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Toyota Camry Transmission Questions (MY Prior to 2007)

I have a 2003 Solara SLEv6.


Some may say I am a bit cuckoo about maintenance.


At 15k I dropped the transmission pan drained the transaxle, cleaned the pan and filter, and replaced the gasket and fluid.


At 30k I simply drained the transmission pan and transaxle and replaced the fluid. I have repeated this process TWO more times since 30k, and I'm now at 44k.


Each time I do this, at first I view the fluid as it drains as having SOME red coloring to it. But when I then transfer the fluid from the pan to a container (to dispose of it) it looks QUITE BROWN!


I can't imagine that there's much residue in my pan that this is coming from, as the pan has not been used that much.


My question is....Do you think I'm over-doing it?


I HATE to see such a brown color in my fluid, so I am obsessed with changing it. If I had a more convenient place to do this, I would probably do it every 3k miles!


Each time I drain/fill it's only 4 quarts, which costs me all of $8 at WAL-MART.


I use CASTROL DEXTRON III. VERY CAREFUL as to which fluid you use. I had a BIG disagreement with the Toyota Parts Manager regarding this. He was certain that it was okay for me to put in Toyota Type IV fluid but before doing so I found a Lexus/Toyota TSB that warned NOT TO.


  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    3000-mile oil changes are probably not absolutely necessary, but I go no more than 4000 miles on my Camry, after the sludge controversy of a couple of years ago. I used to go 5000 miles on my former '97 Camry before the sludge issue came up.


    That's great for you that you can look over the mechanic's shoulder. I wouldn't mind doing the same. However, if I were the mechanic, I wouldn't like it.


    Checking with a torque wrench is a good idea. I never used one in the past except for specialized jobs like replacing seat belts or spark plugs, but we've got one at work now, so I do check my lugs now. I found that I was overtightening them.


    H-rated tires are perfectly adequate - they're good for 118 mph, and I'm almost certain the original Solara tires were not rated higher than H.


    I think you are overdoing it on the tranny fluid changes; a drain and refill every 30K miles should be enough, even if you can only get about half of it out.


    Where is the fuel filter located and where did you obtain the flare nut wrench? Also, I don't think the fuel filter needs to be changed anywhere near as frequently as you're doing it.


    The maintenance manual, IIRC, doesn't even mention changing the fuel filter at all under normal operating conditions. But on my lawn tractor, I'm supposed to do it every year...go figure.
  • I USED to be able to look over the mechanics shoulder, where I USED to live and bring my car. No more. I moved 2 years ago and need to find a LOCAL mechanic that I can trust.


    With the tranny fluid, I just HATE draining it out and seeing it on the brown side, so I will continue to do it perhaps every 10k.


    On my car the fuel filter is cylindrical in shape, perhaps about 6" long, 4" wide. It is located in front of the area where the battery is. I believe I had to take the battery out to access this area. This special wrench can be bought at SEARS. I would recommend buying a complete set of about 6 or 10. I'm not a mechanic, so I cannot tell you the real specifics, but I CAN tell you that certain nuts call for this type of wrench. You can cheat and use a plier, vice-grip, or other, but you risk damaging the nut AND not getting the job done right. These tools don't cost much more than the other box-end wrenches and will be required for several other tasks on an automobile.


    You've GOT TO have the RIGHT TOOLs.


    You're probably right about the manul not saying anything about changing the fuel filter. But I don't believe the manual says anything about changing the tranny fluid either. But that issue is sometimes controversial. I've actually heard some people say NEVER to change the tranny fluid. NEVER. Can you imagine? I can't.


    But as I said, I believe heavily in preventive maintenance and I enjoy tinkering. So for the $$$ it's going to cost to buy the parts it's still worth it to me because I have fun at the same time AND I learn something more about my car(s).


    Isn't there a saying that goes "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"?
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Thanks for the info on the fuel filter; I will likely replace mine somewhere down the road. I only have 12,000+ miles now on my Camry.


