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Car Jerks When Shifting From Reverse To Drive—What To Do?

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You’re driving your car, and you’re about to shift gears from reverse to drive. But the vehicle makes a jerking motion every time you do this transition. So what is wrong with your car? Also, what can you do to fix this issue? We researched these concerns for you, and here’s what we found.

You need to approach the jerking action of your car when you change its gears from reverse to drive based on the source of the issue. This sudden jolt could originate from different sources, like low transmission fluid or bad vehicle alignment. Applying the appropriate procedure to repair this particular concern should help reduce car repair and/or replacement fees.

Continue reading as we talk about the reasons why a car jerks when putting it into drive from reverse in greater detail. We’ll also tackle some possible solutions that may help eliminate this unwanted motion from your vehicle.

Put a gear stick into R position, (Reverse) Symbol in auto transmission car. - Car Jerks When Shifting From Reverse To Drive—What To Do

Why Does My Car Jerk When I Put It In Drive From Reverse?

Put a gear stick into R position, (Reverse) Symbol in auto transmission car.

Your car can make a jerking action when you change its gears from reverse to drive because of different underlying reasons. Some of the possible causes of this unwanted motion are:

Low Transmission Fluid

A car jerking during a gear shift change may mean that its transmission fluid is either lacking or absent. Troubleshoot this concern by opening the vehicle’s hood and locating the fluid container. Check its dipstick to verify if your car needs more transmission fluid.

It’s also important to mention that low transmission fluid can lead to more serious problems if left unchecked. Some possible issues might include a worn clutch and faulty gear synchros.

Don’t forget to read our post on how to check transmission fluid leaks if you think that this fluid is depleting faster than usual.

Bad Alignment

Perhaps one of the best ways to describe a misaligned car is as though it’s limping. This issue isn’t also exclusive to when you shift the vehicle from reverse to drive. It can happen at roughly any time, particularly when the damage to the wheels and suspension assemblies becomes severe, creating the limping action.

Some of the reasons why a car can become misaligned are:

  • Vehicular accidents
  • Driving over poor road conditions (e.g., bumps and potholes)
  • Suspension shocks or struts became loose and/or worn over time
  • Improper installation of aftermarket parts, particularly those that alter the vehicle’s height

Low Oil

An engine running low on lubricant can cause it to jolt or jerk during different procedures, including gear-shift changes. Drivers should always pay attention to when they should change their engine’s oil.

Generally, you need to change your vehicle’s oil by around 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If you’re not paying attention to the number of miles you drive your car, you need to notice some signs indicating a much-needed oil change.

Aside from the jerking action from a transmission change, other symptoms that require your vehicle to have an oil change are:

  • Oily smell
  • Overheating
  • Car engine stalls
  • The oil check light is active on the dashboard
  • Knocking sounds coming from the engine

Read our post on the remaining oil life of a car to gain additional insight on this subject matter.

Scaling On The Discs

Sometimes you might step on the brake after you shift your car’s transmission from reverse to drive. But your car jerks at this moment. If so, scaling on the brake discs is to blame for this issue.

Certain vehicle brakes, particularly low-quality models, will generate and gather scales or sediments that can adversely affect the car’s stopping action. The presence of these particles generally generates jerks when you press on the brake pedal.

How Do You Fix A Car That’s Jerking?

As mentioned previously, the appropriate way to approach the repairs on your vehicle to eliminate the unwanted jerk from changing gears is by knowing the underlying concern. In this section, you’ll learn some ways you can fix your vehicle’s jolting action based on its core issue:

Realign The Car

Pickup car Independent suspension system double wishbone, shock absorber and coil spring

Perhaps the first step for this procedure is to apply safety measures. For instance, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from particles that might become airborne as you’re working on your vehicle. Also, wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt to prevent direct skin contact from dirt and filth.

Then, figure out which end of the car has the offending limp. Once found and you completed the other safety preparations, continue this process by following these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Rope
  • Wrench set
  • Carjack
  • Jack stands
  • Grated container
  • Steel tape

Step #1: Raise The Vehicle

Use the carjack to raise the end of the vehicle with the misalignment to a reasonable height. Add as many jack stands underneath the under chassis as possible. That way, if the carjack gives out, you still have the stands to help support the vehicle's weight.

Step #2: Loosen The Locking Nut

Grab an adjustable locking wrench and loosen the locking nut on the tire rod on both of its sides. You’ll know if the nut is loose enough if you can move it with your hand freely.

Step #3: Straighten The Steering Wheel

Enter your vehicle’s cabin and sit on the driver’s seat. Straighten the steering wheel as much as you can. Then, carefully exit the car while making sure not to touch the steering wheel with your body as you go.

Step #4: Tie The Rope

Bring two grated containers near your setup and tie a rope of reasonable length to connect the two objects. Extend the two containers to straighten the rope afterward. Then, mark the areas that need alignment adjustments. Do the steps on the other side of the vehicle.

Step #5: Adjust The Wheels

Return to the vehicle's underside and adjust the wheels based on your measurements by adjusting the tire rod. Keep in mind that if you’re turning the tire rod counter-clockwise, you’re pulling the wheel inward. On the other hand, turning the tire rod clockwise pushes it outward.

Don’t forget to tighten the locking nuts once you finish. Lower the vehicle afterward and test it if the problem persists.

You can also watch the video below to see a visual representation of the steps mentioned above. It’s also worth mentioning not to follow this DIY'er example as in the video as he ran through red traffic lights while he tested his vehicle’s alignment, which is very dangerous and illegal!

Clean The Brakes

Change the brake pads of cars.

Removing rust and scale buildup on the brakes may help remove the jerking motion from your vehicle. Take note that you may need to remove the brake assembly from your car if it amassed significant rust and/or scale.

Still, here are the general steps to remove these substances from your vehicle’s brakes:

What You’ll Need

  • Wrench set
  • Carjack
  • Lug or impact wrench
  • Wire brush
  • Brake cleaner
  • Steel wool

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Raise the wheel with the offending brake with the carjack. Then, loosen the wheel’s lug nuts with the lug or impact wrench.
  2. Remove the wheel and set it aside temporarily.
  3. Apply the brake-cleaning solution to the areas with the scale or rust buildup.
  4. Use the wire brush and steel wool to help remove leftover sediments from the brakes.
  5. Let the product sit for a few minutes before cleaning it with a cloth or rag.
  6. Reassemble the wheel and give the car a test drive.

Check out this automotive rust remover on Amazon.

Bear in mind that some vehicles may require you to remove their brake assemblies for you to remove the amassed substance properly. If you think you can’t handle this procedure, it might be best to call for a towing service to send your car to a reliable automotive repair shop. Don’t attempt to drive your car if it has faulty brakes to prevent the risks of accidents and injuries.

You can also watch this video for an alternate solution to clean your car’s brakes:

What Are The Signs Your Transmission Is Going Out?

Aside from the sudden jolts you feel from your car during gear shifts, other signs that your transmission is about to fail are:

  • Burnt smell
  • Grinding noises
  • 'Shift to Park’ light persists
  • Check engine light persists
  • Loose feel during gear changes

Final Words

hand of man hold Gear R Reverse the gear selected to drive the vehicle backward

Stop a car from jerking when you shift its gear from reverse to drive, you can try re-aligning the vehicle. Another possible way to solve this problem is to remove sediment buildup from the brakes. Make sure to use the correct repair method to prevent further harm to your car.