Shifting into different gears is one of the most basic functions of any vehicle. However, some Toyota Tacoma owners report an issue where their trucks will not go into gear. What causes this problem, and how can you fix it?
The three most common causes of a Toyota Tacoma that will not shift into gear include a faulty shift solenoid, an incorrectly adjusted throttle position sensor, and a failing transmission.
Below, we’ll discuss more information on this problem and how you might be able to fix it. Keep reading to learn more!
What Causes Gear Shift to Lock Up?
Many things can cause your Toyota Tacoma’s gear shift to lock up, preventing you from switching gears. However, the most common issues include:
- Faulty shift solenoid
- Failing transmission
- Incorrectly-adjusted throttle position sensor
While a failing transmission is more common on older vehicles with higher-than-average mileage, faulty shift solenoids and incorrectly-adjusted throttle position sensors are common problems with Toyota Tacomas.
Here’s a quick fix to look at, hoping that the problems is just a sticky shifter:
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Faulty Shift Solenoid
Your Tacoma’s shift solenoid controls the transfer of transmission fluid into and out of the transmission. The transmission control module sends an electronic signal to the shift solenoid, telling it when to move fluid in or out of the transmission and at what rate.
If your Toyota Tacoma’s shift solenoid is faulty or damaged, you will likely have issues shifting into different gears.
Your check engine light may also illuminate, showing one of the following codes:
Faulty shift solenoids are a common problem with Tacomas, especially in models made in or prior to 2015. Luckily, it’s usually a relatively easy and inexpensive thing to fix. You should be able to get your shift solenoid replaced by a local mechanic for under $1000.
As vehicles age, they become prone to more and more issues. If you’re experiencing other transmission-related issues, such as fluid leaks or excessive shaking, along with issues shifting, it’s likely a sign that your transmission is beginning to fail.
If you have an older Tacoma model, or have over 150,000 miles on your truck, a failing transmission is a sign that it may be time to replace your vehicle.
However, if your Tacoma does not have a lot of years or miles under its belt, it might be worth fixing. Just keep in mind that transmission issues are some of the most expensive to repair, so it’s worth considering the cost of repair versus the cost of replacement.
Incorrectly-Adjusted Throttle Position Sensor
Your Tacoma’s throttle position sensor controls how much air flows into your engine’s intake manifold. It measures how far open the throttle valve is, based on the position of the gas pedal, and that tells the ECM how much fuel it should inject into the engine.
Problems with your Tacoma’s throttle position sensor can cause a range of issues within your vehicle, including transmission problems like a stuck gear shift. If your throttle position sensor is incorrectly-adjusted, your check engine light may illuminate and display code P0122.
In addition, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Poor fuel economy
- Poor acceleration
Ensuring your throttle position sensor is adjusted correctly is essential to your Tacoma’s proper functioning.
If you’re experiencing this problem, you’ll be happy to hear you usually don’t need to replace the sensor. Instead, bring it to a mechanic so they can adjust it to the correct position.
Why is My Toyota Tacoma Stuck in Park?
You arrived home safe and sound, then went inside for the night. However, you get in your car the next morning and notice that your Toyota Tacoma won’t shift out of park. All the issues listed above could be the culprit, but there are a few other things to look out for.
- Bad fuse
- Low battery charge
- Stuck parking brake
The most important thing to remember is that you should never force your truck out of park, as this could damage other components and lead to a more expensive issue.
Surprisingly, not being able to shift your Toyota Tacoma out of park could be nothing more than a problem with a bad fuse. To diagnose this problem, make sure both your headlights and your brake lights are functioning. If one or both are not, open the fuse box and replace the bad fuse.
Here’s a quick video showing a fuse fix problem:
After replacing the fuse, check your headlights and brake lights again. If the lights are working, try shifting your vehicle out of park and see if that fixes the problem.
Low Battery Charge
Your Toyota Tacoma’s battery controls nearly every function of your vehicle. Your truck’s battery has a certain charge level at all points in time. Even if you can start your Tacoma, if you haven’t replaced your battery in a while, it may have a charge so low that it won’t allow you to shift.
The easiest way to diagnose this problem is to have your battery tested. If it has a low charge level, try replacing your battery and see if that allows you to shift out of park.
Stuck Parking Brake
Parking brakes work by putting pressure on your shifter to prevent your Tacoma from rolling while it’s parked. Even if you disengage the parking brake, it could get “stuck.” This means it will continue putting pressure on your shifter, preventing you from changing gears.
Unless you have mechanical experience, a professional will probably need to diagnose this issue. They can inspect your parking brake’s cable and replace it if necessary.
What Do You Do When Your Gear Shift Won’t Move?
If your Toyota Tacoma’s gear shift won’t move, the best thing to do is call a tow truck. Once your Tacoma is at a professional mechanic, they’ll be able to diagnose the issue.
In an emergency, however, there is one thing you can try:
- Turn your truck off and set the parking brake.
- Turn your key to the ON/ACC position.
- Using a flathead screwdriver, pry the cover off your gear shift.
- Press the brake pedal.
- Find the shift lock override button and press it down.
While pressing this button, you should be able to shift into another gear.
What Year Toyota Tacoma Has Transmission Problems?
Some Toyota Tacoma model years are known to have transmission problems, a few of which exhibit the gear shift problem in particular.
This issue primarily affects trucks that have a mileage of at least 125,000. If you own a Tacoma from one of these model years, your transmission problems may not end with the gear shifting problem.
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If your Toyota Tacoma doesn’t shift into gear, you’re not alone. This is a common problem among several model years and is usually due to an incorrectly adjusted throttle position sensor or faulty shift solenoid.
In some cases, however, it can signify something as big as a failing transmission or something as small as a bad fuse or low battery charge.