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Toyota Avalon Gear/Shift Problems (How To Fix)

The Toyota Avalon is known for its smooth ride, comfortable interior, and impressive fuel efficiency. However, some owners have encountered gear and shift problems with the vehicle. In this article, we will address the common causes of these issues and provide tips on how to rectify them. By understanding the root of the problem, drivers can take proactive steps to resolve the concerns and enjoy a seamless driving experience.

Inside of Toyota Avalon steering wheel

One of the most common causes of gear and shift problems in Toyota Avalons is a worn or damaged transmission. This can lead to erratic shifting patterns, grinding noises, or slipping gears. Additionally, issues may stem from a malfunctioning shift solenoid or a faulty transmission control module (TCM). Both of these components play a crucial role in the gear shifting process by regulating the flow of transmission fluid and determining the optimal shift points.

To resolve these problems, it is recommended to consult with a certified mechanic who can diagnose the exact issue and recommend the appropriate course of action. In some cases, it may be necessary to replace or repair the damaged transmission components, while in others, a simple transmission fluid change or software update may suffice. Regardless of the scenario, addressing the gear and shift problems timely and adequately is essential to avoid further damage and ensure the longevity of your Toyota Avalon.

Common Gear Shift Issues

Silver Toyota Avalon with black background

Gear Slipping

Gear slipping is a common issue where the transmission does not engage properly, causing the vehicle to feel as if it’s momentarily in neutral. This can happen due to worn or damaged clutches, a low transmission fluid level, or incorrect transmission fluid type. To remedy this issue, check the transmission fluid level and condition. If it is low or discolored, refill or replace the fluid as necessary. If the problem persists, a professional inspection and repair may be needed to address potential internal transmission damage or worn clutches.

Additionally, a software update may be required for the transmission control module (TCM). Some Toyota Avalon models may exhibit gear slipping due to outdated software, which can be fixed by updating to the latest version. Consult a certified Toyota mechanic for guidance.

Hard Shifting

Hard shifting is another common gear shift issue experienced by Toyota Avalon drivers, where the gear shift feels stiff or harsh when changing gears. This can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Worn or damaged transmission components
  • Dirty, low, or incorrect transmission fluid
  • Misaligned shift linkage or cables
  • Faulty transmission control module (TCM)

To address hard shifting, first inspect the transmission fluid level and quality. If the fluid is low, dirty, or the incorrect type, replace it with the appropriate fluid as specified by Toyota. If the problem persists, a further inspection and possible repair of the transmission components or shift linkage may be necessary.

Delayed Shifting

Delayed shifting is characterized by a hesitation or lag when changing gears, often accompanied by a noticeable noise or jolt. This issue can be caused by:

  • Worn or damaged transmission components
  • Insufficient transmission fluid pressure
  • Faulty transmission control module (TCM)

To diagnose delayed shifting, check the transmission fluid as mentioned in the previous sections. Additionally, a professional mechanic may need to perform a pressure test to determine if sufficient pressure is being applied during gear changes. If inadequate, internal transmission components may need to be repaired or replaced.

Unresponsive Shifting

Unresponsive shifting occurs when the gear shift fails to engage the desired gear despite the driver’s input. Potential causes include:

  • Faulty shift solenoids
  • Malfunctioning transmission control module (TCM)
  • Damaged or misaligned shift linkage or cables

In such cases, it is essential to consult a certified mechanic for a thorough inspection and diagnosis. They may need to repair or replace the faulty shift solenoids, TCM, or shift linkage to resolve unresponsive shifting.

Gear Shift Stuck

A stuck gear shift can result from a variety of issues, such as a mechanical obstruction, damaged shift linkage, or a problem with the interlock system. To address a stuck gear shift, try the following:

  1. Inspect for any obstructions around the gear shifter or beneath the vehicle that may be impeding movement.
  2. Check the brake pedal switch to ensure the brake pedal is activating the interlock system, which may release the gear shift.
  3. Consult a professional mechanic if the problem persists, as further inspection and repair of the gearshift linkage, interlock system, or transmission components may be necessary.

Causes of Gear Shift Problems

Red rear Toyota Avalon

Transmission Fluid Issues

One common cause of gear shift problems in the Toyota Avalon is transmission fluid issues. Transmission fluid is essential for the smooth operation of the gears in the vehicle. It acts as a lubricant and coolant in the transmission system. If there is a low level of fluid, dirty or burnt fluid, it can cause various issues with the gears.

Proper maintenance of the transmission fluid is crucial to avoid problems. Checking the level and condition of the fluid on a regular basis is recommended. Changing the fluid with the recommended type and at the appropriate intervals can help to prevent gear shift problems. If the fluid is dirty or has a burnt smell, it needs to be replaced immediately to avoid further issues.

Worn Clutch Components

Worn clutch components can also create gear shift problems in a Toyota Avalon. The clutch, which is responsible for connecting and disconnecting the engine from the transmission, could suffer from wear over time. This wear can lead to difficulty engaging or disengaging the gears and cause a rough or erratic shifting experience.

