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Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? #8583458 04/22/22 04:22 PM
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How best to maintain an automatic transmission has always seemed to be a matter of opinion. At one end of the spectrum you have those who say to never change the transmission fluid. In fact, the transmission dipstick on my Toyota Tacoma clearly states it should never require changing under normal driving conditions. Now honestly, I've always been one to consider "never" being a very long time. And just what do they mean by "normal driving conditions". At the other end of the spectrum are the shops that offer a "transmission flush" service where they claim to pump all the fluid out of your transmission and replace it with new. Being old school and having talked with other old timers who claim bad things can happen when you suddenly replace ALL the transmission fluid, I've always avoided that type of service. I can even remember a professional mechanic who told me he had let the mileage get so high on one of his vehicles that he was afraid to change the fluid. As I often do, I try to seek out the middle ground and have drained and replaced only what's in the pan starting at 100,000 miles and then about every 50-75K miles afterward. I've also started leaving the pan and filters alone, since after all, the manufacturer claims the fluid itself never needs changing. Zero problems so far after owning four Toyota's with automatic transmissions (knock on wood).

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Last edited by Texas Dan; 04/22/22 04:44 PM.

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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583494 04/22/22 05:27 PM
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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583506 04/22/22 05:41 PM
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I follow the MFG recommendations. If the MFG says is it never needs changing....well...it probably never needs changing. I don't know of any manufacturer that suggests flushing. Typically they have just recommended tranny pan and filter.

Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583542 04/22/22 06:14 PM
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I drain and refill with new full-synthetic only every 100k miles. Texas summers is not 'normal driving conditions'.
Never had a trans problem on any vehicle this way - and 356k miles and still going on a Chevy 3500 and it still runs like new.
New fluid every 100k is cheap compared to replacing hardened seals & o-rings in a complete tear-down.
The fluid does 'last forever', but the additives, anti-oxidants,etc in the fluid don't!
The mfgr is only concerned about the period of the warranty - and that usually ends at 100k; they'd be out of business if every vehicle ran to 500k+

Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583852 04/23/22 02:19 AM
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My 4L60e went out at 170k and I never changed it. Transmission guy said I got my money's worth and we both agreed. It has 255k on it now and we are still rolling just fine so that was $2k well spent I think. I wont change it again as it is fine.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583883 04/23/22 03:27 AM
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181,000 miles on my trucks transmission without issue. They don’t put a drain plug in the trans pan, so I figure they don’t want me to change it.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583887 04/23/22 03:41 AM
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[censored], dodge didnt think the DEF motor would last that long BP lol


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583901 04/23/22 04:46 AM
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Fluid and filter as directed. NEVER do the pump-out/pump-in fluid replacement option. Too many oddball stories of issues following those.

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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: BigPig] #8583904 04/23/22 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by BigPig
181,000 miles on my trucks transmission without issue. They don’t put a drain plug in the trans pan, so I figure they don’t want me to change it.


Never seen a Toyota that didn’t have a drain screw on the transmission pan.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8583923 04/23/22 11:24 AM
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Too many directions to go to address them all but follow what the owner's manual said unless it has been proven to be wrong. It's only hydraulic fluid and cannot be blamed for 99% of transmission failures.


Pass the gravy.


Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: BigPig] #8584004 04/23/22 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by BigPig
181,000 miles on my trucks transmission without issue. They don’t put a drain plug in the trans pan, so I figure they don’t want me to change it.


They know you'll have to remove the whole pan, no way you can replace that squirrel thru a small drain hole grin


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8584011 04/23/22 02:44 PM
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I think the real answer is to follow the mfg recommendations. Not all of the new transmissions have filters like the old ones did. Some just have a strainer on the pickup tube, and some use a permanently installed magnet inside the pan itself. I just did mine on my 2017 Nissan Titan at 100K miles, which was recommended. Cost $300, and I figured it was cheap enough to afford.

Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8584033 04/23/22 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Texas Dan
Originally Posted by BigPig
181,000 miles on my trucks transmission without issue. They don’t put a drain plug in the trans pan, so I figure they don’t want me to change it.


Never seen a Toyota that didn’t have a drain screw on the transmission pan.



Let me show you my 2007 Tundra, doesn't even have a Transmission dipstick..With 184,000 on it Trans. fluid has had a partial (about 3 qts) fluid change ONCE, and was done by Toyota dealership. Was told that is all that can be changed at one time.





Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: DLALLDER] #8584385 04/24/22 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by DLALLDER
Let me show you my 2007 Tundra, doesn't even have a Transmission dipstick..With 184,000 on it Trans. fluid has had a partial (about 3 qts) fluid change ONCE, and was done by Toyota dealership. Was told that is all that can be changed at one time.


The drain plug on my Tacoma is identical to this one shown as a replacement for the 2007 Tundra. I believe every oil and transmission Toyota drain plug is a 14mm.

I've always gotten a gallon of fluid out of the pan on the two occasions that I've replaced it.

All this having been said, I'll probably never replace the transmission fluid in the wife's Camry, given that it never sees the utility work and loads put on my truck. I would also suggest the same for any Toyota truck that gets used more like a car.

2007 Tundra Drain Plug

Last edited by Texas Dan; 04/24/22 02:21 PM.

