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Transmission won't pull car when it's cold

Last winter my 2000 Toyota 4runner occasionally stopped pulling forward when the engine was cold. It would back up but not go forward. I figured out that it would move when I shifted to low gear and then I would shift up and eventually when I got to “drive” it would be fine.

I took the car to my mechanic and of course it would not engage in its bad behavior. They checked it out on 2 different occasions, the 2nd time taking some part of the transmission apart to look for metal filings and found none. I was told that nothing was wrong with the transmission. I would like to know what is wrong with the car.

I believe that truck has an electronically-controlled automatic. What’s probably happening is that the switch in the shifter itself does not engage in the cold. The transmission is most likely fine, but it’s not getting the signal to go into drive.

Interesting. So I should ask my mechanic to check the switch in the shifter, is that correct?
Thank you so much. I was getting ready to sell this car.

You actually don’t want to go to a general mechanic. You want to go to a shop that specializes in transmissions. Don’t use the national chain transmission shops - ask around for the best local, owner-operated place. Transmission diagnostics & work is a fairly specialized thing and should be left to a specialist.

The fact that putting the gear shifter to low will get the thing to go does suggest an electrical issue. However, you need an experienced transmission tech to put it on a scanner, check for error codes and find out what the transmission is actually doing.

Yes, I agree. You want a specialist working on this (and your mechanic should have told you this, btw, just as your family doctor should tell you when you need a heart surgeon).

I’m not sure that there will be any codes to pull, however. If the switch isn’t engaging, then the car has no way of knowing that you want the switch to engage, and so it won’t throw an error code. And the transmission is probably not experiencing any problems, so there’s nothing to throw a code on there.

But why would it go in reverse and in low gears? And also my mechanic (who only works on Toyotas) says he has never heard of a switch in the shifter. I did ask him to check into it.

It’s probably a different switch for drive than for reverse and L1 and L2.

just saw these 2 posts AFTER my last one . I was on the phone w mechanic

The transmission is out to lunch and isn’t coming back. It has to be rebuilt or taken apart until the blown seal is found. Maybe.