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When in "Drive" gear, after pulling out of a parking spot in reverse, gas pedal ineffective

My Edge occasionally has a strange problem that I haven’t been able to clearly describe to my auto mechanic such that he can figure out what the problem is. I’m hoping the Car Talk community might be able to help!

I’ll start the car, reverse to pull out of a parking spot/driveway, then shift to drive. Sometimes (occurs about once every 3-6 months), the gear doesn’t seem to “catch”. I’ll push the gas pedal, but the car barely moves forward as if shifting to drive didn’t fully complete. If I shift to reverse, the car reverses just fine, but shifting back to drive doesn’t fix the problem. They only way I’ve been able to get it to work properly again is to turn off the car and restart it. Any thoughts on what I can tell the auto mechanic to look into to see if there’s a major problem?

Thanks in advance - any comments would be greatly appreciated!

Still the 1st thing to check with any auto transmission problem is the fluid level in the transmission. Some transmissions will engage reverse when low on fluid, but not engage drive. So check your auto trans fluid level.

Also your trans has electronic controls which also contributes to some “funky” behaviors. Start with your a check of the trans fluid level and if it is good, we’ll move on from there.

Thanks. I just checked the fluid level and it appears OK, but there is grime on the stick (it has the consistency of soil or oil mixed with dust). Could be the cause?

@impromptu how many miles?
I’d say your clutches and/or bands may be worn. Or something worse.
Any warranty?
What kind of driving do you do? Lots of short trips and stop and go aren’t kind to transmissions.
That kind of driving means you need to service your fluid and filter much more often.
If no warranty, then it might be worth doing a fluid and filter service now. It sounds like that might be your only chance, short of a mechanical repair/overhaul.

This is based solely on the grime on the trans dipstick, and the fact that it won’t readily go into drive.

Maybe change out the fluid and see if that helps. It’s possible the linkage is on the fritz, so you think you are in drive, but actually in neutral. A shop could easily confirm this or not.

It has around 75K miles and most of the driving is the daily work commute of 15 miles/day.

Thanks, all, for the suggestions. I’ll take these ideas to the mechanic and hopefully they’ll be able to diagnose something.

I’ll post an update if they find something!

Question: When you shift to drive and hit the gas, does the engine rev up but the car doesn’t move? Or does the engine not respond when you hit the gas?

You say that the gas petal is ineffective, but don’t you mean it just doesn’t move?

The engine does rev (same as in neutral) and the car does move forward (unlike in neutral), but it’s only moving about 5-10mph when gas pedal is pressed. It moves slightly faster as the gas pedal is pressed harder but seems to be only 5% as effective as the normal “Drive” gear. During this time, the engine revs up higher as the gas pedal is pressed harder and sounds normal (the car just doesn’t move as fast as it should with that much revving).

Not knowing how transmissions work, I can only imagine the situation is like a bicycle where the bike chain is on a gear where the spokes have completely worn down. You can pedal and the bike chain will turn because there’s still some basic friction between chain and gear, but mostly the chain is slipping and sliding on the gear.

Also note that this doesn’t happen regularly - it only happened a few times each year in the last 2-3 years.

@impromptu I’m not sure what year your Edge is but I just looked at the 2009 maintenance schedule. For your kind of driving, the transmission needs to be serviced every 30K. So you’re way overdue, unless I missed something. I would start with that.

Hi db4690, just to clarify, I’ve had the vehicle serviced at 30K (at the dealer) and 60K (at a licensed car mechanic) and light tuning at 67K (e.g., oil changed) so there’s something the 30K services aren’t catching (or the mechanics aren’t noticing).

And I forgot to mention it’s a 2008 Edge.

normal driving maintenance schedule

severe service driving schedule (many people fall into this category)

Thanks for the update.
But you still didn’t answer my question about the transmission service. I suggest you check your records and receipts. In addition to the fluid being gritty, does it smell weird? I still think your mechanic should perform a fluid and filter service ASAP.

Have you already replaced the plugs?

Looks like transmission fluid was serviced at 45k but may not have been since then. It doesn’t smell odd but I’m having the mechanic check it and recommend whether it should be flushed and filtered. I don’t think the plugs have been replaced.

@impropmtu so the last trans service was at 45K and now you’re at 75K

And . . .

" I just checked the fluid level and it appears OK, but there is grime on the stick (it has the consistency of soil or oil mixed with dust)."

Again, I’d say a trans service might be a prudent choice, considering the condition of the fluid.

Did you do any towing or extremely hard driving lately?

(Apologies for disappearing for two weeks.)
No towing or extremely hard driving. I have an appt. with a mechanic tomorrow so will hopefully get to the bottom of this. I also read someone else having a similar problem with their Chevy and it turned out to be the engine going into “fail-safe” mode due to a bad battery. This could be the same problem I’m having as I did notice my battery connections corroding over. I’ll post an update with what the mechanic finds and ask him to check the battery and transmission (which sounds like it’s overdue for a flush anyways). Thanks everyone!

@impromptu respectfully, you do realize your battery has nothing to do with that “grime on the stick”

@db4690 yes, thanks for the correction. I meant to clarify in my Feb. 19 posting that there are two separate issues to address (1). grime on transmission stick and (2). corroding battery, of which either or both or neither could be the cause of the inability to accelerate.

I’ve been reading more about the “fail-safe” mode in the engine and though I haven’t found a specific connection to the Ford Edge, a number of Chevy and Ford vehicles seem to have this and the symptoms are almost exactly the same.

Anyways, the mechanic looked at it today and unfortunately just agreed that either could be the problem. He did a flush and cleaned the battery connections but wasn’t able to say for certain if one or the other was the problem, though he agreed that the transmission needed flushing.

Hope this may help others if they encounter a similar problem.

@if the transmission is in fail-safe mode, it’s because of the grime.

You do realize the trans flush circulated that grime all through the transmission, lines, transmission cooler, torque converter, etc?

Has anything improved?