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2000 Camry Manual Transmission Hard to Engage 1st Gear 1st Time in the Morning

Hi, when first attempting to move my car in the morning the shift lever will often not go into first gear. If I push really hard on the lever, I can usually get it to go into first, but I don’t want to break anything. There is never any gear grinding, since I always hold the clutch down long enough for the input shaft to stop spinning. I am sure the clutch is completely disengaging, and nothing I do with the clutch pedal (i.e., engaging or disengaging) will allow it go into first gear, so it doesn’t appear to be the type of occasional balkiness that transmissions exhibit that can be cured by releasing and depressing the clutch pedal. Once I get it into first by pushing hard, for the rest of the day it’s fine. My guess is that it’s a linkage problem, but before I start taking the console apart to get at the linkage, I’m wondering if you think I’m on the right track. Thanks!

I just want to add that shifts into all the other gears are normal. Thanks!

You say shifts into other gears are normal…How about reverse? Will it shift into second gear, first thing in the morning, with the car not moving??

Yes, all shifts are absolutely normal first thing in the morning. I can push the stick directly into 2nd or reverse with no effort immediately after starting the engine.

Hi, still hoping for some advice on this…thanks.

OK, we have ruled out a clutch dragging problem. So the only thing left is a shift linkage problem. Most Japanese cars use a 2 or 3 push-pull cable arrangement much like that used to control outside rear-view mirrors. These cables may be grouped into a single part labeled “shift cable”. The cable can be disconnected at the transmission and the problem isolated in that manner…

Thanks, Caddyman, I knew you’d have a constructive idea. According to my Camry (official) shop manual, there is a 2 cable arrangement, but there is no guidance given beyond a couple of inscrutable exploded parts diagrams. So you’re thinking that I should disconnect the cables at the tranny to see where the jam is occurring. Will do. I’ll let you know what I find…but not too soon. We just got hit w/more snow today (in Mass.), and my garage is a big wet mess. Thanks again.

If the layout of the manual transmission is like the automatic, the transmission end of the shift linkage may be visible, and fairly accessible with the hood open. Might want to see what’s going on there before tearing the console apart.

Yes indeed, the console is the LAST place to tear into. With the cables disconnected at the transmission, you can quickly determine what is bound up…