    You are absolutely right about having the right tools for the job; I've learned this in working on my cars, bicycles, and lawn mowers. Quicker, easier, and safer.


    I made a mistake in my earlier post. H rated tires are good for 130 mph, IIRC. T rated tires are rated for 118 mph, and S rated for 112 mph.


    You certainly don't need V rated tires on a Camry or Solara.
  • loucapriloucapri Posts: 214
    I do think you were "over-doing it"


    if you are serious about the transmission, I suggest you to have it "power flush" (which will suck out most of the fluid compare to just draining it from the pan which only drain about 1/3 of the actual fluid).


    That's the reason your PINK fluid get BROWN because you are mixing that new 1/3 to the rest.


    My Camry has 110K miles and I only have the tranny flushed twice (1 drain ($70, replace gasket & filter), 1 power flush ($130) I can tell you the different.


    If you want a PINK looking fluid, Power Flush it. By the way, you don't have to do it every 15K or 30K. You know how you drive your car, I think 48K is about right
  • loucapriloucapri Posts: 214
    I don't think it's necessary to change the tranny fluid every 10k.


    The reason it's brown because when draining, you only drain out 1/3 of the fluid, so you are basiclly mixing the new PINK fluid into the BROWN fluid so it doesn't really matter how many miles you put on it will still be BROWN.


    I don't know how much time and money it costs to do a tranny drain. But next time, you might want to have it power flush by a toyota dealer. You will be surprised to see the different if you really want to get the PINK looking fluid back in your tranny. And you usually don't need to do it that often,. I think you can have it done every 36-48K miles.


    Same for the fuel filter. I was thinking about replacing mind too but after talking to 3 different dealers (2 I trusted told me it's not necessary since the filter supposed to last for the life time of the car unless the fuel I used has problem) I did some research from the Internet and made me believe it's not necessary.


    What I do instead is to use FUEL SYSTEM CLEANER about every 2000-3000 miles
  • Thanks for your input.


    I use TECHRON in my tank about every 12k. I understand it is THE BEST in it's class. Be careful not to buy a sister product that you'll see on the shelf that is packaged VERY similar in style/color, in fact made by the same manufacturer, but it only CONTAINS Techron, as opposed to the bottle I buy which IS Techron.
  • When the weather gets warm, I am going to try to IMPROVISE and do the power-flush myself WITHOUT the fancy shmansy equipment.


    I'm going to try to attach hoses to the transmission fluid tubes that run into the radiator part where it gets cooled. I'm going to put one into a pail on the ground, the other into a bucket that will contain about 15 quarts of fluid. I will then run the engine until it flows all the way thru. The only residual should be what's left in the radiator/cooler.


    What do you folks think about that idea?
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    ... to both the car and the environment.


    You'd be running the transmission for a short time with low or no fluid. I don't think that's a good idea.


    Also, what if the bucket tips over?


    Seems to me that you're just better off draining and refilling at more frequent intervals if you want cleaner fluid but don't want to spend the money on a flush.


    Personally, I wouldn't get a flush either.
  • gunga64gunga64 Posts: 271
    I have a local show on the radio once a week in Orlando. The guy states that if you have your trans flushed you can have big problems later on. The pressure could cause damage to the trans.

    I think he did state that this would happen if you never had the trans changed in the past. If you flush it at real high milege for the first time it could damage it say 70,000 I would think.
  • loucapriloucapri Posts: 214
    i never heard of it but sounds interesting. any more info? like why it may cause damage? and what's the suggestion? Should we just drain and refill (the old way) the fluid?

    I have a 01 Highlander and thinking about flushing the tranny too.
  • akasrpakasrp Posts: 170
    Hi All
    I have a 97 Camry LE (V6) with about 50K miles.
    I’m going to flush the radiator and (maybe) change ATF before my summer trip.
    Dealer changed ATF once before at ~30K. Wondering if I should change the ATF filter this time - or just the fluid - or - is it too soon to worry about the ATF period?