To ensure a smooth gear change, inspecting the clutch components for wear and replacing them if needed is essential. Symptoms of a worn clutch include slippage, hard shifting, and difficulty getting into gear. Regular maintenance and using genuine Toyota replacement parts will help to prolong the life of the clutch components and ensure a well-functioning gear shift system.

Faulty Shift Solenoid

A faulty shift solenoid can cause gear shift problems in a Toyota Avalon. The shift solenoid controls the flow of transmission fluid to activate the gear change. If it is not functioning correctly, the fluid flow can be disrupted, leading to a rough shift or a complete inability to change gears.

Diagnosing a faulty shift solenoid involves scanning for error codes, performing electrical testing, and checking for any mechanical problems within the transmission system. If a faulty solenoid is identified, it should be replaced to restore the smooth operation of the gear shift system.

Malfunctioning Transmission Control Modules

The Transmission Control Modules (TCM) are responsible for controlling the gear shift system in a Toyota Avalon. A malfunctioning TCM can cause incorrect information to be sent to the solenoids, therefore not allowing gears to shift properly. This might result in jerky shifts, slipping gears, or the gears not shifting at all.

A diagnostic scan tool can help to identify any issues with the TCM. If it is determined that the TCM is malfunctioning, it may require reprogramming or replacement. Properly functioning TCMs are essential for maintaining the gear shift system and ensuring a smooth and safe driving experience for the Toyota Avalon owner.

How to Diagnose the Issue

White Toyota Avalon

Visual Inspection

Begin the diagnosis process by performing a visual inspection of the gear shift assembly and surrounding components. Check for any visible damage to the shifter itself, such as broken or loose parts. Next, inspect the linkage between the shifter and the transmission for signs of wear or misalignment. If any issues are found during this visual inspection, address them before moving on to the next steps in the diagnosis process.

Additionally, inspect the transmission mounts and bushings for excessive wear or damage, as this can affect the transmission’s ability to shift gears properly. Damaged or worn transmission mounts should be replaced to ensure the vehicle operates smoothly and safely.

Finally, take the time to examine the gear shift cables or rods for any signs of rust, corrosion, or damage that could prevent them from functioning properly. Replace any damaged parts to prevent further issues with shifting gears.

Check Engine Light Codes

When the check engine light is on, it indicates that the vehicle’s onboard computer has detected a problem. Use an OBD-II scan tool to retrieve any diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) related to the transmission or gear shift system. Common DTCs associated with gear shift problems in the Toyota Avalon include:

  • P0700: Transmission Control System Malfunction
  • P0715: Input/Turbine Speed Sensor Circuit Malfunction
  • P0720: Output Speed Sensor Circuit Malfunction

Be sure to address any DTCs retrieved during the scan before moving on to the next steps in the diagnosis process. Clearing the codes and performing a test drive will assist in determining if the issue has been resolved or if further diagnosis is needed.

Transmission Fluid Level and Condition

The transmission fluid plays a significant role in the proper functioning of the gear shift system. Begin by checking the transmission fluid level while the vehicle is running and at operating temperature. If the fluid level is low, top it off with the manufacturer-recommended transmission fluid.

Next, inspect the color and consistency of the transmission fluid. Healthy transmission fluid should be bright red and have a slightly sweet smell. If the fluid appears dark, smells burnt, or has a thick, milky consistency, it may need to be replaced. A full transmission fluid change, including a new transmission filter, should be considered at this point to restore optimal performance to the system.

Shift Solenoid Function Test

Shift solenoids are responsible for controlling the flow of transmission fluid to actuate gear changes. A malfunctioning shift solenoid can lead to gear shift problems. To test the function of the shift solenoids, the following steps can be performed:

  1. Locate the shift solenoids within the transmission valve body.
  2. Using a multimeter, test the resistance of each solenoid by placing the probes on the solenoid’s terminals.
  3. Compare the measured resistance to the manufacturer’s specifications for the shift solenoids. If the resistance is outside the specified range, the solenoid may be faulty and require replacement.

Replacing a faulty shift solenoid will often resolve gear shift issues, but if problems persist, further diagnosis and inspection of other transmission components may be necessary.

Fixing the Problem

Leather interior of Toyota Avalon

Fluid Replacement or Flush

Replacing or flushing the transmission fluid is a common solution to gear shifting issues in a Toyota Avalon. Over time, the fluid can become contaminated, decreasing its effectiveness in maintaining smooth gear shifts. It’s important to check the fluid levels and condition regularly to avoid potential issues.

To perform a fluid replacement, drain the old transmission fluid and replace it with fresh fluid according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. In some cases, a complete flush may be more effective, as it removes debris and contaminants that have built up in the system. This process involves using a specialized machine or a manual pumping method to remove the old fluid and replace it with new fluid.

It’s essential to use the appropriate type and quantity of transmission fluid specified by Toyota for the Avalon model to ensure proper functioning. If a fluid replacement or flush does not resolve the issue, further diagnosis of the component parts may be required.

