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My Toyota Sienna Is Stuck In Neutral -Why? What To Do?

Moving your Toyota Sienna's gear shifter doesn't seem to do anything. Now, you're sitting in the driver's seat, thinking about what's wrong with the vehicle. What can you do to fix this problem? We researched these concerns for your convenience, and here's what we found.

A Toyota Sienna may become stuck in neutral because of reasons like the gear shifter bushing disappearing or the vehicle being low on transmission fluid. So troubleshoot the minivan to find the main cause of this issue. Then, use the appropriate solution based on the results of your investigation.

So continue reading as we talk about the possible reasons why a Toyota Sienna won't change its gear from neutral. We'll also tackle the potential solution to each probable cause in detail.

Before you continue reading, let us say we hope you find the links here useful. If you purchase something through a link on this page, we may get a commission, so thank you!

3 Reasons Why Toyota Sienna Is Stuck In Neutral (And Their Possible Fixes)

Gear Shifter Bushing Disappeared

A vehicle’s gear shifter bushing is often responsible for making the gear-shifting experience tight yet smooth. But a Toyota Sienna’s gear shifter bushing may disappear from its original installation location. The component may become loose and fall off, or it disintegrated because of the constant friction from the frequent gear shifting.

White minivan Toyota Sienna in the city street.

How To Fix

Replacing the bushing might be the best option to ensure your Toyota Sienna’s gear shifter works properly. Follow these general steps to complete this task:

What You’ll Need
  • Ratchet and socket
  • Wheel chocks
  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement gear shift bushing
Step-By-Step Guide
  1. Turn off the Sienna’s engine and engage the hand or parking brake. Chock the wheels afterward.
  2. Turn the shifter's knob counterclockwise to loosen it. Remove and set it aside afterward.
  3. Open the glove compartment and the small container above it.
  4. Press a tab underneath the container above the glove compartment. Pull that encasement out of its mount and set it aside.
  5. Press the sides of the glove compartment until it misaligns. Then, remove the glove compartment from its original location.
  6. Remove the clips from under the dashboard. You'll find these fasteners on the right side of the driver's seat and the left of the passenger's seat.
  7. Loosen and remove the screw in the small panel next to the ignition. Remove that panel afterward.
  8. Pull out the large panel surrounding the gear shifter assembly carefully.
  9. Disconnect the wires attached to the large panel.
  10. Remove the screws at the top and bottom of the gear shifter assembly.
  11. Pull out the center console’s material and set it aside temporarily.
  12. Locate the faulty bushing if you can and remove it.
  13. Install the new gear shift bushing and apply the grease that should come with the replacement kit.
  14. Go through the previous steps in reverse order to return the removed part to their original location.
  15. Turn on the Toyota Sienna’s engine and test the transmission if it can now change gears properly.

Check out this Toyota Sienna bushing repair kit on Amazon.

You can also watch the video below if you need a visual guide for this procedure:

Low Transmission Fluid

Take note that you should change your vehicle’s transmission fluid at least once every 30,000 to 100,000 miles. This applies to your Toyota Sienna, just like any other car Otherwise, you may run into problems, such as the gear not coming out of neutral.

How To Fix

First, check your owner’s manual for you to know the correct transmission fluid to use on your specific Toyota Sienna model. Using the wrong transmission fluid can lead to problems like:

  • Engine overheating
  • Poor lubrication
  • Gear stuck in neutral
  • Complete transmission failure

After purchasing the correct transmission fluid for your Toyota Sienna, continue this procedure by following these steps:

What You’ll Need
  • Wheel chocks
  • Floor jack
  • Drain pan
  • Allen wrench set
  • Ratchet and socket
  • Hose
  • Funnel
  • Transmission fluid
Step-By-Step Guide
  1. Ensure that the engine is off and chock the wheels.
  2. Engage the Sienna’s hand, parking, or emergency brake.
  3. Raise the vehicle’s driver’s side using a floor jack.
  4. Place a drain pan underneath the transmission fluid container.
  5. Use an Allen wrench to remove the drain plug from the transmission fluid container.
  6. Use another Allen wrench to remove the second drain plug from the container after the initial batch of fluid escapes.
  7. Return the two drain plugs into the transmission fluid container and ensure they’re secure.
  8. Lower the floor jack, which should also move the vehicle closer to the ground.
  9. Go underneath the wheel well and remove the bolts securing the splash shield. Pull out that component afterward.
  10. Remove the transmission fluid fill plug and set it aside temporarily.
  11. Attach one end of an appropriately sized hose to the funnel. Then, connect the other end to the location of the transmission fluid fill plug’s opening.
  12. Refill the Toyota Sienna’s transmission fluid according to the product and vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.
  13. Return the fill plug and turn on the Sienna’s engine. Test if the transmission system’s functions now work as intended.

