Toyota Sienna Transmission Problems

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With the Toyota Sienna being more than 25 years old, it has been an outstanding minivan adored by families.

This eight-seater vehicle has seated thousands of families and provided them with a comfortable ride.

With recent models shifting to the hybrid train, it is reliable and more fuel efficient than ever.

This makes the Sienna an even better option for people seeking a car that balances everything out.

The Toyota Sienna has long been a daily driver for many families. But it can be safely said that it is not perfect.

With so many models being released, Toyota did not perfect everything. In some cases, that includes the transmission.

It allows the minivan to move and can sometimes be unreliable. Fortunately, problems with the transmission are fixable. It’s all about looking out for the symptoms.

There are many, with the most common Toyota Sienna transmission problems being:

  1. Shifting Delay
  2. Grinding Sound When Speeding Up
  3. Burning Smell When Driving
  4. Gears Slipping
  5. Jerking When Driving
  6. Transmission Noise In A Neutral Position
  7. Clutch Dragging
  8. Leaking Transmission Fluid

Although this list is short, these are the symptoms most commonly seen when transmission hits a rough spot.

You need to continue reading this article to know more about what they mean.

8 Signs Of Transmission Problems In A Toyota Sienna

Let's discover what causes your Toyota Sienna's transmission to act wired

Some of you might think that if your car is driving just fine, apart from the symptoms, the issue might not be major.

This decision can cost you thousands of dollars. The signs listed above will be discussed here. Let’s begin!

1. Shifting Delay

If your Toyota Sienna is shifting too late, which results in high RPMs, this could probably mean that it could be at the end of its life.

Transmissions used for more than 150000 miles tend to exhibit this symptom, which generally insinuates that it can no longer function.

With only a couple thousand miles on the odometer, the culprit could be low transmission fluid.

The fluid keeps the system cool, and if it is not there, the high temperatures may delay operation.

If that is not the case, you might be confused, especially when you have a newer Sienna model.

2. Grinding Sound When Speeding Up

Driving the Toyota Sienna is supposed to be a smooth and enjoyable experience, but it can damper things when the gears start grinding while shifting.

An issue usually causes this with one or more transmission gears.

The gears may not be in perfect alignment, causing that grinding sound, or they may be worn or chipped due to age. It could also be due to a lack of fluid.

When the age of the gear, they chip over time. The same can be said for when the fluid level is low.

The increased friction will prevent the gears from sliding over each other easily. The issue may not be visible at first, but it can become pretty serious later.

3. Burning Smell When Driving

If you’re noticing a burning smell while driving your Toyota Sienna, it could signify that your transmission fluid is low or has broken down.

The transmission fluid plays an important role in keeping the gears lubricated and cool inside the transmission.

When the fluid is low or not at normal functioning capacity, you may experience issues like this.

As for what causes this issue, the burning smell is usually a symptom of the transmission overheating, which can lead to faster wear and tear on the gears.

This can not only result in the smell but can also result in early transmission failure. This symptom is one that you certainly cannot overlook, as the smell is quite distinct.

4. Gears Slipping

If you’re noticing transmission slippage, it could be because of several different issues. One possibility is that there is not enough fluid in the transmission.

While driving your Toyota Sienna a low fluid level can cause the pump to not work properly, resulting in insufficient pressure for the gears to engage properly.

This is pretty common and can pose a risk when driving.

Additionally, the fluid could be worn-out, which would also cause the transmission to slip. Another potential cause is that the transmission bands are broken.

These bands wrap around the gear train and connect to the housing.

If they break, this could mean that the gears may lose their synchronization. The symptom that may appear due to this is slippage.

5. Jerking When Driving

Your Sienna’s smooth ride might be interrupted by jerky movements while shifting gears, this could be a sign of a transmission problem.

It’s important to understand that these sudden or abrupt movements are not normal and are not an issue that should be put second or third on your to-do list.

A faulty sensor within the transmission may be causing the jerking by sending incorrect data to the Transmission Control Module (TCM).

The module makes decisions according to the sensor data and may very well be the reason for the transmission jerking.

Another possibility is that the transmission fluid level has dropped so low that gears cannot function properly, which can cause difficulty in shifting and jerky movements.

Yes, the fluid dropping can cause a whole list of issues, including jerky movements.

6. Transmission Noisy In Neutral Position

Suppose you hear strange noises from the minivan’s transmission while in neutral; it could signify that some internal parts are experiencing wear and tear.

There are a few potential causes that could be contributing to these noises.

For example, the reverse idler gears may be worn, which can cause a lot of noise when the transmission is neutral.

Additionally, worn bearings in the transmission can also contribute to these noises.

The teeth on the gears may be worn down, which can also cause noise to be heard when the transmission is in neutral.

If the gears are the cause, then the issue of noises will also be visible when accelerating.

The sound may be more like a grind, like what has been discussed in the second problem of this list.

7. Clutch Dragging

In Sienna with a manual transmission, which is probably a pretty old model, the clutch is an essential component that helps smooth gear shifting.

One issue that can occur with the clutch is called clutch drag, which is the opposite of clutch slip.

Clutch drag occurs when the clutch does not fully disengage the engine when the clutch pedal is depressed. This can result in difficulty in engaging first or reverse gears.

A damaged clutch or mechanism, such as a worn clutch cable in your Toyota Sienna, can cause this issue. Other reasons include a distorted cover pressing and a damaged spleen.