  • lmacmillmacmil Posts: 1,758
    I can't imagine needing fresh ATF after only 20K miles. I'll bet the owner's manual doesn't recommend the first change until at least 50K.
  • akasrpakasrp Posts: 170
    Thanks, Lee. Yeah, I just went and looked at the ATF again - still looks like new - I'm gonna flush the rad but not sweat the ATF.
    Appreciate the input!

  • jfoyjfoy Posts: 2
    I've got a 96 Camry Sedan. It still runs like new at 85K miles and the engine stays clean as a whistle with regular 3K oil changes, including OEM filter. The ATF is also clean with no smell, although it's in the lower range of the dipstick level and could probably be topped up by a pint, or more. Toyota specifies Dexron -II, but I can't find that, or any other ATF with a Toyota application at local parts stores. Has Toyota superceded that ATF with a different type, or do I have to go to the dealer for this stuff? An answer to this and any other tranny tips would be appreciated.

  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Dexron III has superseded Dexron II. At auto parts stores, normally Dexron III and Mercon (for Ford products) fluids are blended together. It's safe to use Dexron III/Mercon in your Toyota. (But don't use fluids labelled Mercon only, if you happen to find any.)
  • chevymalibuchevymalibu Posts: 129
    Okay, now I'm mad. I got a 2004 accord and they say use honda trans fluid or you'll ruin the trans.There's other things we don't like about the honda so I got a new 2005 camry LE. Love it but just read the manual and it states that I have to use toyota trans fluid like the honda or else suffer the consequences. Okay, so I go and buy 3 qts from toyota every 30K or so (I change mine frequent to avoid issues). But it used to be that you could use dexron III for trans fluid. did so on my 1994's and my mom's 1998 model camry. That bites. So much easier to go to auto zone and the like and get a name brand trans fluid. Just like oil. they say use toyota oil (give me a break). I use castrol in my cars and it's better than the toyota stuff any day. As for power steering fluid, it's dexron III (go figure).

    Has anyone used dexron III fluid instead of the toyota trans fluid???? thanks
  • ebtrrebtrr Posts: 6
    I am looking to add a transmission cooler to a 2002 Camry SE, 4 cyl. My understanding is that the additional cooler comes first, then the factory cooler in the radioator (to set the fluid at the correct temperature if the additional cooler gets it too cool) then back to the tranny.

    Trick is to find out which line from the tranny is out and which is in. The right one (as you face the engine) comes from lower on the tranny case and the left one from higher. Both enter the factory cooler at the same level. Anyone know which is which? Don't want to find out the hard way.

    any other tips on adding a transmission cooler?

  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I don't know the answers to your questions. However, I am curious as to why you would want to add a second cooler.
  • loucapriloucapri Posts: 214
    Me too, I don't understand why you want to add a transmission cooler in a 4 cyl. Camry.

    To my understanding, only high performance cars or trucks (do a lot of towing) will required a transmission cooler.
    I had a 4 cyl turbo (Conquest) and it had a transmission cooler but I don't recall which way go first nor did it go to the radiator at all)
  • ebtrrebtrr Posts: 6
    I will be towing a small trailer through the Rockies and Sierras for three weeks. I wan't to make sure that the transmission fluid does not overheat on long grades or in the Arizona and New Mexico deserts. "Small" is likely 1000 lbs or less gross trailer weight (although it can handle more), plus a full trunk and back seat.

    I understand is is not hard to do and can overall extend the life of the tranny.
  • cowdoniumcowdonium Posts: 4
    I have a 2000 Camry le (v6) with a standard transmission. I don't exactly know how to describe this... basically when accelerating in first or second gear, after taking my foot completely off of the clutch, the car seems to jerk/rock. For example, if I’m shifting from 1st to 2nd gear, I’ll continue to accelerate as I ease off the clutch. After having my foot completely off the clutch, the car will seem to roughly accelerate, almost as if I had let off the clutch too quickly, but I haven’t. I also experience this when I’m in 1st or 2nd gear and am about at 2.5k rpm's and I take my foot off the gas (without engaging the clutch); I would think that the transmission would smoothly slow the car down but instead the car seems to jerk jerk jerk until the car’s rpm’s drop. Nothing violent, but it’s certainly noticeable. Is this normal? To provide a little more background, I bought the car used 1.5 yrs ago w/ 50k miles, it now has 84k miles on it. The car seems to not have this problem after a lengthy (150 miles or so) road trip. I don’t think the spark plugs have ever been changed. I change the oil regularly and have had the air filter replaced less than a year ago.

