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Transmission lurches When Shifting Into 3rd

The transmission lurches when it shifts into 3rd. It’s been doing that for some time - perhaps a year - but now the lurching is becoming more pronounced and happening both in local driving and parkway driving. I expect that means the transmission is going and could go at any time. Is my understanding correct?

Yes, given the relative lack of details you’ve posted.


When you shift into gears are you getting a shaking underneath do you feel it?

If so it does sound like a transmission not sure what year you have but you can’t even check the transmission fluid. I have a 2013 had the same problem ended up unfortunately replacing the transmission about 6 months ago. Runs like a champ but $3,600 later hurt. Good luck I hope it’s not let us know thank you

Change the trans fluid if it has over 30K miles and cross your fingers.

What year is this car? Have you had the fluid level checked by the dealer? Have you had the dealer scan the Transmission Control Module for codes? This sounds like a TCM problem i.e. a problem with the pressure regulator. If this transmission is the same layout as previous Camary transmissions, the design is fairly lurch free.

2000 Camry with 102K miles. It is serviced regularly every three months with oil change and anything else it needs by reliable mechanic. I don’t feel a shaking, just that lurch when the transmission gets into 3rd gear. I’m perhaps rather sensitive to this as I had a car years ago that was lurching and then the transmission died. It just seems to be a consistent lurch every time and, as I mentioned, more pronounced than it had been. I’ve done about 4K miles July-Aug and I suspect that heavy use exacerbated what may have been a “milder” problem into a worse and more imminent failure.

Driving on the freeway is pretty easy on transmissions, so if that’s the type of driving you did in July/Aug, I doubt the high mileage during those two months is the cause. Automatic transmissions have a complicated hydraulic fluid system that uses very high pressures under the control of a sort of hydraulic computer to create the forces needed to push on the clutches and pull on bands to effect the shifts. If those fluid pressures are diminished this can happen. If the bands or clutches start to wear out the hydraulic computer will try to increase the pressure, but it won’t be able to at some point. And the hydraulic computer can have an electric-actuated solenoid fail too. Some of those problems can be fixed, and some not — absent a total rebuild of the trans. Starting with new, clean fluid at the proper level is the first step towards a diagnosis. Shops can measure the pressures at various test ports in the transmission too.

I know that when a transmission fails completely it just happens suddenly. While no one has a crystal ball (that I know of), does anyone feel the transmission’s behavior is such that there is a good chance of it failing completely sooner rather than later? And therefore warrants my taking pre-emptive action and getting a different car now (there is a 2015/low mileage good condition used car available) rather than waiting?

Have you checked the transmission fluid level?
Toyota transmissions are usually good for a lot more miles than you have on yours, even with poor maintenance.

Pay to have this car gone over for $100 or so. That is cheaper than buying a newer 2015 model. If you want a new car this is your excuse. If you want to save money, gamble $100 and maybe a new part is all that will be required.

Toyota is known for having fluid that is “good for the life of the transmission” in many of their cars. They say it never needs changing but I don’t agree with this. Make sure you use the appropriate Toyota spec fluid for this car because automatic transmissions can be touchy and the wrong fluid can be worse than doing nothing at all. I think this “lifetime” fluid is only available in synthetic which makes sense so it will cost you some…

re: “good chance of it failing completely sooner rather than later?”

I can offer a data point. My Ford truck’s automatic transmission failed one time. The symptom started when one cold morning it wouldn’t shift from N to D. Well, the shifter would move to D ok, but the truck would still be in neutral. Step on the gas, it wouldn’t move. If I shifted from D to N several times, and stepped on the gas a few times, eventually it would shift to D and go. Once it started working, it worked fine the rest of the day. If the next morning was warmer, it would work ok then too. But each time it was a cold morning it would take longer and longer and more effort on my part to get it to shift to D and move. I checked the obvious stuff, the fluid level, fluid color, shift linkage, modulator holds vacuum, etc. Everything checked out ok. From the time this all started, and the time it got so bad I had to take it to a transmission shop to get a trans rebuild job, that took about 3 weeks. So if my experience is a predictor, it won’t be long until your transmission fails to the point you’ll have no choice but take it to a shop.

BTW, now would be a good time to start asking around: which is the best transmission shop in town?

We had this happen with a work truck that I was driving for a company I worked for once. It was clunking and not wanting to go into 3rd or 4th. Finally all the fluid just blew out of the thing and the transmission was dead. I am not sure what caused it but that truck was used and abused so they didn’t even consider repairing it.

You should still look into it before it fails catastrophically as it might be an easy and low-cost repair UNLESS you want an excuse to buy a new car.

I remember a time back in the 70’s and even 80’s when you could buy a kit that would make your car or truck transmission lurch in all the gears.

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Thank you everyone for your ideas, suggestions and personal anecdotes. There are a few other expensive things with the car that should be and/or will eventually have to be repaired. I know Camrys can last “forever” but my feeling is that the car (18 years old) is losing its integrity (e.g. the alternator just went). Considering the age of the car and what will need repairing (besides the transmission) I don’t think I’m go to invest more money into it. I discussed it with my mechanic yesterday and he agrees with that.


Best of luck there OP. I agree, given what you say moving on to a newer vehicle is the right decision for you.

Thanks George_San_Jose1. I appreciate your assessment and agreement.