8. Leaking Transmission Fluid

Leaking transmission fluid can be a frustrating problem for Toyota Sienna owners. One possible cause of this issue is a damaged or worn transmission seal.

Over time, these seals can become weakened, allowing transmission fluid to escape. The fluid may collect under the car, and the puddle cannot be missed.

The transmissions liquid can then drop onto hot parts of the engine and create a burning smell which could be dangerous.

The smell is poisonous and can be fatal, especially on a road trip. Now, the smell may not only be due to this reason.

Additionally, a faulty gasket or O-ring could also be the source of the leak. For more information, scroll above to see the burning smell section.

Common Mistakes To Avoid To Maximize Transmission Lifespan

To maximize the lifespan of your Toyota Sienna’s transmission, it’s important to avoid certain common mistakes.

Here are some things that people do which can lead to issues:

1. Neglecting Regular Maintenance

One of the most common mistakes is neglecting regular maintenance, such as checking the fluid level and changing the fluid on schedule.

This can cause the transmission to malfunction or fail prematurely.

2. Not Addressing Leaks Promptly

Transmission fluid leaks can be caused by various issues, such as worn or damaged seals.

If you notice a leak, it’s important to address it promptly to prevent the fluid level from dropping too low and causing damage to the transmission.

3. Overloading The Vehicle

Overloading the vehicle can put extra stress on the transmission and cause problems. Make sure to load the vehicle within its weight capacity and evenly distribute it.

4. Towing Heavy Loads

Towing heavy loads can put additional hassle on the transmission and cause problems. If you need to tow something, ensure the vehicle is properly equipped for towing.

5. Using The Wrong Type Of Transmission Fluid

Different vehicles require different types. Make sure to use the type of fluid recommended by the manufacturer to avoid causing damage to the transmission.

6. Neglecting Warning Signs

Ignoring warning signs such as slipping gears, grinding noises, or leaks can lead to more serious problems and costly repairs.

It’s important to address any issues as soon as they arise to prevent further damage. Make sure to avoid these habits to maximize the lifespan of your Toyota Sienna’s transmission.


Which Year Did Toyota Sienna Have Transmission Issues?

If you are buying the Sienna for your family, it is a fantastic decision.

But keep an eye out for the models listed below because they have the most listed transmission issues.

2004 Toyota Sienna

Starting the oldest model on this list had two issues reported only once.

The first is that the transfer case would fail for the all-wheel drive. Secondly, the shift cable can fail too.

2005 Toyota Sienna

There were a few more complaints about the 2005 Sienna. The transmission was known to produce sounds, such as clicking and whining. It would also slip and emit a grinding sound.

2007 Toyota Sienna

With this model there was a sudden increase in issues. The transmission would stop the minivan when slowing down.

There were many complaints about this issue. Reports of complete failure and slipping were also present.

2011 Toyota Sienna

In 2011 model there was the issue of the transmission slipping into reverse gear. This can be a pretty serious issue and can result in the car hitting something or someone.

2017 Toyota Sienna

The 2017 Toyota Sienna is a pretty recent model. There was one complaint about complete failure and another one about rough shifting. Both are serious issues.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is The Toyota Sienna More Prone To Transmission Issues Compared To Other Vehicles?

It is not necessarily more prone to transmission issues compared to other vehicles.

However, regular maintenance and check-ups are important to keep the transmission in good condition and to prevent any issues from arising.

It’s important to consult the owner’s manual for the recommended maintenance schedule of your vehicle. The same applies to other vehicles, so you don’t need to be too alarmed.

Q2. How Often Should I Have My Toyota Sienna’s Transmission Serviced?

Having your Toyota Sienna’s transmission serviced every 30,000 miles or a maximum of 50,000 miles is recommended.

If this number is pushed more, you cannot expect the system to last as long as advertised.

Regular transmission service includes checking the fluid level, condition, and color and replacing the fluid if necessary.

This comes under the service definition, not just replacing the fluid and the filter. It’s also important to address any leaks or other issues immediately to prevent further damage.

Q3. What Are Potential Costs Associated With Fixing Transmission Problems On Toyota Sienna?

The cost of fixing transmission problems can vary depending on the severity of the issue and the specific parts that need to be replaced or repaired.

A simple fluid change and filter replacement can be inexpensive, while a complete transmission rebuild or replacement can cost several thousand dollars.

It’s important to get a professional diagnosis and estimate for any transmission issues to determine the cost of repairs.

Q4. Is It Normal For Toyota Sienna To Experience Transmission Issues?

No, it is not normal for a Toyota Sienna to experience transmission issues.

However, just like any other vehicle, it can experience issues due to a lack of maintenance or wear and tear over time.

If it is an older model, these issues are more common than one might think.

Regular maintenance, including regular transmission service and check-ups, can help prevent transmission issues and ensure a long lifespan for the transmission.


Now that everything has been listed, what can be concluded?

Well, it is no surprise that the transmission on the Toyota Sienna is prone to problems. These issues can be serious or not too much.

Regardless, this Toyota minivan has been in the market for a long time, and there was a certain chance that issues like these would arise.

I hope you can get it up and running with little costs involved!

When it comes to fixing the Toyota Sienna transmission problems, nothing can beat a specialized inspection, no matter how well you diagnose the problem yourself.