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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8584694 04/24/22 11:52 PM
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I have always followed the recommended changes - but recently events made me rethink that. In Sep '21 I took my 2009 Dodge Journey with 68k miles to the Dodge dealer to change trans fluid and filter, and while there, flush and refill antifreeze. Two weeks later, the trans ate the front low range main bearing, destroyed the pump, and distributed chunks throughout the trans. Cost to rebuild with quality Mopar parts was $3700. After I got it back the colder weather arrived, and I have no heat in the rear or passenger side, and just barely warm air on drivers side. Both front and rear heater cores blocked. Could just be just cosmic determinism or stuff happens...but!? I had the trans rebuilt because it is a great running vehicle and everything was in great shape so I was willing to be upside down in it because I cannot afford a new or even used vehicle - but replacing the heater cores would be another three grand. AC works and I got blankets...


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8584713 04/25/22 12:06 AM
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I do a drain and fill every 60k on my Tundra. I did the same on 2 Tacomas. Takes about 4.5 quarts. When I owned Fords I dropped the pan every 30k and changed filter if paper. I added a drain plug the first time to make subsequent changes easier. On 1 Ford I dropped the pan and there was a chewed up washer and some chunks of gears. I was glad that I dropped the pan under warranty. I bagged up the loose metal and dropped it on the service managers desk at Randall Noe.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Stump_jumper] #8584725 04/25/22 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by DLALLDER
Let me show you my 2007 Tundra, doesn't even have a Transmission dipstick..With 184,000 on it Trans. fluid has had a partial (about 3 qts) fluid change ONCE, and was done by Toyota dealership. Was told that is all that can be changed at one time.


Not so. You can disconnect a cooler pipe and run the fluid off as you're adding more ... into infinity and thereby change all of the fluid if you so desire.

Originally Posted by Stump_jumper
I bagged up the loose metal and dropped it on the service managers desk at Randall Noe.


What did he do to you? More importantly, what did he do to the truck to cause the issue?


Pass the gravy.


Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: BigPig] #8585168 04/25/22 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by BigPig
181,000 miles on my trucks transmission without issue. They don’t put a drain plug in the trans pan, so I figure they don’t want me to change it.


That tells me it's not just your friends who are shocked that transmission has lasted that long...add Dodge corporate to that list too. rofl

Seriously, I don't keep things long enough to ever need to worry with changing the transmission fluid.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Judd] #8585629 04/26/22 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Judd
Originally Posted by BigPig
181,000 miles on my trucks transmission without issue. They don’t put a drain plug in the trans pan, so I figure they don’t want me to change it.


That tells me it's not just your friends who are shocked that transmission has lasted that long...add Dodge corporate to that list too. rofl

Seriously, I don't keep things long enough to ever need to worry with changing the transmission fluid.


You don’t keep anything long enough to have to change windshield wipers


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8585683 04/26/22 12:16 PM
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The main reason transmissions go out is the way the vehicle is driven. The same way some need to change their brake pads every 30K miles and some can go 3 times that and still have good brakes. Some folks live in the city and there is a lot of stop and start driving and some in the country where you might drive 20 or thirty miles without the transmission shifting or applying the brakes. One size does not fit all.

Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: don k] #8585745 04/26/22 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by don k
The main reason transmissions go out is the way the vehicle is driven. The same way some need to change their brake pads every 30K miles and some can go 3 times that and still have good brakes. Some folks live in the city and there is a lot of stop and start driving and some in the country where you might drive 20 or thirty miles without the transmission shifting or applying the brakes. One size does not fit all.


I suspect how often the vehicle is used to haul loads is a key differentiator as well.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: don k] #8586475 04/27/22 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by don k
The main reason transmissions go out is the way the vehicle is driven. The same way some need to change their brake pads every 30K miles and some can go 3 times that and still have good brakes. Some folks live in the city and there is a lot of stop and start driving and some in the country where you might drive 20 or thirty miles without the transmission shifting or applying the brakes. One size does not fit all.

A buddy of mine that rebuilt transmissions told me that the biggest reason for failures is not coming to a complete stop before shifting between reverse and drive. When I taught the kids to drive I emphasized coming to a complete stop.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Stump_jumper] #8624946 06/21/22 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Stump_jumper
I do a drain and fill every 60k on my Tundra. I did the same on 2 Tacomas. .


Same here. Simple 'drain and fill'.

I now have 335K on my Land Cruiser (original engine and trans) both work perfectly.

Wife's Lexus now has 256K on it (original engine and trans) both work perfectly.

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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: Texas Dan] #8625047 06/21/22 03:14 PM
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I'm in the leave it be camp. Couple years ago my son took his high milage Accord (170Kish) into the shop for it's regular oil change and got talked into a transmission fluid change since it had never been done before. In a matter of days it began slipping and he ended up selling the car for junk prices because it didn't make sense to put a new transmission in. I'd bet my house that if he'd let it be he'd still be driving that Honda.


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Re: Automatic Transmission Fluid - Change it, leave it alone, or something in between? [Re: dkershen] #8625134 06/21/22 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by dkershen
I'm in the leave it be camp. Couple years ago my son took his high milage Accord (170Kish) into the shop for it's regular oil change and got talked into a transmission fluid change since it had never been done before. In a matter of days it began slipping and he ended up selling the car for junk prices because it didn't make sense to put a new transmission in. I'd bet my house that if he'd let it be he'd still be driving that Honda.


With that many miles on it, I agree.

Last edited by Texas Dan; 06/21/22 05:28 PM.

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