Today when I tried entering a roundabout, my 2003 Astra's gearbox got stuck in neutral as I tried shifting to first. I finally managed to shift after wiggling the stick around and applying more force, only to get stuck in neutral again, so I decide to pull up.

After some experimenting I found out that this will only happen when the engine is running. If I try to shift to reverse, I would hear a grinding sound (this only happens when shifting to reverse, all other gears are "blocked"). If I start the engine while in first, the engine would stutter and turn off after a few seconds.

This would happen seemingly at random, sometimes I'm able to shift normally and others it would just get stuck.

It's a 2003 Opel (Vauxhall) 1.6l Astra with 200k km (130k miles). I did a yearly (mandatory) checkup a few weeks ago.

What could be the culprit here? Would a simple gearbox oil change solve it?


  • Sounds like your clutch is going bad.
    – vini_i
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 22:50

3 Answers 3


It sounds to me like your clutch is not releasing - the grinding sound only happening on reverse is because that is the only gear that does not have synchromesh, and that suggests to me that the linkage is ok, as it's trying to engage a gear and failing - a bad linkage would simply not allow you to push the gear lever into the correct position, regardless of whether the engine was running or not.

Check the clutch operating mechanism first - I can't remember if Astras of that age have hydraulic or cable clutches. If that is working correctly, it may be the clutch release arm or the tines on the clutch cover that have failed - unfortunately either of those need the clutch removing to see...

  • Agree. Symptoms sound like when my clutch puked the springs, and the clutch wouldn't release.
    – rpmerf
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 11:33

It may be a clutch problem but I don't like the sound of the bit we're you say "the engine stalls if started in gear", this makes me think that there is something binding in the gearbox itself.

Firstly check that the gearbox oil level is ok. If not, top it up and check for leaks as the oil is going somewhere.

If its not a worn clutch & the oil level in the gearbox is good you need to have the transmission problem investigated further.


Trans fluid could help, but your problem is either in shifter linkage, or clutch.

If your clutch is too worn, it should be a consistent problem. The linkage makes more sense to me.

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