Tag Archives: Toyota

What to do if your 1996 Landcruiser’s Shifter Will Not Come Out of Park – How to Release the Shift Lock Button

Have you ever noticed that things go bad at the worst time? In my case it was during heavy snow. I was plowing wet snow out of the way and had a few hours to beat when the temperatures would drop and turn the melting snow into a block of ice.

My plow truck is a 1996 Toyota Landcruiser that has a rear mounted plow made by a long gone firm named “Super Plow”. It works pretty good when snow stays under 18″ so I plow a few times during a storm to keep it knocked down.

I was plowing, put the truck in park and got out to see what I needed to touch up. I got back in and it would not shift out of Park. I could tell that the shift lock button was not going in as far as it should. First, I tried turning the steering wheel left and right – no luck. The lock would not release. I then put the truck’s transfer case in Neutral and rocked it some – nothing. I dropped the blade to make sure there weren’t any stresses – nothing. Well, that meant the selector solenoid wasn’t moving out of the way. Argh!! Of course I was stuck right in the middle of the driveway.

I called my buddy John Freehling up who is a real mechanic and will forget more about cars than I will ever learn. He told me that there ought to be an emergency release somewhere near the lever and to do a quick search on the Internet to find out just where, which I did.

You get access to the emergency release by using a blade screw driver, knife or something, to pry the little rectangular lid that is located to the upper left of the shift console. You then can insert a screw driver to gently push down and release the shift lever.
Bingo! Problem solved. I then got the truck back to my garage and went in and read on the computer instead of my little phone screen.

The access plate is at the upper edge of the console. You can see the small plate sitting in the boot of the transfer case lever. You need to reach in and press the release each time you want to take the lever out of park.

The Work Around

Now, it is literally subzero weather right now and I’ll work on permanently solving the weather this weekend when it warms up. Until then, I found a great solution on the web – cut a carpenter’s pencil off so it sticks up slightly – just the body – you don’t need it to be pointed. I put my pencil in and gave myself about an inch protruding and cut it off in my bandsaw.

Getting out of park takes two hands – I push down on the stubby pencil with my left hand, push in the lock button like normal and pull the lever down with my right. Again, you just need it to move the shift lever out of park – not all the time. It works just fine. I was able to finish plowing my hose and my mother-in-law’s no problem.

What might the problem be?

Troubleshooting and fixing this one ought to be pretty straight forward when it is warmer. Here’s what I am going to try in order:

  1. Push down on the brake pedal. If the lights turn on, then the brake pedal switch is good. If they don’t then the problem is most likely the brake pedal switch. I read an interesting post where the guy said unscrewing and removing the brake pedal assembly makes it very straight forward.
  2. If the brake lights come on, make sure they all come on. If not, one blown bulb could potentially cause the problem.
  3. Related to #2 – Check brake light fuse and replace if blown.
  4. If the light all come on, check for power at the solenoid because odds are the solenoid failed.

So, we’ll see what the final fix is but I hope this helps anyone stuck and unable to get the shift lever lock switch to depress and let them shift out of park.

2/3/19 Update: It blew the fuse — As you see, the truck’s plow is on the rear. I smashed the trailer light hookup assembly pretty good and it must have shorted somewhere. This summer I’ll use a hole saw and cut the rear bumper to install a trailer electrical assembly that is better protected vs. under the bumper. So, the truck’s brake lights and shifter are working again.


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Valvoline Max Life ATF Works Great in 2002 Toyota Camry XLE

We are a Toyota family and most of our cars were bought either used or very used from private parties.  At any rate, a few years ago I bought a 2002 Toyota Camry XLE with a 4-Cylinder engine.  The other day my older daughter said it was making a funny noise in reverse so I checked the dipstick.  Wow.  Not only was it low but the ATF looked awful.  For comparison, the below photo with the brownish ATF on the white paper towel is on the left and brand new ATF is on the right.  Wow!!  (Yeah, I wrote wow twice because I was stunned.

So I told my daughter to ride with her sister in our old 92 Corolla and that I needed to work on their car.  First thing I did was to look at the fluid a couple of times – it was brownish but not black, no metal flakes and no bad smell.

