The 8 Ways to Fix Your Cargo Van That Won’t Drive

Cargo vans not moving when you hit the gas pedal is a surprisingly common problem that many people face, especially if you’re driving an automatic transmission.

So why won’t your cargo van drive? Well, in this post you’ll learn;

  • 8 common reasons why cargo vans won’t drive when it’s in gear
  • How to fix the problem
  • How to prevent these problems from popping up in the future.

The reasons your cargo van won’t drive a

  1. Issues with your transmission speed sensor
  2. A bad transmission control solenoid
  3. Damaged torque converter
  4. Low transmission fluid
  5. A cracked fluid tube
  6. Faulty clutch
  7. Bad engine airflow sensor
  8. A malfunctioning throttle body

Let’s dive in!


1. Issues With Your Transmission Speed Sensor

Your transmission speed sensor measures the output speed of your transmission. It looks at the engine’s RPM versus what’s coming out of the output shaft and determines when to change gears. This can also be used for cruise control in modern cars.

Your speed sensor provides the ECU or engine control unit with data about your vehicle speed that affects shifting gears. If that data is erratic and inconsistent, then your transmission will face serious problems. This can lead to your cargo van not moving when you put it into drive.

Other common symptoms of a bad speed sensor include:

  • Your dashboard engine light is always on
  • The brake pedal feels harder to depress
  • Your speedometer behaves erratically.

If you suspect your cargo van has a bad speed sensor, then I highly recommend taking it to your local mechanic instead of swapping it out yourself since it requires advanced equipment you probably don’t have.

Your local mechanic has an OBD2 scanner, and that can tell if your speed sensor is faulty or not. If it is the problem, then a new one will set you back around $100 to $200.


2. A Bad Transmission Control Solenoid

Your transmission control solenoid is one of the most important parts of your automatic transmission.

It’s an electrohydraulic valve that’s in charge of controlling the amount of fluid flowing in and out of your automatic transmission. It does this based on whether you’re shifting up or down.

When this is faulty, it can cause delayed gear changes or cause your transmission to not shift at all. This problem can be worsened if you’re low on transmission fluid, which causes your automatic transmission to fail to shift gears.

How to know your solenoid is at fault:

First, check if your engine warning light is blinking. Most cargo vans have engine lights that’ll turn on if there’s a problem with the transmission. If the cargo van’s engine warning light is blinking, it can mean your transmission solenoid is bad.

However, if your car has a transmission light, it will start blinking if your transmission control solenoid is at fault.

The best way of checking for problems with your transmission is to use an OBD2 scanner. This scanner allows you to read trouble codes from your transmission control module. All mechanics have this scanner and a simple visit to a local car shop will let you know if your control solenoid is bad.

A new one sets you back around $200.


3. Your Torque Converter Is Damaged

When you’re driving an automatic vehicle, you don’t need to depress a clutch and change gears yourself. All you need to focus on is the gas and brake pedal. This makes driving smooth and effortless.

The work of your clutch pedal is done by a component called the torque converter. Think of it as a clutch pedal that does all the work for you.

Let’s say you’re driving and you press the brake pedal, your vehicle’s drive wheels stop turning and this means your driveshaft also stops turning.

But here’s the issue. When you apply brakes, you don’t stop the engine, and if your transmission and engine are connected like in an automatic transmission, then it’ll cause serious mechanical failure.

This is where a torque converted comes to the rescue. It isolates the engine’s rotation speed from your transmission at the time of braking, allowing your vehicle to stop without problems.

However, if your cargo van won’t move when put in drive, then your torque converter’s needle bearing may be damaged due to excessive friction. Symptoms of a damaged torque converter include;

  • Your vehicle won’t move in any gear
  • Your vehicle won’t start
  • The transmission is overheating
  • Brown and burnt transmission fluid.

If your car won’t move when you put it into drive, and your transmission fluid is brown and smells burnt, then there’s a high probability that your torque converter is damaged. A simple visit to your local mechanic and a few hundred dollars, and you’ll be good to go.


4. Low Transmission Fluid

Your automatic transmission is an important part of ensuring that your cargo van runs without any issues. It also has dozens of moving parts that are electronically operated and this makes it prone to breakage.

The job of your transmission is to take power from your engine and deliver it to your wheels. It also changes gears for you.

However, it needs transmission fluid to run properly. If your transmission fluid is low, your cargo van won’t be able to change gears or even move at all.

To find out if low transmission fluid is your problem, open the bonnet and there should be a stick saying, “ATF” which stands for automatic transmission fluid. Simply pull this dipstick out, clean it, and insert it again. When you remove it for the second time, it’ll indicate the amount of transmission fluid in your car.

This is an easy problem to solve since all you need to do is add some transmission fluid and you’re good to go.