Clutch Component Replacement

Faulty clutch components can also cause gear shifting problems in a Toyota Avalon. The clutch assembly, which includes the clutch disc, pressure plate, and release bearing, can wear out or become damaged over time. This can result in a loss of proper gear engagement and shifting difficulties.

To address this issue, inspect and diagnose the condition of the clutch components. If any parts are found to be worn or damaged, replace them with new components as needed. In some cases, it may be more efficient to replace the entire clutch assembly to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

When replacing clutch components, it’s important to use high-quality parts that meet or exceed original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications. This will help to ensure the proper functionality and durability of the clutch system.

Shift Solenoid Replacement

Shift solenoids are responsible for regulating the flow of transmission fluid within the gearbox, which in turn controls gear shifting. Malfunctioning or damaged shift solenoids can cause issues with gear shifts in a Toyota Avalon.

To fix the problem, start by diagnosing the issue using a diagnostic scan tool. This will help identify any faulty shift solenoids within the transmission. Once the problem solenoid(s) has been identified, proceed with the replacement process.

When replacing a shift solenoid, make sure to choose high-quality replacement parts that meet OEM standards. This will help ensure that the new solenoid functions properly and can withstand regular wear and tear, helping to prevent future issues with gear shifts.

Transmission Control Module Repair

The Transmission Control Module (TCM) is an electronic component responsible for controlling gear shifts in a Toyota Avalon. If the TCM malfunctions or becomes damaged, it can result in shifting issues.

To resolve this problem, test and diagnose the TCM using a diagnostic scan tool. If errors are detected, further inspection or repair of the TCM may be necessary. In some cases, a TCM reprogramming or software update might be required to address the issue.

If the TCM is found to be significantly damaged or faulty, a complete replacement may be necessary. Ensure that the new TCM is compatible with your specific Avalon model, and choose a high-quality part to guarantee reliable operation.

By addressing these potential issues with fluid replacement or flush, clutch component replacement, shift solenoid replacement, and transmission control module repair, it’s possible to fix gear shifting problems in a Toyota Avalon and maintain smooth, reliable performance.

Preventing Future Gear Shift Problems

Two Toyota Avalon cars parked inside a warehouse

Regular Maintenance

One of the most effective ways to prevent gear shift problems in the Toyota Avalon is to schedule regular maintenance for your vehicle. This includes checking and changing transmission fluid at the recommended intervals, which can vary depending on your driving habits and the specific model of your car. Consult your owner’s manual for guidance on appropriate fluid change intervals.

In addition to changing the transmission fluid, it’s critical to have the transmission system inspected by a qualified technician. They can identify and address issues with the transmission filter, gear linkage, or other components before they become significant problems. Regularly scheduled maintenance can help avoid costly repairs in the future and prolong the overall life of your Avalon’s transmission system.

Proper Driving Habits

Adopting proper driving habits can significantly impact the health of your Toyota Avalon’s transmission system. Avoid sudden acceleration or abrupt gear changes, as these can strain the transmission and lead to gear shift problems over time. Instead, accelerate and decelerate smoothly, allowing the transmission to shift gears without unnecessary stress.

When parking on an incline, engage the parking brake before shifting into park. This ensures the transmission does not bear the full weight of the car, reducing stress on the parking pawl and gear assembly. Additionally, ensure that your vehicle comes to a complete stop before shifting from drive to reverse or vice versa.

Early Problem Detection

Detecting gear shift problems early on is essential to prevent further damage to your Toyota Avalon’s transmission system. Should you notice any unusual noises, grinding, or a delay in gear shifting, it’s important to address these issues promptly. Consult a certified mechanic to inspect your vehicle and diagnose the problem if you experience any of these symptoms.

Keeping an eye on your car’s warning lights is another vital aspect of early problem detection. The “check engine” light or a specific transmission warning light may indicate an issue with the transmission system requiring immediate attention. Don’t ignore these warnings in an effort to avoid costly damage to your vehicle’s transmission system.


The Toyota Avalon is a reliable and popular vehicle, but like any automobile, it can encounter issues with its gear/shift system. By understanding the common causes and learning how to address them, drivers can ensure their Avalon’s longevity and performance.

Copyright protected article by Know My Auto and was first published on Jul 12, 2023. .

One common cause of gear/shift problems in the Toyota Avalon is a faulty shift solenoid, which can lead to erratic shifting, hard shifts, and even transmission failure. To fix this issue, car owners should consult a professional mechanic or dealership to replace the defective solenoid. In addition to this, regular maintenance – such as checking fluid levels and having the transmission serviced – can help prevent issues that may arise from a damaged shift cable, another typical problem in the Avalon.

Another consideration is a malfunctioning transmission control module (TCM) which can cause shifting issues in the Avalon. Drivers experiencing gear/shift problems should have their TCM checked by a qualified technician, who can diagnose and replace the unit if necessary. Finally, staying informed about recalls and recommended fixes issued by Toyota or other reputable sources can help drivers address potential gear/shift complications early on and keep their vehicles running smoothly.

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