I bought my 2000 durango with the same problem it wouldnt shift into 2nd with out running the rpms to aroun 3000. I replaced my transmission sensor and the problem stopped and it started shifting as if it was new! Cheap part 25 bucks and dealer ship. Also very easy to change its a plastic sensor and its on the drivers side of the trany. un-plug and just un screw and screw other one on!!! very easy
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I assume this is an automatic?
If the shift linkage is not damaged (jammed or disconnected the usual answer is the governer valve in the transmission is sticking.
The fix for this normally involves pulling the trans out stripping it apart cleaning the governer valve new seals gaskets and reassembling.
(translated lots of money) try using a auto trans flush to clean all the gunk out of the transmission. Run the trans through all the gears with the trans flush and try driving it (only short distance test drive as its not proper trans fluid) see if you can get it out of first gear (flatten the gas pedal and let the engine go to max revs on short bursts) once it shifts once or twice go back and remove the trans flush fluid and replace with correct specification auto trans fluid I would also change the transmission filter at this point if it was mine .
I'm not a trans specialist but did plenty of trans work, ASE cert.#1- If the trans was way overdue for a service, all the ground metal that comes out with that flush & filter svc may have been holding things together in the trans now may be damaged trans. Use the proper type fluid? Air in system. Faulty trans pump? Any CE lights? RE; Long shot but possible emissions or clogging exhaust. Good luck. Sounds like faulty trans
Check the fluid level. You may want to consider having the transmission flushed. (I recommend BG Products flush system.) Properly flushing the trans removes any varnish the may have built up causing erratic behavior.
First off, have you changed your trans fluid lately. sounds like you need a trans flush. when you drop the trans pan and replace the filter and fluid you only get 3 to 4 quarts of transfluid. your trans holdt 12 to 15 quarts. so have it flushed completely cost $80 tp $120 but beats buying a new or rebuilt trans. always make sure you have the right amount of trans fluid. underfilling will cause lose of pressure and not shift properly. over filling a trans will cause over pressure and cause worse problems.
Make sure the fluid level is right. You need to check the trans fluid level in park with the vehicle running and at operating tempature. Is there any warranty implied from the place that did the trans flush? If the fluid level is correct and it continues to delay (slip) you can try using mercon 5 transmission fluid in the trans it is a thicker transmission fluid with a higher tempature range and will tend to smooth out the slipping issues in the colder weather.
Discribe sluggish. Changing the fluid has nothing to do with shift stratagy or correct trans operation. Change the filter every time you do the fluid,unless your just pulling the plug every year or so,to change some fluid.
These vehicles have a tendency to have a bad Trans Solenoid Pack. If it bangs into reverse or shifts funny around 35 to 40 on a slight hill,that part may be going bad.
You need a proper working EGR Valve and TPS (Throttle Position Sensor) also.
Don't forget to flush the Power Steering Fluid--although unrelated to the trans.
check fluid level AND condition...should a red color...if its discolored, in any way, flush it and change the filter too...then perhaps there is a band that is out of adjustment allowing the flare up, and it suddenly grabs getting the hard shift....or else trans is worn out....check the fluid