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Gear Shift Moves, But Car Won't Drive

This morning my 2006 Dodge Dakota v8 auto decided to become a large paperweight. I started it up fine and let it warm up a bit (about five-ten minutes), then shifted into reverse to leave my driveway and it won’t move. It just rev’s and rev’s like it’s in neutral. I tried Reverse, Drive, and both low gears, but no luck.

Since it got very cold, it has been making a buzzing/whirring sound that seems to be coming from the belts. But that sounds would go away when the car warmed up. I thought I needed a new power steering belt (and still may), but that wouldn’t keep the car from moving at all, right?

I have been searching the forums for suggestions, and have seen many differing thoughts on what could be causing the problem. So, I figured I would check with y’all to see if you had any suggestions. I have never had any problems with the vehicle before and this is very out of the blue.


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Step #1 is to check the level of the transmission fluid.
Read the section in your Owner’s Manual regarding the location of the trans dipstick and the exact procedure for checking.

More than likely, you will find that the fluid level is low.
If that is the case, replenish it with the correct type–also detailed in the Owner’s Manual.

If you are able to drive the car after replenishing the fluid, then you need to take it to an independent transmission shop a.s.a.p., in order to find out where the fluid leaked, and to have the leak repaired. While it is at the shop, have the fluid and filter replaced, if that has not been done in the past 3 years/30k miles. By now, this should have been done at least twice on your car, so it is very important to not skip this service any longer.

Whatever you do, do NOT go to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or any other chain operation unless you want to be told that you need a new/overhauled transmission–whether you really do or not. An indy shop is more likely to give you an honest diagnosis, a fair price, and good workmanship.

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Thanks VDCDriver. I did check the fluid level and it isn’t low and the fluid looks pink and doesn’t smell burnt.

But, I am not sure about the transmission fluid/filter maintenance. I bought the car somewhat recently and haven’t done it myself since I purchased. I will get the fluid changed and the filter replaced and see if that works.

Another possibility is that you have brakes that are frozen in the “on” position, thus essentially locking the car in place. When you shift into gear and you hear the engine rev, does it feel like the car is fighting the brakes, or does it feel like no power is going to the drive wheels?

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IT doesn’t feel like its fighting the brakes. It just doesn’t seem to be transferring any power at all. It doesn’t move or shimmy or anything. It just rev’s and doesn’t move. LIke it was stuck in neutral.

Only other thing would be somehow the shifter has become disconnected and is not shifting the transmission or if it is electronic, a problem with that device. I’m afraid though you are looking at a tow to have it figured out.

Where’s Transman lately?

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Yeah… I was hoping to not have to tow it. DO you think its worth dropping the pan and doing the fluid and filter change myself before towing it to the shop? Or should I jsut take it there and let them decide? I hate to tow it if I don’t have to…

The gear shift display in the instrument cluster won’t change if the cable is disconnected.
Buzzing noise is typical of a torque converter clutch that is failing/coming apart. If that is the case in less than 50 miles the transmission filter will become plugged with torque converter clutch debris resulting in no transmission engaugement.

SO, that means I will likely also need a torque converter clutch as well? Is that super expensive to replace?

Remanufactured torque converter and a transmission rebuild. Did it seem like the buzzing sound was behind the engine or in the belt area?

Crap. The sound seemed to be coming from the belt area. I originally thought it was just the belts going out but that was before the car stopped moving. When I open the hood it sounds like its coming from the front of the engine… Not the back.

Remove the belt and start the engine, if the noise is still there you’ve got a problem.

Good call Nevada. Thanks for the tip. WIll do.

Im crossing my fingers now that the sound goes away.

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Many cars I hear make strange noises when started in very cold temps 15 degrees or less, I would put that on the b list of worries, b fixed when it breaks. Just a linkage problem is my hope for you.

That would be far superior to a transmission rebuild! I guess I am going to have to just take the plunge and get her towed to the shop.

Does the PRNDL display change when you move the shift lever? The range sensor on the transmission is working if the display changes. This would indicate that the shift cable is connected.

Ouch. The only time I’ve had just a converter come apart, it sent junk all through the transmission and required a rebuild. Good luck.

I remember way back with my 74 Olds, it was very cold out like 10 below and the car was parked in the ramp. After work I went to drive it and it reversed just fine but I had no forward gears. Happened that quick with no warning. The dealer appologized for the trans going that soon at 80,000 miles. I said that’s OK, its been around the clock once so thats 180,000 on it. I’ve put lots of transmissions in over the last million miles, so once you get used to the idea and the bill, its not so bad.

The display does change when i shift gears and the engine revere a little when I move from neutral to drive or reverse. So, I think it is shifting.

On many cars the PND21 on the dash moves with the shift lever. There may be some that work from the transmission, I don’t know.