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My Toyota Won't Shift Into Overdrive

by Alejandro Leopardi

Almost every model of Toyota vehicle manufactured in the 1990s to the present day comes equipped with the overdrive (O/D) function as part of the standard package. The overdrive function is meant to serve several purposes including conserving gas mileage, driving in some extreme conditions like steep hills and inclement weather, and more. It is important to ensure that the overdrive function is working properly. If your Toyota is failing to shift into overdrive, there are a few things to do to inspect and possibly fix this problem.

How to Check if the Overdrive in a Toyota is Functioning Properly

Turn your Toyota's engine on and turn the overdrive on. Make sure that the car is in park before doing this. Check to see if the O/D light has come on - you can find this on your dashboard and will usually be orange or red. The light coming on does not necessarily indicate that the overdrive is functioning; nor does the light not coming on indicate that the overdrive is not functioning. There may be a failure with the connections between the gear shifter and the dashboard mechanism.

Shift into drive and drive forward slowly at first, accelerating more as you move. Check to see if the Revolutions per Minute (RPM) reaches 3,000 before shifting gears, or if it goes higher to 4,000 or 5,000 and then shifts. If your Toyota does the latter, this means the overdrive is not functioning as it should.

Turn the overdrive off after coming to a complete stop. Check to see if the light remains on or if it goes off when the overdrive is off. Drive forward again to check if your vehicle continues to shift in the same manner as the previous test, reaching 4,000 to 5,000 RPMs before shifting gears. Sometimes the overdrive button can be jammed, causing a mis-communication between it, the steering wheel, and the engine.

Put the car in park and check to make sure that the other functions are working properly such as the parking brake and the lower gears (1 and 2). If these functions are working , there may be a problem with the connection between the overdrive button relay and the steering wheel, causing a jam and preventing the car from shifting into overdrive.

Turn the car off but leave the overdrive on. If you have put any after-market products in your car, like a new car alarm or anything connected to the motor/engine, this may be causing the overdrive to jam. The wiring for after-market product may have replaced or intertwined with the overdrive wiring connecting it to the engine. In this case, you must take the car to a certified mechanic so that they can look at the wiring (tell them that you have after-market products on your vehicle).

Tips

  • Always make sure that you try out the overdrive function, both on and off, several times before deciding that your Toyota is not shifting into overdrive.
  • When trying out the overdrive, or checking all other functions, make sure you are in a parking lot or a place with little traffic.

Warning

  • If the overdrive function is not turning on, make sure to drive no faster than 40 MPH, as driving any faster will result in engine damage.

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About the Author

Based in San Diego but originally from Washington, D.C., Alejandro Leopardi has been writing marketing, news, entertainment and literary criticism articles since 2003. His articles have appeared in “Target Magazine” and “The Current.” Leopardi holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies and a Master of Arts in English.

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  • truck stick shift image by Aditia Patria Warman from Fotolia.com