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Like a bat out of...
98 Camry LE
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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alright, so I'm hoping to get some help on how to self-diagnose an issue I'm having (though maybe the best answer will be to take it in somewhere to have them test it).

My 1998 Camry (309k miles) started jumping between overdrive and 3rd gear at highway speeds a couple weeks ago. No check engine light. It was about due anyway, so I drained and refilled the transmission fluid. It had good color and did not smell bad. Problem went away for about 4 days, then suddenly came back. I managed to limp home from work taking the back roads, which included several stop signs. While at a stop sign I noticed rather sluggish acceleration and realized that the engine was not shifting down to 1st, but staying in 2nd at low speeds and idle. Manually shifting between L and 2 does nothing and the car stays in 2nd gear.

I have limited knowledge on how the transmission works, but I seem to remember something about the interaction between the shift solenoids and overdrive that leads me to wonder if I have a bad electrical connection on the 1st gear solenoid (whatever its actual name is). Or maybe I have some metal flakes in the transmission fluid gumming things up. Or maybe something is wrong with the ECU. Or maybe....???

What do you think is my best method of diagnosing the problem?

Thanks.
 

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unofficial TN member
00 camry le 5s-fe
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952 Posts
i know you wrote no CELs but was wondering if you actually scanned for CELs and the scanner pulled no codes or the CEL is not on? any recent driving through high waters during local storms?
 

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Like a bat out of...
98 Camry LE
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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I haven't had it scanned since the problem restarted. I should say that there were no new CELs related to this problem, as their is an outstanding CEL with a P0440 code. I still haven't diagnosed which part of the EVAP system is complaining, however. I can scan it again and see if there are any new codes.
 

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Registered
1995 XLE
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2,573 Posts
You car is newer than mine but has the same trans if you have a 4cyl ( you didn't list that). To check if it is electrical, externally unplug the shift solenoids (1&2) and drive your car. IF you can manually shift the gears then you have and electrical problem. If you can't then it is a mechanical problem. Bad solenoids are easy to change and sometimes cleaning them will flush out the problem. You can use a 9v battery to trigger them at the plug to see if they are working. The clicking is very easy to hear. Also the connection plug can get corroded over time and cause problems.
W95c
 

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Like a bat out of...
98 Camry LE
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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yes, 4cyl, failed to mention that. Where is the easiest place to disconnect the solenoid electrical connection? I'm assuming it is somewhere near the transmission, so I'm guessing it will be somewhere under the battery? (I'll look in my Haynes manual tonight, but if anyone has a picture readily available, it would make it that much easier.)
 

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1995 XLE
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2,573 Posts
Yes, 4cyl, failed to mention that. Where is the easiest place to disconnect the solenoid electrical connection? I'm assuming it is somewhere near the transmission, so I'm guessing it will be somewhere under the battery? (I'll look in my Haynes manual tonight, but if anyone has a picture readily available, it would make it that much easier.)
Follow the shift cable to where it connects to the park/neutral switch and the plug is to the right behind it. It is easy to see and unplug. The plug to the left of the switch controls the lock up of the torque converter.
W95c
 

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Like a bat out of...
98 Camry LE
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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Alright, I found the connector. Thanks. I'll report back what happens when I disconnect the electrical connection......after I rebuild my starter. Went out to try and start the car and the starter motor isn't starting. This isn't a new thing, it has intermittently not been starting, but it sure picked a heck of a time to finally stop for good. Rebuild kit will be here this weekend and we'll see what happens when I take her for a drive.
 

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Like a bat out of...
98 Camry LE
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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
OK, starter rebuilt. The positive copper plate in the starter motor had completely disintegrated to the point where it looks like I was starting the motor via an electrical arc (black scorch marks on the remaining copper plate and plunger). Anyway...

Started up the car and there were no CELs (obvious because I disconnected the battery to work on Starter Motor). I drove around for a few minutes and still no CEL, but same behavior from transmission (start in 2nd, with no 1st gear and no overdrive). Came home, unplugged the transmission electrical connection. CEL turns on when I start the car (I assume that is expected). Manual shifting revealed the following:

Shift into 'L' -> 2nd Gear (not 1st gear)
Shift into '2' -> 3rd Gear (not 2nd gear)
Shift into 'D' -> no change (still in 3rd gear)

So....what does that mean. Is there too much slack in my shift cable?

