Toyota Transmission Problems – 8 Most Common Causes and Solutions

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It comes as no shock that many vehicle owners lack awareness regarding the functioning of a transmission. Despite its seemingly intricate nature, it is, in fact, quite straightforward. Essentially, it serves as a mechanism enabling the transformation of the engine’s power into motion, facilitating speed adjustments (either deceleration or acceleration). While delving into the intricacies of your Toyota’s transmission may not be necessary, recognizing indicators signaling the need for maintenance holds significance.

Car overheating, loss of acceleration, rattling sound, and gear slipping are some of the common signs of transmission issues you could face with your Toyota. We’ve compiled a comprehensive manual on Toyota transmission problems to assist you in recognizing the cues prompting a service visit.

Toyota Transmissions Issues: Everthing You Need to Know

As Toyota continually enhances the performance of their vehicles, the transmissions also undergo advancements. The transmission options cater to specific driving styles and purposes, including:

  • Traditional transmission – The driver manually selects gears using a gear stick, engaging the chosen gear by pressing the clutch pedal.
  • Common automatic transmission – The on-board computer shift gears.
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) – Utilizing a belt in continuous motion for swift gear transitions, enhancing speed. The automaker also uses eCVT in hybrid models like Toyota C-HR, and RAV4. The company models equipped with CVT transmissions include:
  • Camry
  • Corolla
  • Prius
  • RAV4

Signs of Toyota Transmission Problems That You Can’t Overlook

Allegedly, there have been multiple grievances reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the model years 2017 to 2020. The predominant issue highlighted in NHTSA complaints concerning Toyota transmissions pertains to power deficiency or sluggish acceleration in certain models. Consumers have also reported instances of automatic transmission getting stuck in a particular gear. To identify potential Toyota transmission problems, watch out for the following warning signs:

  • Car shaking at any speed
  • Burnt odor emanating from beneath the vehicle
  • Leakage of fluid from underneath the vehicle
  • Clunking or screeching noises from the vehicle
  • Noticeable thickness or unpleasant scent of transmission fluid on the dipstick
  • Difficulty or inability to shift gears manually
  • Delayed transmission shifting
  • Slipping, grinding, or abrupt acceleration jumps during gear changes
  • Unusual noises while in neutral

Which Models Have Toyota Transmission Problems?

Legal representatives initiated an inquiry against Toyota in September 2020, pinpointing the subsequent automobiles:

  • 2017-2020 Toyota Highlander
  • 2017-2020 Toyota Sienna
  • 2018-2020 Toyota Avalon
  • 2019 Toyota RAV4

8 Usual Toyota CVT Transmission Problems with their Solutions

The CVT boasts a simpler build and fewer parts compared to other transmissions. Whether you own a Toyota equipped with this gearbox or are considering one, it’s important to be mindful of potential car problems:

1. Overheating

Continuous gear ratio changes in your Toyota’s CVT transmission can lead to overheating. Improper usage, such as towing heavy loads, especially with insufficient or degraded fluid, can exacerbate this issue. Faulty cooling systems or oil pumps can also compromise transmission fluid and cause overheating.
Signs of an overheated CVT transmission include a burning odor and dashboard warning lights.

Solution: If the transmission overheats from prolonged driving, allow it to cool down before resuming. However, if the issue is complex, seek assistance from a service center for repairs or replacement.

2. Delayed Motion

Maintaining proper levels of transmission fluid is essential for keeping your transmission cool and preventing mechanical damage. Using incorrect or old fluid can harm transmission components, leading to delayed motion and potential leaks. Red fluid leaks accompanied by a sweet odor may indicate transmission fluid issues, causing problems like shaking or surging.

Solution: Regular fluid checks and timely replacements according to manufacturer recommendations are crucial for maintaining a healthy CVT transmission in Toyota vehicles.

3. Hearing Whining and Rattling Noise

A problematic CVT transmission fluid results in unusual noises like clunking, whining, and rattling while driving or in neutral. This signals worn-out components or low fluid levels.

