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Toyota Avalon (Prior to 2005) Transmission Questions

twobrownstwobrowns Posts: 52
edited September 2014 in Toyota
I recently noticed on my 2002 avalon that at times it will hold 3rd gear and will not shift to 4th immediately even when I leave of the gas pedal. The car is warm and seams to do it when I accelerate hard up to speed and then ease off the pedal and it will stay in 3rd. Anybody experience this problem. It does this only ocassionally.


  • Recently purchased a 98 Avalon XLS with 88,000 miles. The transmission occasionally shifts hard. Am concerned this may be a sign of future failure. Is there a history of failures at this early stage? Anything I should do besides probably having the fluid flushed?
  • To the experts of this forum: Is the practice of shift the transmission to Neutral when short stops ( like traffic lights, etc) a good practice or maybe produce more damage than benefits? Please, explain.
  • den1den1 Posts: 1
    A month ago the 1999 Avalon which I was driving was hit on the right front passenger side with an impact that pushed in the front door and dented the rocker panel about 2 inches but did not cause the side airbag to inflate.

    Having just received the repaired car back everything appeared to be corrected. There is no evidence of leaks in the steering power system and the reservoir is full, but when driving, on turns both left and right the usual ease becomes momentarily stiff. This is not the way the steering responded prior to the accident.

    What should I look for and what could be the problem and correction?
  • finfin atlantaPosts: 594
    No expert here chilin12, but think about this: The owner's manual does not say "move shifter to neutral at lights". It says "put shifter in D and go forward". If there were any benefit to what you suggest, Toyota would have put it in the book to advise you of it. Really.

    The one possible exception that comes to mind is city traffic, stopped, on a 101 degree day. Rev the motor in neutral and the water pump will circulate the water a little faster. This helps cool the motor. But unless the "high temp" light is coming on, even this is unnecessary.

    My guess is that you will do far more harm than good to the transmission pump by shifting in and out of gear. Instead, use good fluid, change as recommended and don't worry. Avalon is a quality car designed to last a long time. Enjoy it.
  • My 2000 XLS has been great. However, recently it developed a problem in the trans. On start-up, it goes from 2nd to overdrive...bypassing 3rd. Adversely, on passing -and I tromp on it- the trans does not drop into passing gear. Very scary on two lane roads.

    Taking it to dealer. Anyone out there with similar experience or know of any notices or re-calls on this model,I'd appeciate your input.
  • I helped my daughter find her first car in July. Her primary considerations were safety and reliability. Thus, she bought a 98 Avalon XLS with 88,000 miles and side air bags. Given Toyota's record of reliability, we expected that she could get 100,000 miles with little problem and cost. 6 months and 8,000 miles later, the local Toyota dealer says her Avalon needs a new tranny, power steering pump, and strut caps at a cost of over $4,500. The tranny and PS issues were not evident when purchased...but the strut caps were and appear to be a common issue. Not yet diagnosed is an intermittant problem with the heat/AC controls in which it simply doesn't come on when needed.

    Has anyone had a tranny replaced, and if so, at what cost? Ditto PS pump and strut caps.

    Do you think, as I do, that this is highly unusual for an Avalon?

    Do you have any suggestions? Do you think it possible to get some "relief" from Toyota?


  • finfin atlantaPosts: 594
    Here's an opinion mules001:

    Transmission: Properly maintained, it goes 200k plus. No proper care, a lot less. They run at high temperature and make jello out of fluid every 35k miles. Stop in at local dealers and see if any records are available on the car. If it was serviced regularly you can beg Toyota, not a dealer, for help.

    PS pump: No service required but anything after 100k is good fortune. They last longer on cars driven on open highways as opposed to intown traffic.

    Struts: A known problem for many Avalon's.

    HVAC: Another well discussed problem is the XLS auto-temp system. It fails to work properly far too often for this brand car. With luck you can figure out how to make it work. Some people are never satisfied, if you read all the posts.


    Shop around for better prices at several dealers. I drove a '99 XL prior to buying an '03 XL. It was near perfect, driven mostly on the interstates. Never repaired, it had no problems. Hope this helps...good luck. Avalons are a great car.
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591


    Let enter in here and piggyback your thoughts a little. My Toyota Service manual does NOT give me a service interval for the AT, although my wife's Honda Civic 03 Service Manual does. Honda's interval changes are changing the AT, Dexron III in the Avalon, after the first 60K, and then 30K thereafter. As lazy as I am, I change it every 50K in conjunction with the oil, every 5K. This makes it easy. In addition to that, you probably know already that the PS fluid, is exactly the same in the Avalon, as the AT fluid. You guessed it, Dexron III. So why not, as I do, change out that fluid in the PS as well, when you do the AT (tranny fluid) since you already have the bottles out. It is very easy to do, and if done on a regular basis, would most likely prolong the life expetancy of the seals, and the PS rack itself.


