2014 Camry, transmission lagging and vibrating, very annoying

My GF bought a 2014 Camry. Her last car, a 2011 Nissan Altima, had been a constant pain in the ass, and we were really looking forward to the peace of mind and trouble-free ownership that the Camry has a reputation for. I’ve always trusted Toyota, I’ve owned multiple Toyota cars and trucks and always thought of them as the #1 brand for reliability. My daily driver is a 2008 4Runner that has had zero issues, and my dad has been driving the same Camry since forever. So when we found the Camry for $10k with 167,000 miles, the top-level XLE trim, and excellent service records, we were overjoyed.

For one day, anyway. Because immediately, we noticed an annoying issue - one that I hasten to add, was NOT in evidence at all during the test drive (and we both drove it.) What happens, is when accelerating from around 25 mph to 30 mph, the transmission lags for a second or so, then vibrates very noticeably, before upshifting to the next gear. This issue was not evident at higher speeds, but most of her driving is going to be city driving and the car will constantly be in the 25-30mph range, so this is going to be exceptionally aggravating.

The transmission shifts quite smoothly when you manually shift the gears (it has a tiptronic-type manual mode where you can just nudge the shifter up or down to shift, as many automatic cars do nowadays). It’s only in “D” when this issue occurs, but come on, a car that’s meant to be used primarily in automatic mode should work properly in that mode, it shouldn’t be necessary to manually shift in order to have a pleasant driving experience in an automatic car.

I jump down the Google rabbit hole, and lo and behold, tons of people are complaining of the same issue (“Camry transmission shudder”)- that a faulty torque converter and/or a software glitch is the culprit, and that, in fact, Toyota repaired the issue for free in many cars under an extended warranty that was good up until 150,000 miles. Because of course it is. (There’s no dealer warranty on this car, and the service records do not show any replacement of the torque converter or any other transmission-related components at any point in the vehicle’s history.)

People on various forums are saying that they’ve been quoted $2500 to get this bullshit fixed, and that this experience has permanently soured them on Toyota’s reputation.

We’re both now kicking ourselves for not doing more research on the car before pulling the trigger on the purchase - doubly so for me, since I consider myself a car guy and I know about a lot of different cars and trucks, but the idea that a 2014 Camry would have any fundamental design flaw that might need to be researched, simply eluded me. :man_facepalming: :man_facepalming: :man_facepalming:

We’re still trying to figure out our next move. Only time will tell if this is something she can get used to, or simply use the “manual” mode and be OK with that, or whether it’s simply too much of a headache to not have repaired. It’s going to have to be serviced anyway - it’s going to need a timing belt, rotors and brakes, and some other things - and we’re dreading the price that a mechanic might quote us for (what I can only assume) would have to be a total transmission replacement. Or - maybe some workaround could be found? We simply don’t know. Is it possible to return a pre-owned, as-is car to a dealership? I’ve never even pondered the possibility before.

I guess I’m wondering if anyone else here has had the same issue, and if so, what did you do, or not do, to correct it?

Let’s see…

I drove a Fiat for 10 years using 1st, 3rd and 5th. Finally fixed it when I lost 3rd. I drove a Ford without reverse for, oh, I dunno? 5 years maybe. Got a BMW that shakes at precisely 58 mph. Got another one that makes noise below 40. I could go on and on. I still own all these cars, actually.

Point is, you get used to ‘foibles’ and learn to work with them. Your car sounds fine to me. In fact, I’ll give you $2500 for it right now! :wink:

She is not the type to get used to things like that, she is a very hardworking real estate office manager with a million aggravations every day and her car should not be one of them. On the advice of a friend in the automotive industry, we complained to the dealership, who agreed to take a look at it on Monday. At the very least, we’ll get a free diagnostic, but we intend to push them to repair it, if not for free, then at least at a discounted service rate.

I’m with you. I’d bet on a Camry or a Corolla to be boring but trouble-free. In fact, before my daughter’s Corolla got totaled, it had gone 150k miles with exactly zero problems. She now has a Camry.

…said Tom Swift, straight-forwardly.

Check the condition of the transmission fluid. (If it’s deteriorated, change it.) Add the appropriate Lubegard transmission fluid additive. No other brand — to my knowledge, only Lubegard has been recommended by a vehicle manufacturer (extremely rare for automotive additives) and specified in a factory technical service bulletin. It’s not a certainty to fix the problem, but it very well may and it’s by far the least expensive thing to try.

I have a similar problem in my 2008 Subaru Impreza I bought in early 2019. When in automatic mode, it would shift up very aggressively, paying little attention to what I was trying to do, driving-wise. By this I mean, if I accelerate gently but the transmission shifts up too soon, I lose power then it shifts back down. What it should do: shift up at the right time, given how hard I’m accelerating.

There is a short stretch of road in my daily commute where I accelerate from a stop, go down a gentle hill then up, and every time, it would hunt back and forth between 2nd and 3rd gear, several times over a few seconds. It couldn’t just pick the lower gear and stick with it.

So…I drive in “sport” mode now, and use the shifter as you described to nudge it forward to shift up, and back to shift down. This works great; I can keep it in the gear I want, when I want, close to manual driving.

(But unlike manual driving, shifting down from 4th to 3rd means pulling the shifter back, whereas in a manual you push the shifter forward. I get these movements reversed from time to time. But then, I drove a stick shift for 25 years.)

It would be one thing if it “only” shifted at an improper time. Annoying, but still only slightly annoying. The vibration accompanying the delayed shift is what’s REALLY annoying. It is not something we can just get used to. It’s going to be fixed one way or another. Mostly I’m just pissed that Toyota would allow so many cars to have this defect. I used to think their QC was better than that.

I was about to buy a cute little '01 Honda Insight (the “this is what we think the future will look like” version with the skirts covering the rear wheels). Took it to my car guy before I paid for it, and he said “Ooh, bet it shuddered a bit on the way over. That’s the CVT transmission, but the good news is I can drain and replace the transmission fluid and that’ll do ya.”

He was right! Took care of the delay and the vibration. So, maybe look into new transmission fluid?

@Lamoral Hi, I purchased a 2014 camry which has the same problem. How did you fix it? Or was there any work around for that?

Thanks in advance.

Siva

We had a transmission shop inspect the car and they said the transmission was fucked, there was metal floating around in it from the gears being shredded by the faulty torque converter. They quoted us something like $6k to rebuild it. The next step was trying to return the car to the dealership and get the money back, which didn’t work. We then had a lawyer send a letter to the dealership threatening legal action, and the general manager countered by offering to completely replace the transmission and torque converter (with a warranty on both) at a discounted cost, I want to say we wound up paying around $2000. That eliminated the problem and the car has had no other issues since.

I’m not terribly salty over the dealership’s conduct, they’re car dealers, that’s what they do. I’m more pissed at Toyota for building a car with such a blatant design flaw.