Close up hand of woman check the oil level in car engine.

Note: Avoid refilling your transmission fluid on a hot day. Otherwise, the fluid refilling straw in the Toyota Sienna may expand and give you an incorrect reading.

Check out this product on Amazon.

Watch this clip if you want to see a visual representation of the steps mentioned above:

At this point, you might be curious if you can mix transmission fluids. Check out our article about that to learn the answer to that particular concern.

Loose Gear Shifter Wiring

Frequent gear shifting or going through bumpy terrain might loosen the wiring on the gear shifter. This particular reason for the transmission failure may not need extensive repairs and/or replacements.

How To Fix

Reconnecting the loose wiring may solve the problem. However, make sure that you don’t tinker with other components other than the offending parts to prevent further harm to the minivan.

Continue this process by following these general steps once you’re ready:

What You’ll Need
  • Panel remover
  • Screwdriver
Step-By-Step Guide
  1. Ensure that the engine is off. Engage the hand, parking, or emergency brake afterward.
  2. Open the hood once it’s safe to touch and disconnect the negative battery cable from its terminal.
  3. Use the panel remover to pry open the panel surrounding the gear shifter lever. You may also need to remove the panel underneath the instrument cluster to gain access to the wires.
  4. Remove the gear shift lever knob and its sub-assembly carefully.
  5. Inspect the framework and locate the loose wire.
  6. Reconnect the loose wire to its proper terminal and return all the items removed previously.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace The Transmission In A Toyota Sienna?

Prepare to spend about $5,000 to $6,000 to replace a Toyota Sienna’s transmission system. This option might be the best one to take if you exhausted your DIY options in trying to fix the minivan’s transmission.

Interior of a Toyota Siena minivan with an ultra wide lens.

How Do I Know If The Transmission In My Toyota Sienna Is About To Fail?

Apart from the Toyota Sienna’s gear shifter refusing to change to other gears other than neutral, you should be on the lookout for other transmission failure warning signs. Some of the possible symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Unknown burning smell
  • Gear slips
  • Transmission fluid leak
  • Persistent check engine light
  • Grinding or loud clicking noises when changing gears

signs of a car about to fail. My Toyota Sienna Is Stuck In Neutral -Why What To Do

What Year Did Toyota Sienna Have Transmission Problems?

Owners of the Toyota Sienna models made from 2005 to 2007 and 2009 to 2010 may experience serious transmission problems. In particular, the car manufacturer issued a recall for affected vehicles because of a faulty shift lock assembly.

Offending Toyota Sienna minivans may have shift levers that can move out of the “Park” position without human interference. If so, these vehicles can become safety hazards to nearby people and structures.

What Is The Average Life Of A Toyota Sienna?

A Toyota Sienna may last about 300,000 miles before it may need extensive repairs. Optimizing the minivan’s mileage often requires users to follow routine maintenance checkups, particularly with the vehicle’s transmission system. In comparison, many vehicles will only last up to approximately 200,000 miles on average.

dusty and muddy white minivan Toyota Sienna parked near suburban apartments. My Toyota Sienna Is Stuck In Neutral -Why What To Do

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget to troubleshoot the main reason why your Toyota Sienna won’t change gears from neutral. You may use the DIY solutions highlighted in this post as they might provide you with long-term results. But don’t hesitate to request help from seasoned automotive professionals if you believe that fixing the minivan’s transmission is too much for you to handle.

If you’re looking for answers to other Toyota Sienna concerns, check out these other great posts:

Can I Add 8th Seat To Toyota Sienna?

My Toyota Sienna Door Won’t Open – Why? What To Do?