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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had this happen to me twice now: I'm driving around, then I'm stopped at a light or stop sign, then go to accelerate and...nothin'. Almost. The engine revs as normal, turbo boost fluctuates as normal, but the car inches forward. I look down and notice that the car is in neutral. When I try to put it in drive, it stays in neutral. When I try to put it down into 3rd, it shifts into reverse! 2nd and 1st give me park. I can shift between Park, Reverse and Neutral normally.

The thing is, if I rev it up to about 3k RPM's, the transmission will "catch" and the car will continue to drive normally as long as I stay at speed. If I stop completely I'll get the same revving but no go issue. If I drive around at speed for a while (while the shifter's on drive but the dash indicator light tells me it's still in neutral) eventually the indicator light will move down to drive and it'll be perfectly fine again.

When this has happened, I've noticed that I can also freely move the shifter between neutral and drive (i.e. no need to pull the trigger) with very little force.

As I said, this has only happened twice. Every other time I've driven the car, it drives and shifts normally. Any ideas? Unfortunately I've not been able to reproduce this scenario in a location where I can fiddle with anything as both times it's happened, it's been at lights and the issue resolved itself within a few minutes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Sorry, used to driving a stick, but apparently the easy shifter movement between Neutral and Drive (without having to depress the trigger button) is pretty much standard.

When it happened, I fiddled with the shifter a bit: putting it in 3rd, 2nd or 1st just puts it in reverse. This was at a light with cars behind me so I didn't check to see if it would actually reverse. Putting it in 2nd, etc did NOT put it in Park as I described above. I was likely just not remembering correctly in the above post as I was just frantically messing with it at traffic lights with traffic behind me.

It did it again on the way in to work today and I noticed that it happened as I slowed from about 60 mph to 15-ish to make a turn. The shifter was in D the whole time but the indicator light on the dash popped up to Neutral. It's a short drive to work so it never did go back to Drive. For the first two stops, I had the issue where it'd rev and inch forward from the stop but then catch and drive normally. From there on out, the car drove as if it was in Drive (accelerating normally from stops) though the indicator light on the dash stayed in Neutral. Shifting while driving was smooth.

No warning lights are displaying at any time.

Really hope this isn't the transmission going as I've now got a slow leak in the water pump that needs fixing. One semi-major repair right after buying the car is fine and sort of expected, but two is a bad omen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Haven't had it happen again just yet, but it does seem like the car is driving sluggishly, at least in non-sport mode. Normally it shifts at pretty low RPM's outside of sport mode but still has some nice pickup. Now it's shifting at higher RPM's and feels like I'm driving my old '97 Dodge Neon.

I've been trying to listen for any noise and I honestly can't tell one way or the other if it sounds any different than it did before.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Update: hasn't done it quite so intensely lately. It has slipped into neutral (according to dash light) a couple of times but only once has this had the effect where it takes some RPM's from a stop to get the transmission to engage. A couple of times it has just sort of toggled between N and D while on the move with no noticeable effect on performance.

I could just be paranoid about the performance issues. It's really difficult to tell if there's any serious effect on my MPG (which I think would be a good indicator of a problem, right?) because a) I haven't had the car long enough to have a really solid baseline MPG anyway and b) the weather has been hot enough that I haven't been able to do a lot of non-AC driving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Update again:

The issue continues. The problem manifests itself usually 30 seconds to 1 minute into driving from park (car will be in drive, light shifts up into neutral). Sometimes I'm getting the effect described above where I'll be stopped at a light and it's reading neutral, with the car creeping forward with the gas depressed then "catching" after a second or two to continue to drive normally.

Sometimes the light will flicker between N and D while driving. While this flickering happens I can feel the car lose power (i.e. toggle in and out of gear) as it flickers. Usually it settles back on N after a second or two and drives, but at that point it feels like I'm driving around in 3rd or something. Eventually it'll fall back into D and then drive normally.

This only happens on some trips. Most of the time the car drives perfectly normally, shifts smooth, etc. I'm not getting any warning lights. The fluid didn't smell burnt that I could tell but was somewhat dark.
 

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Have you checked the motor and trans mounts?

Bad mounts can cause the cable to move around between N and D

However 3rd being Reverse really makes no sense.

Also check that the cable is connected to the transmission correctly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Huh, weird. I thought I had updated that I was incorrect about that strange reverse shifting thing (dunno why I thought that originally...probably just a moment of panicking at a light trying to figure out why it wouldn't go to D). When trying to put it in 3rd, 2nd, 1st while it's in N causes it to just stay in N.

Anyway, that is making a ton of sense. Around the same time this started happening, I've started to notice a sort of rattling sound coming from up front somewhere that I can feel very slightly that happens especially on bumpy roads. I've also noticed that the problem will happen in the first place or fix itself either on bumpy roads or when stopping/accelerating.

I will have my guy take a look at the mounts. I'll probably do a tranny drain and fill anyway since the fluid was pretty dark.

Thanks!

EDIT: I've also had a slowly leaking water pump since I bought the car a few months ago. I've gotta top the reservoir off maybe every 300-400 miles. Is the positioning right for coolant dripping from the pump to land on the transmission mount? I reckon that could soften up that rubber or corrode the metal and cause the mount to go bad.
 
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