Toyota Sienna Will Not Go Into Gear? (Read This First!)

The Toyota Sienna is one of the Japanese auto giant’s most successful minivan models, surviving even when many other minivan series has been brought to a close.

The Sienna is assembled in the United States, in the state of Indiana, and in 2020 entered its fourth generation.

It features a 2.5L  inline-4 gasoline-hybrid powertrain.

This article explains why “Toyota Sienna Will Not Go Into Gear”…

Brake Blown Fuse Or Switch

If your Toyota Sienna will not go into gear, then the first thing you should check for is a blown fuse or faulty switch.

When a fuse is blown or faulty, the shifter doesn’t receive the signal it should when you are pressing on the brake.

This prompts the shifter interlock, which stops gear changes from happening. Any model made after 2010 definitely has this feature after it became an industry-standard in that year.

Check the main fuse box under the hood, as well as the driver’s side fuse box under the dash.

If there are blown fuses, you might be able to change them with the spares that are provided.

If not, you might want to seek additional fuses from the dealership or just ask them to perform the service for you.

Broken Shift Cable

If and when the shift cable bends or breaks, the result is that you will have great difficulty getting the shifter to the correct position for any “Drive” function.

Even once in place, it will still be causing much-increased wear on the cable itself.

The cable needs to either be repaired or replaced.

It will involve taking out a great deal of the center stack casing to get to the cable which is housed right behind where your automatic transmission shifter is in the center of the dash.

If you have the confidence or are outside of your warranty, you can try to fix the cable setup with a fixing kit that you can buy for about $25.

A replacement from the dealership will likely cost you $1,000 or more with labor included so a DIY job to restore the form of the cable is a desirable path if possible.

Nearly $800 of that cost will be in labor alone.

If it can be repaired without replacement, then you’re looking at $200.

Ignition Key Failure

This is a surprisingly common fault, but the good news is that there is also an easy fix.

It’s typically caused by the steering wheel being locked, the key being worn or damaged or you having a problem with the ignition switch.

The easiest no-tool fix is to first determine which way you can still turn your locked steering wheel, left or right, and then put the key in the ignition.

With the key in place, use your left hand to turn the wheel to the right (for example) and hold it in place, and then turn your key.

The wheel will unlock and your key ignition problem should be solved.

If the problem is the ignition switch and you need a replacement, it will cost around $230 to have it fixed professionally.

It’s more expensive because it’s part of an integrated system within Toyota.

If you want to try it yourself, the parts will cost about $150.

Broken Shift Solenoid

If your automatic transmission solenoid is broken, it could either be because of electrical issues, or because the solenoid has become contaminated.

If you do a scan on your Sienna, you’ll likely find trouble codes P0771 and P0986, both of which indicate trouble with the solenoid.

The former describes these faults with one or more solenoids (there should be 2 on the Sienna), whereas the latter explains that one solenoid has likely been short-circuited and the ECU has moved control to the remaining solenoid – aka “failsafe mode.”

The parts for this problem are typically quite cheap at about $50, but the work can be complex and so if like the majority you’ll need help from the dealership or a professional mechanic, you’re looking at a total cost of $240 or thereabouts.

Low Transmission Fluid

If your transmission fluid levels are low, this can also cause the solenoids to stop working properly, and it can create additional wear and tear on the transmission causing overheating from increased friction within the mechanism.

If it were a manual, you’d be able to check the transmission fluid dipstick yourself, but in the case of Toyota automatics, there isn’t one.

It is therefore likely you’ll have to take it to a mechanic with a hydraulic lift so they can keep the car level and check the transmission fluid level underneath.

If the levels are okay, the check itself shouldn’t cost you more than $20-30. If you need fresh transmission fluid and/or you have a leak, then you are looking at costs of up to $160.

Broken Shifter

Such a fundamental part of the car breaking can be quite unsettling, but there’s no need to panic.

You can take a look at the gearshift yourself if you can just navigate the tricky dismantling of the dash covering in the center stack.

The Toyota Sienna dash is a little difficult to unpack, likely because Toyota wants to discourage DIY enthusiasts.

You have to almost loosen or detach the entire dash to get at the transmission area, which can be very awkward. It’s not for the faint of heart.

There are many awkwardly placed screws that make the work tricky.

Once you’re in, you’ll notice that part of the bushing has come loose.

It’s a round rubber ring that attaches around a metal neck on the transmission, you should be able to see where it is loose.

Once loose, it will block the shifter from moving properly. You need to get that ring back on the neck.

To do this, you can use an aftermarket bushing repair kit designed for Toyota models (about $20-25)  and reattach the part and repair the bushing.

Once affixed, you have the mammoth task of restoring all the dashboard plastic, which can be very tricky, especially the 3 awkwardly placed bolts around the transmission casing.

If you have the work done professionally, you’ll likely have to add $130 or so in labor costs to that, making it around $150-160 in all.

Failing Solenoids

Your shift solenoids should last for 3 years at the very least before they have any chance of failing or becoming faulty, but of course, some solenoids will buck that trend.

A new solenoid will cost about $240 when done professionally, but the parts are as cheap as $50 if you know how to do it yourself.

You’ll have a good idea that your solenoids are failing either through OBD-II problem codes P0771 or P0986, but you’ll also be able to sense other symptoms, including delayed gear shifting, or your gear shifter getting stuck in neutral or struggling to get out of neutral.

Broken Gearbox

Another problem behind the Sienna not going into gear is simply a broken transmission. It could be caused by any number of issues since there are so many interconnected parts.

For example, a failing solenoid can ruin the proper regulation of transmission fluid, which can cause increased friction, wear, and overheating within the transmission.

Invariably, any one component failing can have a terrible knock-on effect.

An entirely new transmission could cost you as much as $3,500 with parts and labor, but repairs can range from as low as $100 to many hundreds of dollars depending on the exact work you need doing.

A comprehensive repair or replacement on your Toyota Sienna transmission, however, will always be an expensive task.