Won't shift into 3rd when it's cold

My wife has a 03 kia spectra that won’t shift into 3rd gear[Automatic] when it’s cold.The trans. filter and fluid have been change and it was fine for about 3 mos.until today.Any help would be great I’m lost on this.Talked to a dealer and they had no clue other than to get a new trans.The car has 105,000 mi.so I really don’t wanna spend that much $ on it if I don’t have to

Shifting problems with an automatic transmissions when cold isn’t a good sign. It usually means the seals within the transmission have hardened where they leak until things inside the transmission heat up and expand and then the transmission shifts normally.

Was the transmission fluid ever serviced prior to this problem? If not, then you might find yourself walking the aisles of parts stores looking for a miracle-in-a-can for automatic transmissions.


Are you sure its third and not fourth? Assuming it is a 4 speed transmission, by design may won’t go past third until warmed up.

An 07 Yaris sedan won’t shift to third until it runs for about half a minute or more. Yours is probably different, so if it’s a few minutes, there is a problem. Old transmissions with modulator valves used to not upshift on really cold winter days if they were overfilled.

Our '95 Civic is an automatic and has always stayed in 4th until it is warmed-up. You can actually guess within a mile or two as to when it’s going to shift into top gear, and this happens only when cold. The gear selector has 4 selections and once warmed-up will shift into a 5th? (guessing overdrive) . . . and being the car nerd that I am I listen for this shifting sometimes. I change the fluid often, siphoning and replacing a pint every oil change (3000 miles), stays nice and clean all the time. My suggestion for the OP is to find a good independent mechanic (not the dealer and not a chain tranny or oil change shop) and have that mechanic check it out, change the fluid and filter and assess it for you. Rocketman

One thing you haven’t told us is at what speed you expect it to shift.

My automatic doesn’t shift into its highest gear (4th) as readily when it’s cold. None of my automatics ever did.

My understanding is that many cars are programmed this way - to stay out of overdrive until up to temperature. The purpose is to get them to closed loop faster - i.e. fuel economy. I might be wrong, and its certainly not true of all vehicles.