This is why a manual transmission shifter is sticky

Why is a manual transmission shifter sticky? The answer to this question usually varies, especially since it is dependent upon each specific situation.

For instance, if you notice one of the following occurring while driving, you need to identify the cause right away.

  • Your vehicle struggling to change gears
  • You have a stiff gear stick
  • Your shifting becomes erratic

So, let’s get started by looking at 3 common causes of a sticky manual shifter

1. High Pressure and Sticky Valve Problems

One common cause of your car jerking when shifting gears may be high transmission line pressure and sticking valves. If the control surfaces in the transmission of your vehicle are gummed up, it may result in problems with a sticky valve.

Or, if you have a clog of gunk on the inside of your transmission, the pressure may also begin to rise too much.

2. Clogged Transmission Filter

Clogged transmission filters can also present problems that can cause your vehicle to have problems with sticky gears. You can find this filter in a location that is near the transmission fluid pump, on most of today’s vehicles.

Because a clogged filter places a huge amount of stress and strain on the pump, it makes it more difficult to draw the fluid out of the pan.

Therefore, if these problems are occurring too long, the shifter gets more difficult to move freely and may begin to damage other essential components, too.

3. Cables and Shift Mechanism Not Lubricated

Another problem that causes a sticky shift mechanism, is the lack of lubricant or other related problems. For instance, at the factory where the vehicle is built, technicians normally ensure that the cables and the shift mechanism are properly lubricated.

However, after a while, the viscosity of the lubricant that has been applied begins to degrade and go away.

Or, In some cases, these issues may occur because of the lubricant breaking down or becoming contaminated. In either event, these problems are often magnified in the cold weather and will cause the shift mechanisms to become stickier.

How to fix sticky gear shifters in this case?

As mentioned above, there are many reasons why the gears in a manual transmission may become stiff. In some cases, the problem may be related to clutch systems.

Because the clutch system of your vehicle is responsible for engaging and disengaging the power to the vehicle’s transmission, malfunctions can occur in the middle of the flywheel and its engine.

It is also important to note that there are 6 domain components on clutch systems including the following:

  • Release bearing
  • Clutch master cylinder
  • Release cylinder
  • Clutch cover
  • Clutch disc
  • Release fork

Each of these components plays an essential role in giving you the capability to change gears with ease and without sticking. However, at any point in this process, a leak, malfunction, or damage can be done to one of the components.

Unfortunately, when this happens, the gear shift may be too stiff to shift easily.

To fix this type of problem, the damage to these components should be repaired or replaced. Also, if there is a leak in this system, the gear oil will need to be added to the appropriate level.

How much does it cost to fix a sticky manual shifter?

Some problems can be handled without the help of a professional. For instance, you can do a transmission fluid change at an average cost of around $100.

Or, if you need to replace an old worn car shift cable, the price range from $140 to upwards of $600.

Is the transmission fluid a cause of a sticky manual shifter?

Transmission Fluid is Worn Out Or Dirty

If your manual transmission shifter is starting to stick, you may want to check out the condition of your transmission fluid first.

Because the color of your transmission can make a huge difference in how your manual transmission actually functions, you need to see if this fluid needs to be changed. Here is what to look for.

If the color of your transmission fluid is bright pink, it normally means that your fluid is still in good condition.

When the color of your transmission fluid is almost brown, it means your fluid is dirty and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

If the color of your transmission fluid is dark brown and it smells like it is burnt, it means your fluid is dirty and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. And, the burnt smell can indicate that some damage may have been done.

To prevent unnecessary problems from occurring, you need to consult your vehicle’s manual about the frequency of having your transmission fluid changed.

Normally, manufacturers of today’s vehicles may recommend a change every 30,000 miles (i.e. 48,000 km).

Transmission Fluid is Low

Another common cause of a sticky manual transmission gear is low transmission fluid levels. Therefore, you should make sure that you check these levels to see if this the problems that you are having with this vehicle.

To check the level of the fluid in your vehicle, you take out the transmission stick and wipe it off completely. After which, you will place the dipstick back in and then pull it out to read it.

If the level is below a specific mark on the stick, the transmission fluid will need to be replenished with fluid. By pouring the fluid back in, you can eliminate the cause of these problems.

Is a sticky shifter a sign of a failing transmission?

Even though there are many different signs of a failing transmission, one of the most obvious is a problem with gears that stick or shift erratically. Regardless of the cause, you will need to have the repairs done right away.

If you make these repairs before further damage is done, you can avoid the cost of replacing your transmission. The average cost of replacing a transmission can range from $1,800 to $3,400 or more.

Does cleaning a sticky manual shifter fix it?

Cleaning a sticky manual shifter may not fix the source of your problem. This is especially true if the problem is related to a leaky transmission, low transmission fluid, and other issues that cannot be taken care of by simply cleaning a sticky manual shifter.


Why is a manual transmission shifter sticky? The answer to this question will vary based on the cause of these problems. From a clogged transmission filter in the vehicle to stiff gears wearing out, there is a wide range of issues that can occur.

Also, based on the actual cause of your sticky gear shifter, you can save money and time by having the repairs made early before they escalate to buying a new transmission for your vehicle.

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