Shifting problems in a car with an automatic transmission are an indicator of an issue with the transmission's internal or external components or of an electrical issue. Trouble shifting may indicate external controls that need adjustment or replacement, or it may signal that electrical components are not functioning correctly, according to AAMCO. It's also possible that shifting problems are caused by low or burnt transmission fluid, according to Mister Transmission.
While checking transmission fluid is simple, Mister Transmission warns to look for muddy, brown or odorous liquid, as transmission fluid should be clear. Burnt fluid could indicate a problem, while missing fluid may be evidence of a leak. As far as internal and external components, AAMCO states that a diagnostic test involving the car or sport utility vehicle's computer is required.
Another common cause of shifting problems is a broken or worn transmission band, according to Autos.com. A clutch is also involved in shifting in both manual and automatic transmissions, so trouble shifting could indicate a thin or worn clutch.
Regardless of the cause, trouble shifting in a car with automatic transmission is most likely a problem that should be investigated as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the car, says Mister Transmission.