Q: Hard shift when I take off

asked by on October 29, 2015

Every time I shift from park to drive (takeoff) on my automatic 2011 Camry ES V6, the car shifts very hard and makes a clunking noise. This happens most often when I'm parked on a hill. The car has 35k miles on it and otherwise feels normal.

The first question that comes to mind regarding this issue is if the parking brake is being operated and if it is being operated correctly. Automatic transmissions use a pin, called a parking pawl, to lock the transmission in place when you shift it into ‘PARK’. The transmission in turn prevents the wheels from moving. This pin is very small in comparison to the vehicle, about the size of an average pinky finger, which is why you need to use the parking brake to assist the transmission in keeping the vehicle stationary. Without use of the parking brake or even with improper use, all the weight of the vehicle rests on the parking pawl. When you shift the vehicle out of park the clunk you hear is the parking pawl rubbing against the cavity it sits in to lock the transmission in place. If this problem seems to be occurring when you’re parked on a slope, I have a simple parking procedure you can try. After you maneuver your vehicle into its parking spot, while your foot is on the brake and with the transmission still in gear, firmly apply your parking brake, then shift the vehicle into park. This will allow the parking brake to carry most of the weight of the vehicle and allow the parking pawl to slide in and out of the locked position easier and reduce unwanted clunking. While this is the most common solution, there is also a technical service bulletin which could also improve hard shifting. The straightforward process of re-calibrating both the engine and transmissions computer with a dealer specific scanner, will update and reset the computer to just as it was when it came off the assembly line. Therefore it is vital you visit a Toyota dealership to resolve this issue. This process will allow the vehicle to learn and adapt to your specific driving habits and therefore provide a smoother shift.

Was this answer helpful?
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

I need a o2 sensor but i dont know how much it would cost or how many o2 sensors is on my car, i have a 2000 toyota camry v6

Hi Destiny. Thanks for contacting us today. There are a few different O2 sensors on your Toyota, but we need to know a bit more about your car, and the issues you're having to recommend the right inspection. If you...

My car is making roaring noises every time I accelerate in any of my 5 gears

The noise is going to be in a bearing in the transmission or one of the wheel hubs. You should have the vehicle lifted and then turn each wheel to see if you can hear noise from the transmission or...

I have a problem with my trunk on a Toyota Avalon 1998 I can't open it from the Handel in the fron or with the key what can I do

Hi there. There are a few things that might be causing this problem, from a damaged cable, actuator or even the lock itself being frozen or damaged. The best way to know for sure and to have the door unlocked...

Related articles

The Best Used Cars to Buy for Towing Light Loads
Towing Towing is tricky business and depending on the weight you’re dealing with, it really determines what vehicle is best for you. If it’s light loads you’re looking at towing, we’ve put together a list of the top five cars...
5 Signs Your Car Isn't Shifting Correctly
Improper shifting is a sign of car transmission problems. The solution might be simple or complex, but get it inspected to avoid expensive repairs.
How a Hydraulic Clutch System Works
If your car transmission has a hydraulic clutch, chances are you’re wondering exactly how it works within your shifting system. Most clutches, especially...