CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Failure of Automatic transmission to engage

1999 Toyota Camry. Suddenly gears failed to engage. When sfitinthe gear shaft does not go in to any gear- shifter moves easily but does not engage at any gear. Is it due to lack of transmission fluid?

If this is an automatic, it’s more likely the shifter cable just became disconnected.

Also, if it is an auto, make sure you’re getting it serviced every 30K miles.

Have you checked the level and condition of the transmission fluid? That’s where I would start. The only time I have seen an automatic transmission fail to engage, the fluid was low.

Check the transmission fluid level is the 1st thing to do. If it is low I would not recommend dumping in any trans fluid you have handy. Toyota’s are sensitive about the trans fluid, use the wrong one and you can cause more problems. I believe the shifter is basically an electric switch on this car. So it could be a bad electrical connection, or if it has a shift cable it might have broken or fallen off.

If your trans fluid it so low you can’t go, that indicates a problem. If your shifter is broken that’s a problem. So, the safest thing would be to get a tow to a garage for an evaluation. If you opt to add fluid I’d recommend getting the fluid from a Toyota dealer just to be safe.

A '99 should have had many transmission services and fluid changes over the years. If this has been neglected then you might be in for some bad news.