Transmission stuck in top gear

Asked by Dec 02, 2014 at 09:11 PM about the Saturn S-Series

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

1999 Saturn SL; 1.9L motor, automatic transmission; my car seems to be stuck in "D" or
the top (4th?) gear; shifts from P to R with a thud, then to D but never goes down to first
gear.  Fluid levels appear okay.  No leaks.  Any ideas where to start?

5 Answers


Yes I do, the transmission is shot. I had the same thing happen to me. The p to r is a big thud right? You can get one out of a junkyard fairly cheap however the car isn't really worth spending that much money on it.


Any time I hear of shifting problems in an automatic transmission I think of accumlators, vacuum modulators, or the valve body. Problem is that for many cars there isn't a whole lot of information available on the web. I don't know if it's real kosher, but I'd suggest you try a Saturn forum and post the question. For example on a Ford forum there's a real transmission expert who happily helps people with trans problems.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Thanks for the input! The car was only $600 so I don't have much to lose by fixing it or parting it out. I guess it is time to learn about transmissions!


That's good you didn't pay much for the car. A good low mile transmission from a yard might be $400-900. A rebuild is going to run you around $1200-1500. If the car has a lot of miles on it (160,000 or so) its just not worth it, to me. That's my 2 cents worth and you got it for free, LOL


But... if you can find an expert online in some forum on Saturn transmissions to address your specific problem. An accumulator or modulator are usually around $30, valve body and separator plate gaskets are only a few bucks each. The ATF is directed through the valve body through channels, pistons, springs, check balls enabling the transmission to shift. If you've ever installed an automatic transmission shift kit the repair couldn't be much different.

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