Fiat cars can be fun to drive, but that only lasts until you start experiencing problems with automatic transmission. In this guide, we take a look at common transmission problems with  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) vehicles and what you can do to troubleshoot shift problems yourself. 

Before you start troubleshooting a Fiat transmission yourself, make sure the vehicle is out of warranty. Fiat typically covers powertrain for up to four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. If the car is still under warranty, have your local FCA dealer troubleshoot and fix your transmission free of charge. Call the Fiat dealer closest to you and check if the vehicle is still under warranty or if there are any open recalls for the transmission. 

Symptoms

Fiat Service Transmission LightCommon symptoms you may notice with Fiat automatic transmission: 

  • Gear failure
  • Won't change gears
  • Won't shift out of Park
  • Stuck in Neutral
  • Service Transmission warning light comes up
  • No Reverse
  • Transmission won't shift
  • Stuck in Park 
  • Rough shifting
  • Check engine light on
  • Slow to respond to gear changes

Common Causes

Common problems that can affect Fiat transmission include: 

  • Low transmission fluid level
  • Faulty solenoid
  • Plastic gearbox lever breaks off
  • Worn clutch assemblies
  • Wiring harness
  • Faulty torque converter
  • Transmission software
  • Low battery voltage or dead battery

Troubleshooting Steps

Transmission service warning

Let's take a look at a few basic steps you can perform yourself to troubleshoot a Fiat transmission. 

The first step is to check for oil leaks under the vehicle. If you were driving the vehicle when the transmission stopped engaging, leave the car parked at a safe location for at least 30 min. Next, move the vehicle a few feet back and check for leaks underneath the car. 

If any oil leaks are present, there is a high chance a transmission line or seal is damaged and needs to be replaced.

Check Transmission Fluid Level

Check fiat transmission fluid level

The next step is to check the transmission fluid level. Do this even if you don't notice any fluid leaks on the ground. Low transmission fluid on a Fiat vehicle, especially the 500, can cause several issues, including problems with shifting gears, delayed engagement, no drive or reverse, and transmission surging into gear. 

It is crucial to check the transmission fluid level as soon as your Fiat transmission starts to malfunction. If you have a major leak, it will require that the vehicle be towed to the mechanic. 

  1. Start your Fiat and allow it to warm up for at least 15 minutes. 
  2. While you keep the brake pedal pressed, move the gear selector between all the gears. 
  3. Leave the car parked with the transmission in Park and emergency brakes engaged. Engine running. 
  4. Pull the hood release under the hood and open the hood. 
  5. Locate the transmission dipstick. Do not confuse the transmission dipstick with oil dipstick. 
  6. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it clean and fully reinsert it.
  7. Remove the dipstick again and read the level.
  8. If the transmission oil level is low, add the recommended Fiat Transmission Fluid

Driving with very low or no transmission fluid can cause further damage to the transmission. Not all models have a transmission dipstick. 

Read Transmission Fault Codes 

The next step in troubleshooting Fiat transmission problems is to read the fault codes with a Transmission OBD-II scanner.

  1. Locate Fiat diagnostic trouble port under the dashboard. Fiat transmission diagnostic port

     

  2. Plugin your scanner and allow it to turn on. 
  3. Turn on the ignition but do not start the engine. Diagnose Fiat transmission read fault codes

     

  4. Select Fiat from the main menu or simply go to the Transmission menu. 
  5. Scroll down and select Read Fault Codes. 

Reading the fault codes is very easy and can give you a much better idea of what is wrong with your Fiat transmission.

In most cases, the problem will be due to a faulty sensor in the transmission or faulty transmission valve body. Further research and diagnostic may be needed to narrow down the problem. 

It's not recommended to use a cheap engine code reader because you will either retrieve no fault codes at all or you will get a generic P7XX fault code that won't be much help.

Fiat Transmission Problems Explained

Most Fiat Transmission Problems

Fiat transmission problems can be caused by a number of issues ranging from bad valve body, faulty solenoid to something as simple as low transmission fluid level or low system voltage.

Let's take a look at common problems that affect Fiat transmissions such as 500, 500c, 500X, 500L, 124 Spider, 500e.

Transmission stuck in neutral or gear

Vehicles with DuoLogic semi-automatic transmission can remain stuck in neutral, gear or park with no prior warning signs.