Solution: Seek a professional mechanic for thorough diagnosis. Other culprits could be bad suspension, faulty wheel bearings, or damaged brakes, necessitating fluid top-up or component replacement.

4. Loss of Acceleration

The CVT gearbox ensures seamless acceleration when you step on the gas, but performance can suffer if it’s damaged, resulting in delayed or faulty acceleration. Your car may even die when put in gear or shake when you reverse it.

5. Gear Slipping or Jerking

The CVT transmission may exhibit excessive slipping or jerking due to its weak structure, exacerbated by insufficient transmission fluid. Signs include RPM fluctuations despite steady speed, risking damage to the transmission components.

Solution: While some jerking is normal during gear shifts, any significant issues should prompt immediate diagnosis and resolution to prevent further damage.

6. Check Engine Light

Nissan, Ford, and Honda trigger the “check CVT transmission” light for issues with their CVT. Toyota, lacking this light, activates the check engine light for the same problem.

Solution: Symptoms include engine rev fluctuations and shifting delay, necessitating accurate transmission diagnosis for resolution.

7. Control Module Problems

The CVT’s transmission control module (TCM) receives signals from sensors to determine transmission responses. A faulty TCM can lead to slipping, delayed engagement, or instant electronic issues, though structural damage develops gradually. TCM issues can also be a reason your car is not accelerating past 40.

8. CVT Clutch Problem

The CVT clutch mediates between transmission and engine, ensuring smooth take-off by gradual engagement.

Solution: A faulty clutch leads to jumpy starts, rolling, and delayed engagement, solvable by reprogramming after the fluid change.

Tip to Identify Toyota CVT Transmission Problems

Diagnose Toyota transmission issues by detecting unusual sounds or symptoms. The onboard computer enhances efficiency but complicates diagnosis and repair. DIY troubleshooting isn’t feasible due to computer interface complexity. Seek a service center with diagnostic technology for accurate assessment. Technicians will connect your car to a diagnostic device to generate a code and pinpoint issues efficiently. They may perform lift inspection or pan examination if needed. Under warranty, visit Toyota Customer Experience Center for free diagnosis and resolution.

What is the Expense to Swap the Toyota CVT Transmission?

Replacing a faulty Toyota CVT transmission, including labor, can cost approximately $6500, but actual expenses vary by model. Repairing may not be feasible; spending $1800 may only yield a temporary fix. A damaged TCM replacement costs $750 to $808, while a faulty CVT clutch replacement ranges from $800 to $1500.

What is the Lifespan of the Toyota CVT transmission?

The typical lifespan of a Toyota CVT transmission is approximately 120,000 miles. Replacement can extend its use by 40,000 miles, albeit with issues. Occasionally, some last up to 160,000 miles without problems. Longevity hinges on driving skills, upkeep, and oil type. Regular maintenance, proper fluid, and gear ratio control can significantly prolong a transmission’s lifespan.

Guidelines to Improve the Durability of Toyota CVT Transmission

To safeguard your Toyota CVT from common issues, such as overheating and premature breakdown, adopt preventive measures.

  • Avoid towing heavy trailers or overloading your vehicle, as these habits hasten wear and tear. Maintain proper transmission fluid levels and adhere to recommended oil and filter brands.
  • Vary your driving speed periodically, especially on challenging terrains, and avoid sudden acceleration.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain the engine cooling system to prevent overheating.
  • Additionally, warm up your vehicle before driving.

Toyota Transmission Problems – FAQs

Q: Do Toyota cars have transmission problems?

Toyota is recalling around 280,000 SUVs and pickups in the US due to a transmission issue permitting unintended forward movement. Affected vehicles, including Toyota Tundra, Sequoia, and Lexus LX 600 from 2022-2024, will undergo free transmission software updates, with owners notified by late April.

Q: Are Toyota CVTs dependable?

Toyota continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) are often regarded as dependable, particularly in contrast to earlier CVTs from competing brands.

Q: Do we have a warranty on Toyota CVT?

Certainly. The Toyota CVT transmission warranty spans 60 months or 60,000 miles, with identical coverage for the engine and wheel drive system.

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