In reading the manual, Toyota wrote that the transmission fluid should be good for the life of the car … right.  I guess it depends on how you view that, or at least how they view it.  I’m sure I checked the fluid when we got the car and it wasn’t this color but I’m not in a habit of checking it regularly unless I see drips or a puddle under a car or truck.

This car had almost 195,000 miles on it and we put about 50,000 of those miles on it.  I figured a change was past due.  So, before I did anything, I decided to do some reading first.

Picking Valvoline Max Life ATF

I knew there were a ton of different automatic transmission fluids (ATF) out there and that getting the right one was key.  The transmission was designed to use Toyota ATF T-IV and there are different brands that claim to meet the spec.  The problem is that the wrong one can cause headaches.  One particular formulation kept coming up as I read about what others used – Valvoline Max Life ATF:

Note in the next photo you can see that Valvoline says this can replace Toyota T-IV as well – it’s not just guys on the Internet.  By the way, if you feel uncomfortable with what I am saying, definitely do your own research and you’ll see tons of favorable posts about using this fluid.

Okay, so I bought two gallons of the above.  The automatic transmission in the car uses about 4.1 quarts.  I used a 10mm allen bit in my Onyx 3/8″ impact wrench and drained everything I could from the pan.  I then put the plug back in and added two quarts of fresh Max Life and let it run for about 30 seconds and shifted through the gears (I was up on 6 ton jack stands with rubber wheel chocks and the parking brake on).

I then removed the plug again and drained the fluid.  I then removed the return line, started the car for maybe 30 seconds if that – I turned it off when nothing else was coming out.  I then buttoned it all back up.

In  theory the transmission was empty.  I’ve had issues in the past where I assumed that was the case but it was not so I didn’t want to assume anything.  I added two quarts and moved it to a perfectly flat spot on my driveway.  I could just barely see a hint of ATF on the tip.  I added a bit more to get it short of the cold empty mark.

I don’t trust the cold measure on the dipstick.   With an automatic transmission it must be up to its operating temperature to get a good reading in the hot zone (the bottom mark is for cold is a ballpark – get it hot and then test as you absolutely do not want to overfill an automatic transmission).  As it gets hot the fluid expands hence my wanting to know at temperature where I was at.

How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid Level

Now, to check the ATF level, Toyota does not tell you in the operator’s manual and I frown on that.  With the car flat, let it idle (or drive it 10 miles if you have fluid in it – I had an unknown level so I didn’t want to get on the road) and let the engine and transmission come up to operating temperature (158-176F).  Then, with your foot on the brake, shift the gear selector from park through all the gears, stopping at each one and then back up.  With the car idling and the transmission in park, check the dipstick.

To make sure the engine and tranny were hot enough, I used my BAFX plug in OBD II probe that connects to the Torque app on my Android phone via Bluetooth.

I kept adding smaller and smaller amounts of ATF and moved the selector lever per the above before I would test the level again.  I got it close to full in the hot range and then stopped.  As mentioned, I did not want to go past full.  By the way, when you are reading a dipstick with during filling, you must wipe it off each time to get a good reading and you may find that you get a better view of the fluid level on one side or the other of the dipstick.

In case you are wondering, I did not do the transmission filter.  It would have taken a ton of time and I figured I would start with the fluid and see what happened.

The end result – it shifts beautifully.  I could not be happier — even my wife thinks it shifts smoother and feels better.   To wrap this up, I wrote this post in case one of you has questions about what transmission fluid is a good substitute for Toyota Type T-IV, and also how to properly check the automatic transmission fluid level.

9/10/2018 Update – The Camry XLE has been on a number of 200-400 mile highway road trips at highway speeds and shows no signs of shifting problems.  The family agrees the car shifts smoother.  I have now replaced the ATF in our 2004 Solara SLE and 1994 Corolla with Max Life ATF also and all are running well.  The Solara has close to a 1,000 miles on it now.  I’m very pleased with Max Life and will continue using it in my Toyotas.  By the way, I now use an EWK Fluid Evacuator for getting the ATF exactly where I want it.  Here’s the post about that tool.


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Amazon product listing are at the bottom of the post.