While “Drive” is undoubtedly the most used shift on any car, “Reverse” is a close second, and having a Ford F-150 that won’t reverse probably means you can’t back out of your driveway or parking spot to go anywhere. For most, this is a huge inconvenience, and you probably have no idea where to start when looking for the cause of this issue. Luckily, we do.
In this article, we’ll cover the top three most common reasons why your Ford F-150 won’t reverse and the most efficient ways to fix them. Keep in mind that some of these solutions may require the assistance of a professional mechanic, so be sure to consult one if you’re not comfortable completing any of these repairs yourself.
Low or Dirty Transmission Fluid
You’ll notice that a lot of the common reasons listed here as to why a Ford F-150 won’t reverse has to do with the transmission. This is because a car’s transmission is responsible for delivering power to your wheels at the proper rate, and so, when there is an issue with this component, your Ford F-150 can’t utilize its wheels and various gears properly.
The first element of your transmission you’ll want to check when your Ford F-150 refuses to reverse is the transmission fluid levels, simply because it is the easiest thing to analyze and check off the list.
If your fluids are low, all you need to do is fill it back up to an appropriate level and hope that solves the issues. If they aren’t low, then you move on to the next common cause.
During this process, you’ll also want to check the color and condition of your fluid, since old transmission fluid won’t flow properly and can inhibit transmission function.
How to Fix
Checking your transmission fluid levels and condition is a process you should be doing regularly in addition to oil levels, coolant and wiper fluid levels, etc.
To do this, you’ll want to locate the transmission dipstick under the hood of your Ford F-150. You’ll find it in the engine compartment, further back in the engine bay (don’t confuse it with the engine-oil dipstick).
The process of checking the transmission fluid levels is the same as engine-oil levels:
- simply pull out the transmission dipstick
- wipe it clean
- then slowly reinsert it
- and remove it once again.
This will give you a clean reading or your transmission oil’s level and color. You can tell if the levels are low by using the measurement notches on the dipstick.
If it is low, you’ll want to turn your Ford F-150 on and have it idling in park while you place a funnel into the hole of the transmission and add the transmission fluid recommended in your owner’s manual.
To determine if the transmission fluid is excessively dirty, lay your dipstick on a white piece of paper and notice the fluid color. If it is a pinkish-reddish color then the fluid is fine, but if it is closer to a dark brown, then it needs to be replaced by completely draining all old fluid and add new fluid.
Here’s a walkthrough video showing how to change the transmission fluid and filter:
Faulty Transmission Lever Components
After you’ve assessed your transmission fluid and ensured it isn’t the cause of this issue, you’ll want to check your transmission lever components.
The specific component you’ll want to check is the transmission position sensor (TPS), which is also referred to as the transmission range sensor or the transmission selector switch. This component is responsible for verifying your transmission shifter’s position to your car’s PCM (essentially, your car’s computer).
When this information is passed properly between the two components, your car will be able to properly shift into different gears. If the TPS is faulty, it can cause all sorts of transmission shifting issues, including an inability to reverse your car.
Oftentimes, if this is the component causing the issue, you’ll notice the “check engine” light appearing on the dashboards.
How to Fix
A faulty transmission position sensor will either need to be cleaned or replaced. To access it, you’ll need to elevate your Ford F-150 with a jack or blocks so you can safely get underneath and remove it from where it is connected to your transmission, just above the transmission pan.
Replacing this component might be best left to your mechanic, but if you’re intent on doing it yourself, you’ll need to follow the previous steps and then place your car in neutral. Make sure your car’s components are cool when you do this.
You’ll then disconnect the transmission position sensor from its linked arm by removing the 15mm bolt, disconnect the wiring harness connected to its side, and then remove the 8mm bolts keeping the sensor in place.
Afterward, install the Replacement Transmission Position Sensor (link to Amazon) and replace all disconnected components.
Here’s a video walkthrough of the process:
Internal Transmission Damage
This last common cause is a bit vague, but odds are that if the previously listed reasons aren’t responsible for your Ford F-150’s inability to reverse, then there is likely some degree of damage inside the transmission that is the actual culprit.
There are multiple ways your transmission internal components can be damaged and require replacements or repairs, but the most common reasons include:
- Transmission fluid has leaked inside
- Components are excessively worn
- Components were displaced, causing them to scrape against each other
If you don’t see any suspicious amounts of transmission fluid around your transmission components, then wear and tear is the primary concern. For this, you’ll want to check the reverse gear and reverse band for damage first and then assess other components.
How to Fix
Suspected issues with your transmission’s internal components are usually best left to your mechanic. While you can remove the transmission pan and try to check all the pieces yourself, this is a crucial and expensive part of your car that is best handled by professionals.
Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you were able to at least diagnose why your Ford F-150 won’t reverse and have a plan regarding how to resolve the issue. If you’re lucky, the culprit is dirty or low transmission fluid, which is easy and cheap to fix. Unfortunately, if a damaged transmission component is the cause, a trip to the mechanic is almost inevitable and the cost of replacements and repairs vary significantly.