Why Nissan Altima Shifts Into Gear But Won’t Move: 15 Reasons

Gear changes are critical for smooth speed maneuvers and operations – hence Nissan Altima’s diverse gears-shifting selections and technologies to cater to drivers’ increasing demands.

However, troubles are not off the hook: what if the Nissan Altima shifts into gear but won’t move?

While the exact source of the problem is not easy to pinpoint, my team aims to lessen some of your burden by gathering the most likely culprits. Keep scrolling for details.

Why Nissan Altima Shifts Into Gear But Won’t Move

nissan altima shifts into gear but won't move

Automatic transmission models are likely suffering from air-fuel problems, mechanical engine issues, exhaust restrictions, or problems with the ignition/transmission/module.

Manual transmission ones have to deal with bad clutches, damaged gears/ hub sleeves, low fluid, or bad shift solenoids.

Automatic Transmission

Air and Fuel Delivery Problem

Like any car, the Nissan Altima requires fuel and air for proper acceleration and functions.

Issues with poor fuel-air mixture and delivery mostly stem from at least one of the following causes: 

  • Broken fuel pressure regulators (often manifesting in clear symptoms of low fuel pump pressure)
  • Restricted fuel injectors
  • Defective or weak fuel pumps
  • Blocked fuel filters
  • Dirty or too-weak throttle bodies
  • Blocked air filters
  • Damaged air intake

Exhaust Restriction

Exhaust systems are included in Nissan Altima to push exhaust gas through engines and off the tailpipes.

Once it is clogged (and hence, fails to deliver its functions), back pressure will grow beyond control, pulling the gas back through the valve and into your engine control unit.

No wonder the car cannot breathe and refuses to move an inch despite your acceleration attempts!

Assess whether the following obstacles have bothered your system’s consistent efficiency: 

  • Collapsed mufflers
  • Clogged catalytic converters
  • Damaged exhaust pipes

Mechanical Issues With The Engine

Every internal combustion, gas-powered engine demands three critical ingredients: fuel-air mixture, spark, and compression.

The latter (compression) is pressurized-formed into the engine cylinder, increasing air-fuel temperature to ignite the spark plugs for your Nissan Altima with little difficulty.

On the contrary, low compression leads to little (if even any) acceleration. This lackluster performance is usually the result of:

  • Damaged head gaskets
  • Damaged pistons, cylinder walls, and piston rings
  • Valve/ valve train problems
  • Timing chain and belt issues

Transmission Issues

The Altima’s transmission problems are quite complex, manipulating the engine’s rotational force that is eventually transferred to drive wheels through a series of transitional tubes.

Hence, their internal issues are equally complicated; if untreated, they will lead to “slippage,” – where the RPM increases but not the vehicle speed.

Faulty or weak transmission torque converters make things even worse.

Ignition System Problems

In a well-functioning Altima, the ignition system ignites the engine’s fuel-air mixture (as its name suggests), creating the energy and force required to push the vehicle down the street.

Any cracks or off points in the systems mean the engine will start misfiring, and failure to accelerate/move forward is only to be expected.

A few common ignition issues include: 

  • Faulty distributors
  • Damaged spark plug
  • Poor ignition modules
  • Damaged spark plugs wire
  • Damaged ignition coils

Module and Sensor Problems

Also referred to as the PCM (Powertrain Control Modules), engine sensors provide reading data to the car’s computer, which then uses the subsequent data interpretations to control the device’s functioning.

PCMs control all the Altima’s electronics (modules, sensors, etc.), ensuring the vehicle rolls at its peak. However, in down time, its job might be significantly hindered by: 

  • PC modem issues
  • Data network problems
  • Failed sensors
  • Faulty transmission control module
  • Circuit issues and loose connections

… and lead to your automatic car not moving in drive!

Clogged Transmission Filters

Nissan Altima transmissions also include filters to keep dust and contaminants off the system.

Irregular (or even no) filter changes will give room for debris buildup, resulting in your automatic transmission not engaging.

If you have never changed filters before or could not remember the last time you did so, now is a good time to get started.

Bad Valve Body or Faulty Shift Solenoid

Each valve body in the transmission comprises multiple hydraulic channels to sustain fluid flow during shift solenoid operations.

Shifter solenoids getting bad over causes transmission fluid to get dirty, blocking the channels.

Other even worse consequences also follow suit, such as car stalls and gear vibrations. Your car will start but wont drive, or does so with lots of difficulties.

Unfortunately, shift solenoid/valve body replacements are challenging and certainly not meant for inexperienced beginners.

You definitely need qualified mechanic help with this one.

Manual Transmission

automatic car not moving in drive

You can check out this list for more inclusive insight (especially if you also own other cars).

But overall, here are the most common manual-mode issues often observed on a manual-transmission Altima: 

Worn-Out Clutch Parts

The clutch systems comprise many small components, such as master cylinders, release bearings, release forks, etc.

Just one of them wearing down (especially the cylinders) triggers severe dampening impacts on your gear shifts.

Damaged Gears

Bad manual gearbox symptoms are quite obvious. Whether you move to 2nd gear or 3rd gear, hub or reverse, internal damages to the gears will take all your efforts down the drain.

Your car won’t go in drive no matter what you do!

Defective Hub Sleeves

Hub sleeves connect the gear and ensure correct synchronization between the gears and the teeth.

It is almost impossible to achieve effortless gear shifts when those sleeves malfunction, and acceleration delays will be inevitable.

Contaminated/Low Transmission Fluid Levels

Most manuals specify fluid change intervals clearly – and even when you do not read it, symptoms of low or dirty fuel levels should be clear enough to observe.

Ignoring the issue will strip your gears of their required lubrication and hence, leading to your car not moving in drive or reverse.

Lack of Clutch Fluid

The clutch and braking systems incorporate hydraulic fluid for better pressure transferring toward the engine revs.

Without enough clutch fluid levels to function, the clutch will grow disoriented with sudden engagements, resulting in noticeable gear shift stutters.

Failure With The Synchronizer Ring

Synchronizer rings have hundreds of small teeth to ease the hubs into operation, allowing you better access to all main gears.

The hub cannot work by itself when the ring fails, putting your Altima into numerous shifting problems.

Damaged or Misaligned Shifter Cables

Like most mister transmission cars from other brands, Nissan Altima has 2 shifter cables, which link the shift levers with the shift forks to smooth out the power delivery.

Accelerations will become a downright struggle once the cables become misaligned (or, worse, broken).

The gear shifters can still move but do not change gears at all, generating lots of strange noises.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix Nissan Altima Transmission?

bad manual gearbox symptoms

Since the scope of possible issues is not exactly narrow, we could only give you a rough estimation of $1500 to expensive repairs at $4000.

The number will fluctuate across different car problems, your Altima model (auto or manual standard transmission?), repair shop brands, and living regions.


The Nissan Altima shifts into gear but won’t move if you fail to address severe issues within the internal transmission, gears, and clutch system.

Assess which reason and symptom described above fall into your case, and treat them immediately to avoid putting your car in further common transmission troubles.

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