Fix the Jeep Wrangler

At this point, if the Jeep Wrangler is diagnosed with a shift linkage problem, this is a simple fix that is usually fairly cheap to resolve. The other likely suspect, however, is that the Jeep’s transmission itself is going out.

If you tow your Jeep Wrangler to a mechanic and they determine that the transmission is toast, you are then presented with a few different options.

Depending on the extent of damage to the transmission, age of the transmission, and general condition of the Jeep, you can opt to either try to repair the transmission or replace it.

If the mechanic determines that the repair to the transmission is minor or the cost will only be a few hundred dollars, it might be worth it to invest in a repair.

However, in many cases, transmission rebuilds and repair jobs can be as expensive as replacing the Jeep’s transmission entirely.

Just the labor for removing and replacing a transmission for repair can range from $500—$1200 without including the cost of repairs or parts according to the Transmission Repair Cost Guide.
Cost of Replacing Jeep Wrangler Transmissions

The cost of replacing a transmission in a Jeep Wrangler can vary wildly based on year and model, as well as whether you get a salvage transmission or a rebuilt transmission.

Rebuilt transmissions have usually been disassembled and reassembled to factory specifications, while salvage transmissions are pulled out of wrecked vehicles.

There are pros and cons associated with each, but the largest drawback of salvage transmissions is that while cheap, they can be less reliable than rebuilt transmissions and rarely come with a good warranty, while rebuilt transmissions like those manufactured by Jasper may have good warranties, but also have high prices to match.

Jeep Transmission Warranty and Recalls

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Two things to keep in mind if your Jeep Wrangler has shifting problems are warranties and recalls. In 2009, Jeep recalled several models of Wrangler AT jeeps due to overheating transmissions caused by faulty transmission temperature sensors.

For more on that, check out Autoblog. If your Jeep Wrangler falls into this recall, contact a local dealership for possible warranty work.

If you have a newer model of Jeep Wrangler and purchased your Jeep from a dealer, the chances are that you have some kind of extended warranty plan that covers your drivetrain, including your transmission.

Even if you can’t find your physical paperwork for your Jeep’s warranty, it’s worth calling the dealership to see if they have a record of your purchase if it’ll save you a few thousand dollars in repairs.

If you discover that your Jeep Wrangler is still under warranty, you should arrange to have all diagnoses and repairs performed at the dealership where the Jeep was purchased to take advantage of any discounts or free repairs you are entitled to.

How to Prevent Gear Shifting Problems in Jeeps

transmission in a Jeep
2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon

Shifting issues are a common enough problem in Jeep Wranglers, but luckily there are a few ways you can perform preventative measures in order to help ward off some of these issues in the future.

From having your transmission regularly inspected and serviced with oil to maintaining your cooling system to ensure proper cooling of transmission fluids, there are many methods for taking better care of your transmission. You can find some over on Mister Transmission.

Just being gentler on your Jeep while driving can make your transmission and shift linkage last longer and help you avoid costly repairs.

The two most important things to keep in mind when avoiding transmission problems in Jeeps or any other vehicles are maintenance and inspection.

Keeping your car well-maintained and staying on good terms with a mechanic you trust means that you can have your car checked over during routine oil changes to head off any potential issues before they put you out on the side of the road.

A Jeep Not Shifting Gears Isn’t the End of the World

While a potential transmission repair can spook even the most stalwart driver, just because your Jeep isn’t shifting gears doesn’t necessarily mean that the transmission is shot, so before you start planning for the worst-case scenario, get your Jeep to the mechanic and see what’s really up.

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Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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