Thanks.
 

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1995 XLE
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2,573 Posts
Shift into 'L' -> 2nd Gear (not 1st gear)
Shift into '2' -> 3rd Gear (not 2nd gear)
Shift into 'D' -> no change (still in 3rd gear)

So....what does that mean. Is there too much slack in my shift cable?

Thanks.
I don't completely understand your description.
Are you saying that with the plug disconnected your trans will start off in 1st with the shiftier manually placed in 1st? And you can manually shift it into 2nd? And you can manually shift it into 3rd(D)? And it then won't shift into overdrive?
Have you been adjusting on the cable?
W95c
 

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Like a bat out of...
98 Camry LE
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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
No. In hindsight I realized that my post was potentially confusing.

How about this:

Shifter Setting --------- Actual transmission gear
'L' ----------------------- 2nd gear
'2' ----------------------- 3rd gear (a gear shift does occur between 'L' and '2'
'D' ----------------------- 3rd gear (no shift occurs when moving from '2' to 'D'

So even when manually putting the shifter into 'L' the car still doesn't go to 1st gear. A shift occurs when moving the shifter from 'L' to '2', but it is the 2nd to 3rd gear shift, not the 1st to 2nd (since it wasn't in 1st gear to begin with). Nothing happens when I move the shifter to 'D'.

I have never touched the shift cable. I was just hypothesizing as to what may be causing the problem.
 

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1995 XLE
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2,573 Posts
No. In hindsight I realized that my post was potentially confusing.

How about this:

Shifter Setting --------- Actual transmission gear
'L' ----------------------- 2nd gear
'2' ----------------------- 3rd gear (a gear shift does occur between 'L' and '2'
'D' ----------------------- 3rd gear (no shift occurs when moving from '2' to 'D'

So even when manually putting the shifter into 'L' the car still doesn't go to 1st gear. A shift occurs when moving the shifter from 'L' to '2', but it is the 2nd to 3rd gear shift, not the 1st to 2nd (since it wasn't in 1st gear to begin with). Nothing happens when I move the shifter to 'D'.

I have never touched the shift cable. I was just hypothesizing as to what may be causing the problem.
Well, according to the FSM for my 1995 it states on page AX-41 that:
Manual Shifting Test
1. Disconnect Solenoid Wire
2. Inspect Manual Driving Operation (Which you did with a fail)
This is the telling sentence " If any abnormality is found in the above test, then the problem is in the transaxle itself.
You have 309K on your car, is this the original trans? We have several members with more miles than you running their original trans but they do and can fail.
I certainly would consult someone who is familiar with these transmissions before making a final decision but the signs point towards a failed trans. On the positive side there are many of them available in salvage yards.
W95c
 

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Like a bat out of...
98 Camry LE
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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
"If any abnormality is found in the above test, then the problem is in the transaxle itself."
Bummer, that's what I was hoping to avoid. At this point I'll have to follow your advice and take it in to someone with a little more knowledge, and see if I'm looking at a transmission swap. Salvage yards is what, $500-$1000 for a transmission, plus the time and effort to then install it?.....Honestly, if that's what it comes to, it might be time to start looking for a new car. As much as I love my Camry, it is definitely starting to show its age and the number of issues have been piling up recently.

Thanks for your input.
 

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Registered
1995 XLE
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2,573 Posts
Bummer, that's what I was hoping to avoid. At this point I'll have to follow your advice and take it in to someone with a little more knowledge, and see if I'm looking at a transmission swap. Salvage yards is what, $500-$1000 for a transmission, plus the time and effort to then install it?.....Honestly, if that's what it comes to, it might be time to start looking for a new car. As much as I love my Camry, it is definitely starting to show its age and the number of issues have been piling up recently.

Thanks for your input.
You are welcome and I hope I have provided some sound advice. Sometimes you have to let go, but I certainly understand your attachment. My children and grandchildren think it is funny that my DD is a 21 years old car but it still serves me very well and I have not had a car payment in 18 years. The rest of the family are all in auto debt.
The main debate on here about replacing a major part of the car is what will someones' insurance pay you if they crash into you and total your car. I look at it the other way as to how many payment on a new car would the repair equal?
W95c
 
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