    I hope this helps. Your comments are welcome.


    As an aside, we had violent winds here in the northeast, and wouldn't you know it, a shopping cart beelined right for my driver's door, dinging the door, ripping off and smashing the mirror and then digging in the L front fender. Nothing like a "hat trick" to make the season right.


  • famwaldfamwald Posts: 114
    We have a '98 Avalon XLS gold-pkge with 92,000 (mostly road) miles and the *only* thing we have ever done is change the oil and buy new tires. Well, we did put a new water pump on it two months ago but our mechanic caught that during its 90k mile check-up. I am sold on Toyota products.


    The ride has always been great - no evidence of struts or suspension issues with us ...yet. Consumer Reports magazine ratings are only "Fair" for the '98, so we've been lucky this far.


     I agree with the posts here about the AutoClimateControl system. The pits. I found doing manual settings and changing as needed worked better.


    As for the transmission, Consumer Reports readers' survey gives the Avalon trannys an "EXCELLENT" for every model year. I'm going to guess that perhaps this Avalon you purchased has been abused rather badly due to neglect.


    We love our '98 Avalon, for such an underappreciated car we had to buy in a hurry after a tornado totaled my husband's Mazda 929 in April 1998. (he was not in the car and the golf clubs in the trunk survived-LOL) For years we have called it the Little Tornado Car. <grin>


    It has proved itself to be a real gem and earned our respect, and we love the body style. We just gave it to our son 2 weeks ago when the tranny died on his '96 Ford Explorer. Kid just graduated from college and needed reliable wheels to move and start his new job.


    Did you buy from a dealer or private individual? If a Toyota dealer or reputable used car dealer, they might have some records or should offer you some assistance, IMHO. At least they should have seen these problems coming. Word of mouth is the best advertising and a crummy dealer's worst enemy.
  • Haven't seen a repl on this so here's m 2 cents worth. (IMO) Overdrive cuts in above the range of 3rd gear, so perhaps 3rd gear is too delayed, and it only appears to go directly to OD (4th)-- in other words: at the same time. The lack of downshifting seems to go along with that as pointing to 1) Linkage adjustment to the transmission (cable from throttle-body), or next possibility would be to have Toyota read the diagnostic code from the Tranny computer -- might have a stuck valve. This is m first post.
  • petras2petras2 Posts: 104
    re strut caps, i also had to replace the strut mount supports with supposedly modified ones on my 98 avalon... around $440 including alignment, front end rattles returned after about a year although not as bad as before said it's not a safety issue so if you can live with the noise, you might want to delay replacing mounts until the front struts need replacing saving you some labor other problems with mine so far...
  • bbartbbart Posts: 3


    I don't believe your experience is necessarily unique. I purchased a 1995 with 99k...knew about the rack and pinion power steering leak, but it isn't leaking too badly yet, so I'm just monitoring the fluid level. If your daughter's car needs a power steering pump, and you don't want to shell out the $250 for the part, you might find an industrious (non-dealer) mechanic who can rebuild it. Mine was done and it worked fine. Struts, valve cover gaskets, power steering fluid leakages...all very common problems with Avalon. I'll keep mine Avalon for a few more years, then trade it in a brand new Honda Accord EX V-6. IMO, Honda experiences none of these relatively high dollar repairs, if regular preventative maintenance is conducted. RE: Relief from Toyota...I sincerely doubt it.


