Difficulty While Shifting Gears in Your Toyota

by Mechanics Direct March 21, 2020

Toyotas are known for their sleek aerodynamic designs, which make hitting the road smooth and easy. However, trouble shifting gears can completely ruin all that a Toyota is loved for, making the driving experience hard, jerky, or just plain unpleasant. Both automatic and manual transmission models can experience this issue, and in this article, we aim to learn more.

How your Transmission Works

Automatic transmissions use a planetary system of gears which work together at different ratios to achieve the correct power transfer. This type of gear set has a main central gear, which is called the sun gear, as well as an outer ring of gears called, you guessed it, the ring gear, as well as a few other gears known as the planet gears which allow for gear changes.

Manual transmission have a flywheel that is attached to the engine’s crankshaft and rotates in time with it. There is also a clutch disc that sits between the flywheel and the pressure plate. When the driver engages the clutch, the flywheel spins both the clutch plate and the transmission, which moves the car. When the clutch is pressed, the pressure plate releases its hold on the clutch disc, allowing for safe gear changes. In modern manual cars, there are normally 5 or 6 gears.

Dragging Clutch

A dragging clutch is the phenomenon that most drivers will state makes gear shifting feel like a struggle. Most commonly this is experienced in manual cars and is when the clutch disc doesn’t engage the flywheel upon pressing the clutch pedal. This means that the clutch still spins with the engine, which makes a gear change next to impossible. Drivers can also often hear this struggle as well as feel it.

Common Reasons for Difficulty Shifting Gears

1. Fluid Leak

All transmissions are closed systems that use pressurized fluid known as transmission fluid to achieve gear changes. When the fluid leaks, the transmission will struggle to work correctly, due to pressure loss. After time, the transmission can more or less self-destruct, which is very expensive to fix. Transmission leaks are quite easy to spot, as the fluid is usually bright pink or red, though it may become brown-tinged when older. It can usually be spotted as droplets forming under your car when parked.

2. Solenoid Failure

Solenoids are what control the transmission fluid flow within the transmission system. Trouble shifting gears is commonly due to solenoid failure.

3. Transmission Fluid Contamination

As will all of the systems of your Toyota, transmission fluid can expire, becoming old and dirty over time, and in need of replacement. Trouble shifting gears is a clear indicator that your fluid’s lifespan has probably been reached. You should have your transmission fluid flushed and replaced at least every 100,000 miles.

4. Transmission Failure

As your Toyota reaches its twilight years, typically after 100,000 miles, the transmission can simply wear out. Low levels of transmission fluid can really impact the lifespan of your transmission system, so it’s essential you keep that topped up. Trouble shifting gears, humming, grinding, and clunking noises are all signs you will need an expensive transmission replacement or rebuild.

5. Faulty Shifter Cable

Some models of Toyota will use a cable to link the transmission to the shifter handle. Manual transmissions will often have two while automatic models will only have one. With time and use, this cable can become overstretched or snap. This can make gear shifting difficult, as well as cause gear misalignment.

6. Clutch Wear

As your Toyota ages, its clutch will likely wear out. The lifespan of the clutch is very dependant on maintenance standards and driving habits. A failed clutch will cause shifting struggles as well as a clutch that feels bouncy or spongey. It may also cause a burning smell.

Mechanics Direct

Mechanics Direct of North Chelmsford, Toyota Transmission Fluid Change Chelmsford, Drycut, Tyngsborough, Westford, and Lowell, MA, offer first-class auto repair with honest straight talk. Our five-star service is available Monday through Friday. We are experts in both Japanese and German cars. What makes Mechanics Direct unique is the level of care we give to our customers with complimentary loaner cars and shuttle services available. We offer a free vehicle health check that we text straight to your phone. We also have a 36,000 mile/3 year warranty. Put simply, at Mechanics Direct, you will always drive away safe and happy.

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