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

Car revs fast and accelerates by itself

The cruise control on this car has been recalled to fix a problem of accelerating when the cruise control is activated, and unable to control speed properly. If this is not be your problem, it could be something as simple...

Why does the heater blow hot air for a short time and then blow cold air?

It sounds like you may have a low coolant level. There may not be enough coolant to reach the heater core to provide you with hot air in the car. A visual check of the coolant level while the vehicle...

Interested in purchasing a vehicle

As for the car itself, the Audi R8 is a fantastic car. Very sporty and likely extremely fun to drive. I can see where the option to buy one at a likely discounted price due to the flood damage would...

Related articles

A Buyer’s Guide to the 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
If If you’re looking for a hint of nostaligia in an SUV that can actually handle off-roading like a pro, the 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser is the perfect choice for you. Designed specifically for tackling those off-road jaunts, what this...
The Best Used Cars to Buy If You’re an Interior Designer
As As an interior designer, you need to transport a great many different items, including fabric, paint and wallpaper samples and sometimes even furniture items. You probably don’t handle overly large loads very often, and when you have to, you’ll...
The Best Used Cars to Buy If You’re a Painter
If If you’re a painter, and you work for someone else, chances are you don’t care all that much about what you drive, as long as it gets you to and from work reliably. On the other hand, if you...