    Does the transmission need to be tuned up? DO the spark plugs need to be changed? I was at the dealership the other day and they suggested getting the timing belt/drive belts changed at 90K ($350). would replacing these belts remedy this issue?

    Thanks in advance!

  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Changing the spark plugs might help (they're platinum-tipped and are supposed to be replaced at 60K mile intervals). There's no such thing as a manual transmission tuneup, but you may want to have the fluid level checked and topped up if it's low. You may also consider draining and refilling it (not absolutely necessary, but it's cheap to do and can't hurt). It's possible your clutch is going bad, but I'm not really sure (hard to diagnose over the internet).

    The timing belt has a 90K mile change interval, so you may want to just wait 6K more miles. At the same time, it's no more labor intensive to replace the drive belts. Changing these will have absolutely no effect on the jerkiness problem.
  • cowdoniumcowdonium Posts: 4
    210delray, thanks for the prompt reply! How difficult is it to change the spark plugs? I've looked under the hood and have noticed a plastic cover over the engine. is it as simple as removing this cover, and switching the spark plugs out (i've done this a thousand times on my riding lawnmower) or is there more to it, like needing special torque wrenches, etc?

    I failed to mention that i use 87 octane. I'm getting, on average, 27 mpg (that's city and interstate). I'll make sure the transmission fluid is topped off , although, i just had my oil changed and brake pads replaced at the dealership, so i would assume they've already filled any low fluids.

    Finally, what's the average life span for a clutch?

    Again, i've only noticed this "jerking" in 1st and 2nd gear, but i don't know what that means.

    Thanks again in advance for any help/suggestions anybody throws my way.

  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I think the rear spark plugs on the V6 (toward the firewall) are rather difficult to change due to poor access. The engine cover is no problem. I have always had 4-cylinder Camrys, and these are easy to change the plugs. However, you do need a deep socket as well as a torque wrench (you don't want to risk overtightening the plugs). On the 4-cylinder 1997-2001 models, the proper torque is only 13 foot-pounds.

    Never assume the dealer has checked all the fluids, especially the manual transmission fluid, as typically you must remove a bolt and stick your finger inside to check the level.

    There's no such thing as an average life span for a clutch. You can fry one with just a few all-out tire-spinning acceleration runs, or a clutch can last well over 200K miles, as mine did on a 1980 Volvo.

    The 87 octane gas is not contributing to the jerkiness.
  • cowdoniumcowdonium Posts: 4
    are there any tell-tell signs that a clutch is going bad?
  • bhc1bhc1 Posts: 2
    I was about to fill up the power steering fluid in my 2003 Camry. But on the cap it says Power Steering - Use ATF with Dextron II or Dextron. But ATF is for the transmission. So I called a Toyota dealer and they said just use the regular power steering fluid. I can't imagine if Toyota made this error on the cap and nobody ever reported it. Any new Camry owners out there, please let me know what fluid you use for the power steering. Thanks.
  • typesixtypesix Posts: 320
    Many cars use ATF in power steering. My 1989 Camry does.
  • lmacmillmacmil Posts: 1,758
    My question is did you need to add p/s fluid or did you drain the existing fluid?
  • bhc1bhc1 Posts: 2
    I just need to add the fluid to the max level. I'm wondering if new power steering systems nowadays use ATF instead of the regular power steering fluid. I just don't want to damage it by mixing in the wrong type of fluid.
  • typesixtypesix Posts: 320
    Also read owner's manual for power steering fluid requirements.
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