    Good Luck!
  • wilson3wilson3 Posts: 1
    Nowhere have I seen mentioned (with anyone else's car) a slight yet annoying (to me, at least) trait my 1999 Avalon has had since I bought it two years ago with 40,000 miles. When I touch the petal at moderate speed, or let off, there seems to be some slack somewhere in the drivetrain, slight though it is. Is this normal for an Avalon? Am I being picky?
    Thanks for any feedback.
  • finfin atlantaPosts: 594
    Interesting. My '99 XL did that sometimes. Not always, just every now and then. The car was flawless and drove as new at 92k when traded for an '03 XL. I never figured it out but it was noticeable when it happened. The '03 has never done it. Not much help here, except to say "you are not alone." There was a discussion about this long ago but it is not a current event so no one mentions it. And not all Avalons of the '95 to '99 model years did it. Try several tanks of premium fuel. (I did. No difference.) Some say it helps.
  • petras2petras2 Posts: 104
    re slack, i remember reading a consumer's reports test on a 98 avalon and they mentioned the same "jerkiness" in the drivetrain, i have a 98 with the same problem but it hasn't gotten worse over the years so i live with it...petras
  • missy1missy1 Posts: 2
    I have a 96 Avalon with 173,000 miles on it. It has been virtually trouble free. I am the original owner, and I have kept the vehicle maintained. However, I have noticed in the last few days that the accelerator appears to be hesistating at take off. It feels as if it does not want to go down, as if it is sticking somewhat. Has anyone experienced a similar problem or have any ideas what the problem may be?
  • mikes.mikes. Posts: 337
    " have a 96 Avalon with 173,000 miles on it. It has been virtually trouble free. I am the original owner, and I have kept the vehicle maintained. However, I have noticed in the last few days that the accelerator appears to be hesistating at take off. It feels as if it does not want to go down, as if it is sticking somewhat. Has anyone experienced a similar problem or have any ideas what the problem may be? "

    Missy1, I have the same car with 162K miles on it but I haven't had that problem. You might try a shot of wd-40 at the throttle body where the cable attaches to the half-moon looking wheel. I did this to the cruise control cable and it helped.

  • wizwiz Posts: 5
    I have 72k miles on my Avalon. I had the trany fluid changed around 65k and noticed it is shifting hard from 2nd to third. When it is cold outside, the trany lags in 2nd gear until the thermostat temp is at its warmed up point. The fluid level is the correct level. Any suggestions??
  • I had a similar problem w/ my 99 Avalon. It was a lease vehicle and was fixed once at purchase (50 K ago) by the dealership. It has just reoccurred a few months back. I have not looked under the hood of a 96, but I would bet it is very similar to my 99. Progressing from the airfilter to the intake manifold: 1. airfilter 2. rubber boot 3. massflow sensor 4. rubber boot 5. throttle plate or butterfly valve. This is where my problem occurred. This is what the throttle cable works and gets gummed up from time to time. A $3 can of carb cleaner, a phillips screw driver and 10 minutes remedied my problem. You loosen the rubber boot just in front of the throttle plate. Be careful as you pull it back and usually you will have room to push it down below the throttle body to expose the throttle plate which will be tannish-brown. You may have to remove several other lines and perhaps an electrical connector. Use the carb cleaner and a rag spraying and working the throttle plate back and forth cleaning this area. Pay close attention to clean where the throttle plate meets the body - the valve is in a closed position. This is where the hesitation that you speak of is occurring. Let it stand for a few minutes allowing the carb cleaner to evaporate. Re-install the boot and any lines or electrical connectors that you unplugged to gain access. Start the car, you will have to run it at high idle - give it a little gas for the first minute or so, but the idle will clean-up quickly. If you are not comfortable with doing this, tell your technician at the next service interval that you would like to have the throttle body cleaned.

    I hoped this helped - it may not be the solution, but it would be the first/least expensive area I would look at.
  • wizwiz Posts: 5
    I had the same problem on my 98 Avalon. Before you purchase any carb cleaner, make sure the bottle specifically says, "Throttle Body Cleaner". I cleaned with Valvoline Synpower Carb Choke & Throttle Body Cleaner. I did this once and about 2k miles later it started to act up again. So I decided to remove the throttle body from the engine and clean it really good. When I remove the throttle body from the engine, I noticed that there are two butterflies, one by the rubber boot as mentioned above and the second is on the opposite side of the throttle body. You can access this by removing a plate. I cleaned and cleaned, make sure you purchase as small brush (toothbrush will work) to clean out thoroughly. I reinstalled and the car drove like new. About 5k miles later, the car started to hesitate again while driving, especially bad at idle. I did some research and had to replace the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR valve). At a cost of $380 dollars, I did it my self. Three screws and a wire harness. 8k miles and no problems. If I was in your situation, I would recommend the following, if you haven't done so. Replace spark plugs with OEM parts, DO NOT PURCHASE BOSCH PLATINUM PLUGS, plug wires, PCV, and fuel filter. This is what you call a car's spring cleaning schedule.
  • 1969cdv1969cdv Posts: 1
    I have a '95 with 165k, bought with 82k in 2001. I have not had any problems with the power steering, other than a little stickiness at startup when very cold. Check the fluid level monthly, have yet to add a drop in >80k miles.

