Toyota Tacoma Manual Transmission Pop Out of Gear? Here's the Simple Fix!

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Introduction: Toyota Tacoma Manual Transmission Pop Out of Gear? Here's the Simple Fix!

If you have a Toyota truck with a manual transmission with a considerable amount of miles on it, there's a good chance that you suffer from a common problem that these trucks have. Gears that pop out of gear while driving.

I have a 1996 Tacoma that I bought new. In the intervening time, I've put close to 220,000 miles on it. Around 4-5 years ago, 1st and second gear began popping out especially during warm-up. Fearing that the repair for the problem might be extremely costly, I put off the inevitable for several years.The problem grew worse until I found I was holding 3 of the 5 gears in place. After some research, I discovered that the problem is very common on these trucks and to my surprise, the fix was not only inexpensive ( $20) but easy.

In order to perform this repair, you will need a Philips head screw driver and some general purpose grease. The job takes 30 minutes. You will also need to order parts from a Toyota dealer or equivalent. The parts you need are: 1 shift lever seat and 1 shift lever cap. Bring your VIN number as there were slight variations.That's it! So here it goes.

Step 1: Removing the Shift Lever to Get Access to Shifter Seat.

First, you'll need to get at the screws that hold the rubber boot cover to the transmission tunnel. They are underneath the carpet, so you'll need to pull the carpet back a bit to get at them.The rubber boot is held down with a stamped steel retainer with four screws. Be careful not to lose the screws under the carpet or you'll have to either remove ALL the carpet or find new screws.

The steel retainer was difficult to remove from under the carpet. I had success pulling it out corner first. Once that comes out, the rubber boot easily pops out. Pull up on the boot to get it out of the way so you can get at the shift lever retainer cap. There is a rubber dust cover over the top that easily pops off.

Step 2: Removing the Shifter Lever Retainer Cap.

Then next step is to remove the shift lever retainer cap. The cap is spring loaded and the spring presses it into interlocking pins. Use a shop rag and press down and twist the cap counter-clockwise. Once twisted far enough, the cap will clear the pins and pop up as shown below.

The entire shift lever assembly will come out in one piece.On the very end is the shift lever cap made of nylon. This too will be replaced. Above that is the shifter ball. Inspect it for burrs and rough edges. If there are any, gently file or sand them down smooth. Otherwise, you'll damage the new seat.

Step 3: Inspecting, Removing the Old Seat.

Ah-ha! As suspected, the old hard rubber shift lever seat is completely worn out. Not only that, but it was actually crumbly. The reason it causes the problem of having gears pop out is because as the seat wears, this causes the spring to have less pressure in which to push downward on the shift lever, hence it more easily pops out of gear.

Remove the old seat. There is a rubber seal underneath it. Remove this as well. The new seat comes with a new seal anyway. Be careful not to get any crumbled bits of seat into the transmission. Probably not the end of the world if you do since they are generally soft. I used a vacuum to remove the bits.

Comparing the old seat to the new shows just how much wear the old seat has.

Step 4: Installing the New Seat, Cap, and Seal.

Installing is pretty much as simple as it gets. Just install the new seat and seal- seal first into the shifter socket. No special tools required. Next install the new shifter cap by popping off the old, pressing on the new. Apply a thin layer of general purpose grease on all components.

Now reverse the disassembly instructions and wallah- all done. Happy to say that the truck now shifts and drives better than it did even when new. The grand total cost was $20 and 30 minutes of time, which is a lot cheaper than paying for someone else to do it or worse- having it misdiagnosed and have to buy a new or rebuilt transmission.

2 People Made This Project!

  • 2000 Taco here - tha...-RateeluckG

    RateeluckG made it!

  • Last week I started ...-djdbrat

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142 Comments

Thank you thank you thank you. I did this on my '94 Hilux (22r). As you can see below the old bushing was actually reduced to crumbs. It is amazing the car shifted at all. God bless Toyotas. Still work even when they're broke! It feels like I installed a brand new transmission.

I'd add one thing - there was no need to replace the cap. My old one was just fine. Besides that, they are REALLY hard to get on and off. So best to leave the old one on unless it appears to be damaged, in my opinion.

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Absolutely check with dealer for part number against vehicle vin number.
Tried a universal kit and the bushing (what you're calling a cap) was big enough to cause a headache. Went to the dealer and perfect fit first try. Shifting issue solved 100% for me also. I have a manual but enjoyed your pictures for additional reference.

Don't click to download this article. If you want the PDF you will have to pay for it.

Ok so please help. My 94 toyota pickup pops out of 1st..i replaced all of these items except it seems as though my new cap is just hair bigger than the original and it wont sit down in place like it should..any suggeations on how to get it back down in place so i can pit it back together. Ive gone through 2 now. One of them i had to sand down just a Bit to get the cao to slide down in place so i can put the spring and all back on to use it...but it still popled out. So i havent really once got a new unsanded cap to slide in place in the hole once it was on the end of my shifter. It just wont slide down around the two notched out pin slots on each side .. sorry hope that all makes sense .

another happy do-it-your-selfer thanks to you.

mate your an absolute legend!! thank you you just saved me a lot of money :)

Everything in your description was great and as easy as you said...actually I didn't have any issue getting the spring retainer without any tools, it came out super easily. The thing I am having issues with is the shifter cap, the old one did not just 'pop off' and the new one definitely isn't 'popping in' Any tips? It seems like the new one I got is too small, but it came in the pack with the seal from Rock Auto so not sure what to think.

Although this article is very in formative, I am going to have to disagree with one point. That point is this: The spring loaded shifter cap serves only one purpose and that purpose is to hold the shifter in the socket. This prevents the shifter from coming out of the socket. Each gear has a synchronizer. This in itself is what "allows" and "holds" the gear into placement, not the spring loaded cap.

I bought a '94 Toyota pickup Friday of last week. Three miles after the purchase, the tranny slipped out of 4th into neutral. Didn't want to go to prison so I waited until I got 45 minutes away from Mr. 'Ain't Nothing Wrong with that Truck' before calling him. Of course he didn't answer and of course he hasn't called me in the five days since. I left a message that let him know emphatically that he knew of the problem and I would appreciate him letting me know the possible cause. Staying cool, I looked up 'my transmission is slipping out of 4th gear' online and fortunately, this article appeared. I took the truck to a mechanic this morning and he called me three hours later saying it would take a special tool 'from the Toyota place' that costs 3 or 4 hundred dollars and that he didn't want to put out that much money for a hundred dollar job. There was another mechanic next door who looked up the labor estimate (I already had the two parts) and he said he'd fix it for 55.00 I waited until 20 minutes before he closed to check the status of the repair. Another guy was working on it who had no idea what he was doing. I was absolutely heartsick. The owner walked in and I told him what the article said and that pliers (spread apart) would be a better way than trying to pry up the cover with a flat head screwdriver. I took two long screwdrivers and placed them where they wouldn't interfere with the pliers. As I pushed downward equally on either side, he turned the pliers 1/8th turn counter-clockwise and it popped right out. The bushing was cracked and the rubber seal had disintegrated into crumbs. I wiped out the housing and the entire bottom of the shifter. He applied grease to the ball and then set the bushing (hole side up) on a vice. He turned the shifter upside down and then took a rubber hammer to drive the ball into the bushing. It popped right in. We put the entire assembly back together and it drives like a new vehicle. Whoever wrote this article is a saint and if you're ever in Greensboro N.C., lunch is on me. Thank you.

Hey Steve,
I wrote this article 5-6 years ago. I still own the same truck! I'm glad to hear you were able to fix it. These trucks are as simple as apple pie so hold onto it!