The color of your transmission fluid also tells you a lot about the state of your transmission. If it’s dark brown and it smells burnt, then there’s likely a problem with your transmission and you’ll need to get it fixed by a professional.


5. Cracked Transmission Fluid Tube

Now, let’s say you added transmission fluid and your cargo van started working again. But after a few weeks you’re back to square one. Well, this could be caused by a cracked transmission fluid tube.

Your automatic transmission contains around 2 to 4 gallons of transmission fluid. If half a gallon or more leaks out, then your transmission can’t develop the hydraulic pressure necessary to function. This can cause your cargo van to stand still when you put it in drive.

Some common symptoms of a cracked fluid tube include;

  • Your dipstick shows low transmission fluid after you’ve filled it up recently
  • Gears make a grinding sound when you put them into gear
  • Your engine or transmission light flickers when you turn on your car
  • There’s a puddle of dark brown oil under your car.

Your mechanic should be able to easily repair a cracked transmission fluid tube, and it’ll set you back around $150.


6. A Faulty Clutch

Isn’t a clutch something that only manual vehicles have? Well, you might be surprised to find out that although your automatic transmission might not have a clutch pedal, it also has a clutch system.

If your car won’t move in drive or reverse, this indicates your transmission is unresponsive and worn due to a worn-out clutch.

Without getting too technical, your clutch is just a bunch of steel and friction plates that connect your engine to the transmission.

These plates can wear out over time, and this means that the proper pressure can’t be placed onto your planetary gears. These are the gears that determine which gear you’re in.

Bad clutches can cause the automatic transmission to slip and your cargo van won’t move since power isn’t being transferred to the wheels.

Luckily the solution is simple yet costly.

Most mechanic shops can swap out your faulty clutch for a new one, but it typically costs around $1000. Repairing automatic transmission clutches can be quite pricey since automatic transmissions are far more complicated than manuals.


7. Bad Engine Airflow Sensor

Unlike other problems on this list, this problem has nothing to do with your transmission, rather, your engine.

An engine airflow sensor measures the amount of air and fuel in the engine and ensures that it’s always perfect. Too much fuel or too much air, and your engine won’t perform properly.

If your engine airflow sensor is faulty, your engine might still run, but the fuel-to-air ratio will be unbalanced and your engine won’t produce any power. This can cause your car to not move when you hit the gas pedal.

Common symptoms of a bad engine airflow sensor include;

  • Your engine light starts to flicker
  • It’s difficult to start your car
  • Your engine hiccups
  • Your car stalls soon after starting.

If you suspect your engine airflow sensor is faulty, visit a qualified mechanic and they’ll be able to run computer diagnostics and if your sensor is faulty, it’ll generate a specific code. Your mechanic will clean it and it’ll only cost a few dollars.


8. A Malfunctioning Throttle Body

Just like with bad airflow sensors, a malfunctioning throttle body has nothing to do with your vehicle’s transmission. Instead, the problem lies in how much air and fuel is entering the engine via your vehicle’s throttle body.

When you depress the gas pedal, a valve in your throttle body opens, and it allows more air to go to your engine. This air is mixed with fuel and combined with a spark, creates energy. This energy allows your car to move.

If the valve in your throttle body doesn’t open when you press the gas pedal, no air will enter your engine and it won’t burn fuel. This lack of energy causes your car to stand still when you hit the gas pedal.

A few symptoms of a malfunctioning throttle body includes;

  • An idle that’s lower than usual
  • Your car stalls when you come to a stop
  • It stalls after you hit the gas pedal and rev your engine

A malfunctioning throttle body is quite hard to detect since modern cars have advanced electronic throttle bodies. But a qualified mechanic can run diagnostics on it and check if it’s really the problem.

To swap out your bad throttle body for a new one can set you back around $200.


How To Prevent The Problems From Popping Up Again

There are several reasons why your cargo van doesn’t move when you hit the gas pedal, and each solution is more complicated than the next. So it’ll be smart to implement a few techniques to ensure that after you repair your cargo van, it doesn’t act up in the future.

Here are 4 easy ways to ensure that your cargo van is running in tip-top condition all the time.

  1. You can avoid most problems by simply servicing your cargo van regularly. This is key to peak performance, and when you service your vehicle, you allow your mechanic to catch problems while they’re still small. This way you don’t have to dish out a lot of money in the future.
  1. In addition to servicing your car, regularly check your oil and transmission fluid levels. This is like blood to your car since it’s essential for proper functioning.
  1. Always go to reputable mechanics. Not all mechanics are the same. Some are only looking for your money, while others care about their customers and long-term business. Always do thorough research about the shop you’re visiting by reading online reviews.
  1. Whenever your engine warning light starts flickering, take your cargo van to a reputable mechanic immediately. This way you catch the problem when it’s still small and you won’t have to pay much.