    Same goes for the engine - no problems with gasket leaks or usage at all. I use Amsoil 0W-30 and Amsoil filters - change the filters at 12.5k miles or 6 months, and filter/ oil at 12 months, per Amsoil instructions. Oil lab analysis has shown this to be perfectly acceptable and in fact I could probably go up to 15k miles on the filter change. Other than top-off at filter change, the engine doesn't use a drop of oil. (Wish I could say the same for my Infiniti I30 engine - great performer but uses about a quart between filter changes - same oil and filters as in Avalon).

    I have also drained the trans pan once, and refilled with Amsoil ATF (as I recall was about 5 quarts), and had the filter changed/ pan cleaned/ refilled one other time - was around the same amount of lube, maybe a little more. So most of the trans lube should be synth at this point. Even at the initial drain (90k miles), the fluid looked to be in fine shape, no discoloration or burned smell. However, I have no idea if it was original fluid/ filter or not. Never have to add ATF either.

    Needed a cv boot when I bought the car (replaced whole axle at Toyota dealer, paid for by used car dealer) - but this looked to be due to a tear from road debris as opposed to a failure - other unit is original and in fine shape. Did the tie rod ends and ball joints 20k ago - but I blame this wear as much on the crappy roads around Detroit as any fault of Toyota. Just did the right side wheel hub/ bearing - ditto on the crappy roads. Neither of these repairs seem to be chronic issues with Avalon.

    BTW my friend used to be a field engineer for Toyota, he said 250k miles should be easy, if general maintenance is followed and the timing belt replaced every 100k miles.

    I put 16" 2004 Camry wheels and Kuhmo ASX tires (215-55/16) on last year - a nice combination although the tires are overkill for this car. Have 35k miles and still about 60% tread - not bad for a $75 (Sears) W-rated tire.

    I will drive this car until the wheels fall off~ has been a great runner for me overall. 27mpg with mostly highway miles (500+ miles per week) at 70-80mph.
  • avalon03avalon03 Posts: 1
    Does anyone know whether you need to keep the car running to check the transmission fluid on an '03 Avalon? This information is usually found on the dip stick, but mine doesn't specify whether you need to keep the car running or not.
  • finfin atlantaPosts: 594
    This information is also usually found in the owner's manual. But for some reason, Toyota omits this info in the '03 Avalon manual. I looked at mine. Not there. The answer is YES, the engine needs to running. If the engine is off, the fluid level will probably indicate well above full. Make sure the fluid is warm by driving the car for a few minutes before checking, gear selector in Park. :)
  • cowman1cowman1 Posts: 1
    I want to put in some transmission fluid, but I have no idea where to put it in. I think I found the stick thing where you check it, but I can't find where to add more fluid. The owner's manual is no help either. Help, please?
  • finfin atlantaPosts: 594
    cowman1 - Here is a little basic help on AT's.......

    The fluid goes in at the dip stick tube. Use a funnel. Measure in PINTS, not quarts, this is not motor oil.
    Existing fluid should be reddish or near clear. Black may be worn out or contaminated and needs a change. Smell it. If a strong burnt odor is present, change it all, not just add.
    Add slowly. Never overfill. Too much causes internal foaming. That's bad. Engine and transmission must be normal operating temp for accurate check.
    You might also check for leaks on the ground or on the sides of the housing. Toyota's are very tight and do not generally leak. Anything.
    Properly maintained, Toyota transmissions last 200k miles or more. Many posts in attest to that.
    Hope this '99 XL was perfect at 92k when traded for a loaded '03.
  • jimmy22jimmy22 Posts: 1
    Hi,I'm new to this forum and find the posts very interesting.
    I just bought a 2005 Avalon XLS a month ago.
    It's a real smooth ride ,and I enjoy driving it. The only complaint I have is the acceleration from a dead stop is not the greatest . Anyone notice a lack of power in low gear ? My old Camry seems to take off faster . The 280HP is at it's best at the higher speeds. The dealer is going to check it out anyway. Maybe I just have to get used to it.
  • I have a 2003 Avalon which is wonderful. In test driving the 2005, I experienced throttle and transmission hesitations. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this.
  • I purchases a new 04 avalon in jan 04. At 5800 miles the transmission was replace with a remanufacture one. At 9,000 miles it developed a leak.. At 18,900 it developed a second leak. Three hundred miles later it developed leak number 3. Has anyone has had a problem likes this?
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591
    Have a 02 Avalon. Never had a problem with the tranny. Depending where you bought it from, determines what I would do. If from a dealership, I would envoke the lemon law in the state you purchased it in if applicable. i would not want to mess with that, and obviously, who ever is fixing it, is not very comptetent. If you work for a living, I would think after three attempts, enough is enough. Get another vehicle and dive on.

This discussion has been closed.