When this happens, the transmission will not react to drivers' input. In most cases, this issue occurs suddenly and remains like that, although sometimes it can resume its normal function.  There will be no other symptoms or warning lights. 

Possible causes

  • In most cases, this is a simple mechanical issue. It will happen when a plastic gearbox lever breaks off. As this connects the gearbox cables to the gearbox itself, this will disable gear selection. The problematic part is cheap and fairly easy to replace, as you only need to remove the battery and its tray to gain access.
  • Some models, like Fiat 500, have faulty gearbox cables. This is a known issue, covered by a factory recall in which Fiat replaces these parts free of charge. Check if your car is among affected vehicles.

Transmission jumping out of gear or harsh shifting

Vehicles with the semi-automatic transmission called Selespeed in older models and DuoLogic in newer can develop intermittent issues with gear shifts.

This can range from harsh or delayed gear shifts to sudden jumps out of gear. The problem may be more expressed while the vehicle is cold. In most cases, there will be a transmission warning message present.

Possible causes

  • The first thing to check is the transmission fluid level. There is a reservoir at the top side of the gearbox, just beneath the battery. Top up the fluid if needed.
  • The robotized system that operates these gearboxes is very sensitive to oil quality. Make sure to change the transmission fluid at recommended intervals and use only approved fluids.
  • If fluid top-offs and changes don’t help, the issue can be with the actuator assembly or valve body. This is a part that performs gearchanges and can wear out with time, especially when transmission fluid changes are neglected. Although it is possible to repair this assembly, it is best to have it done by a specialized service due to the complexity of this assembly.

Interiminet incorrect gear shifting

Vehicles with the semi-automatic transmission, Selespeed or DuoLogic, can suffer from various intermittent gear shift problems.

In most cases, gear shifts are incorrect; the vehicle stays stuck in one gear or refuses to engage the gear. This will be accompanied by a transmission warning message present.

Possible causes

  • Check if there are any DTC codes stored using a diagnostic tool. These gearboxes use a series of sensors, and any faults here will cause transmission issues. In addition to sensors installed on the gearbox itself, things like a faulty crankshaft or throttle position sensor can cause issues.
  • Besides the sensor itself, the wiring and connectors can be damaged or broken, so this is another thing to check. 

Juddering and shaking when setting off

Vehicles with DuoLogic and Selespeed semi-automatic transmission or a dual-clutch automatic transmission can judder and shake when setting from a standstill or when trying to accelerate in low gears.

This can be accompanied by gear hunting. In the initial phases, the problem will be present only when driving more aggressively.

Possible causes

  • The most common issue that causes this problem is worn clutch assemblies. Vehicles with DuoLogic and Selespeed have a clutch that is identical to a manual gearbox. Vehicles with a dual-clutch automatic transmission have a clutch pack. Over time, these assemblies wear out, and replacing the clutch pack is the only solution.
  • Broken engine or transmission mounts can cause a juddering and shaking sensation, as the whole powertrain rocks back and forth when setting off.

Grinding or rattling noise while driving

Some Fiat cars have a standard 6-speed automatic transmission, which can develop a grinding noise that is present when the car is in the drive.

This may happen when it is started from cold and goes away as it warms up, or it can be present all the time. The frequency of the noise follows the engine speed.

Possible causes

  • A torque converter has several needle bearings inside, which can wear out or get damaged as a result of poor maintenance. In addition to noise, this can create noticeable vibrations during accelerations
  • Check the transmission fluid level and top it off if needed. If you don’t know when it was changed last time, consider replacing it together with a filter.

Conclusion

Fiat vehicles are known to have transmission issues. As soon as you notice any warning signs that can point to a faulty gearbox, check the transmission fluid level. Add the recommended transmission fluid, which most likely will be MOPAR 68092912AA. Verify by looking it up in your owner's manual. 

If you have a Fiat 500, call the dealer to check if there are any open recalls. In 2016 FCA recalled thousands of Fiat 500 for automatic transmission problems because these cars where shifting unexpectedly into neutral or had problems with shifting into Park. 

Lastly, if you are still having problems, the next step is to read the fault codes from the transmission module with a Transmission Scanner. Changing the transmission fluid and filter every 60,000 miles can extend the life of your Fiat transmission. Certain Fiat transmission problems can not be fixed in your drive and you may have to seek help from an auto mechanic. 

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