Transmission wont shift below 3rd gear.


Asked by Aug 13, 2013 at 10:38 PM about the 1996 Dodge Ram 1500

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I have a 1996 Dodge RAM 1500 4X4 with the 318. The transmission seems to be stuck and will not shift below 3rd gear. It starts out in 3rd then eventually shifts up to 4th but will not down shift into 2nd or 1st. I am trying to determine if an overhaul is needed or if there is a lesser expensive way to fix this.

15 Answers


Have you THROTTLE POSITION SENSOR checked out because i think maybe on your truck that the TPS sends a signal to your tranny.GOOD LUCK!!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

I left out a key factor...from the column, I can manually shift the truck out of drive and down into (2) 2nd gear but not into (1) 1st gear. Right now I am starting out in 2nd then shifting into D once the RPMs hit ~3200 which basically shifts into 3nd and so on and so forth. It shifts up but stops shifting down once it hits 3rd gear. The day before I took the truck camping and had about 15 miles of dirt road washboard, there were no issues getting in but after getting out the truck began having the shifting issues. Thanks for your feedback bigC, I appreciate it!!

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

the trans is in LIMP IN. Ya need to pull codes to see whats wrong


When you get in your truck and start it can you manually shift down into first gear?If you can will it start out in first and stay there?If it wont go all the way to first gear you might have done some damage to the linkage.You might have also knocked a vaccum line to your tranny not allowing it to downshift or even shift at all.while you were driving on that dirt and gravel road.Start your truck and get under the hood and listen carefully for a vaccum leak.Then get under your truck and inspect your linkage looking for something that doesnt look right to you.And dont forget about checking out that TPS.And make sure you have good clean tranny fluid.GOOD LUCK!!!!


You can pull codes after you have checked out every angle,possibility,that you yourself can checkout,then you can say Ive done all I could do.


these transmissions are elect. controlled. if there is a ck eng lite on, you should ck it first.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

You are right if you have a big wallet,but if somebody is like me why not try to find the problem yourself?Taking it somewhere and having THEM tell what is wrong is fine ,but trying to find it yourself and getting advice through this colum is what real shadetree mechanics do,we do for ourself first!!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

you can purchase cheap scanners on ebay. would pay off in the long run. Having worked for chrysler, I know these vehc's are just looking for a reason to turn on the light.....just sayin.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

A lot of good feedback and I really appreciate every bit of it. I will check for vacuum leaks first thing in the morning. There are no active faults causing the check engine light to come on. I do not know where to look for the vacuum leaks, I will see if I can find anything in my manual. If somebody has pictures please send them to, that would be a HUGE HELP with troubleshooting the problem. When I shift into 1st on the column it will only go down to 2nd gear and not into 1st. My fluid is dirty and hasnt been changed in several years, I will also drain and install new tranny fluid.


Hello, I have a 98 ram 1500 2wd automatic. When I left for work yesterday I noticed that I had no 1st gear. All other gears and O/D worked and shifted fine. Did some research and came up with a list a mile long of possibilities. So starting with the cheapest I stopped on my way home and bought a couple relays. Installed them and first gear returned. After driving around for and hour going through all the gears manually and automatically I was convinced the issue was fixed. Well when I left this morning again no first gear. I drove about 4 miles to get my morning coffee and thought what the hell so I pulled the trans relay and re installed. Bam like magic first gear returned and everything was fine the rest of my drive to work. About 26 mi. Does anyone have any advice as to what my issue could be? I believe it to be electrical but not a trans guy thanks

8 of 8 people found this helpful.

Swordster, I am having the same problem with my 2000 Chevy Silverado 1500. How did you fix the problem?

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

You need to pull the codes and then reset or clear the codes go drive it and when it does again and if you get the same code you need to trouble shoot the code, If you get the same problem and it is not going back to first gear it is most likely the first gear solenoid. You are going to have to drop the pan when it is still hot to check the ohm 's readings to see if it is out of range. You really need to be able to read the function of the computer to see if it is signaling the transmission to make sure that the solenoid is getting its 12 volt signal from the computer and if so then you need to check the solenoid ohm's but knowing and working on these transmission's it is most likely the solenoid

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Chevy problems, had the same thing. Had to have the shift module changed not once, but twice within two years, at $600 a pop.

What ended up being the solution Swordster? My 2003 Dodge Ram is doing the exact same thing. No engine codes but will not manually shift into 1st and will only start in 3rd. Any transmission guy I speak to doesn't have an idea without taking the truck and using guess and check... that screems big $$$ to me. Would love to know what the fix ended up being for you.

I have a 99 Dodge ram v8 magnum 5.2 318 4x4 most likely for your ram not to shift properly it's your governor pressure solenoid drop the pain if you don't have the money for the solenoid take non-chlorinated break cleaner and clean them let them dry 8 hours after using break cleaner 8 out of 10 times this will work and save you $115

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