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2004 Camry---Change AT fluid at 30K mi?
Old 12-06-2010, 12:21 PM   #1
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2004 Camry---Change AT fluid at 30K mi?

AFAIK, Toyota suggests changing AT fluid only if you do heavy duty towing.
Otherwise it's just an inspection at 30K intervals. Service guy (not a dealer) says it gets pretty dirty at 30K and recommends change. If not done, they will knock off $40. Change or no change?

Normal oil/filter change is $40. That means the additional stuff they do at 30K is costing $210.....(not including AT change).
Change air filter/cabin air filter (if equipped)/rotate tires
The rest are inspections: brake systems/differential/driveshaft boots, coolant,
fuel lines/radiator/sttering gear box/mileage.

I know oil changes are considered pretty important. And perhaps the things that are changed. Still having trouble w/ the inspects tho. Does it really take that much time and labor to do?
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Old 12-06-2010, 12:29 PM   #2
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I like to change the transmission oil at the first annual service for something of known high quality, then every 3 years after that. It's a few bucks for the oil and not much for labour. Probably redundant, but I feel like I'm doing something for the car's longevity.
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Old 12-06-2010, 12:39 PM   #3
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I change my Accord's fluid every 25-30,000 miles. Fluid is very cheap compared to rebuilding a tranny...........
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Old 12-06-2010, 12:54 PM   #4
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Still having trouble w/ the inspects tho. Does it really take that much time and labor to do?
Assuming that the inspections are really performed, some of that labor expense comes from knowing how to do it and being able to recognize the problems. It's like the old plumber's joke: "Service call, free. Tightening the nut on the valve, 25 cents. Knowing which nut to tighten, $85."

Our old Ford Taurus' automatic transmission leaked enough from the crankcase that we never really had to "change" the fluid... more like a feed & bleed.

Toyota is developing a lot of longer-lived fluids these days. The Prius' radiator coolant is supposed to be left alone for 100K miles (just topped off if necessary) and there might be a similar upgrade for your AT fluid.
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Old 12-06-2010, 04:45 PM   #5
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You can easily do the air filters yourself. You can get them at any of the auto parts stores like Advance Auto, AutoZone, Pep Boys, even Walmart. I have a 2003 Camry and at the dealer they wanted $70 to change the filters.
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Old 12-06-2010, 05:25 PM   #6
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Assuming that the inspections are really performed, some of that labor expense comes from knowing how to do it and being able to recognize the problems. It's like the old plumber's joke: "Service call, free. Tightening the nut on the valve, 25 cents. Knowing which nut to tighten, $85."
In HS I worked in my uncle's transmission shop. His business partner did all the rebuilding, and while my duties were crawling under cars to remove and replace transmissions, a lot of good info came my way.

The wisdom was that for most situations one should never have to change automatic transmission fluid, but you should check it regularly anyway. The fluid should be it's original color (usually a pinkish red) as opposed to dark brown ala used motor oil. Rub a little on your fingers, and smell it to make sure it doesn't smell burned. If it's discolored and/or smells burned, then it needs to be changed. Buy a new pan gasket and a filter then drop the pan so you can look at what has collected in there (there's almost always some material there). Use a magnet to check for metal in the debris. If you're not lucky you will find metal which means something a hard part (like a pump) is going bad and a rebuild will be needed eventually.

If all you find is a small amount of clutch material that is pretty normal. If you find a lot of clutch material - well, that's not good either.

If you're going to tow anything you should install a transmission cooler (pretty easy to do). And if you tow anything you will probably find that you need to change the fluid eventually.

Just like the engine, the worst things you can do to an AT are run it while hot, or without adequate lubrication.

Oh, and never, never, never adjust the bands.
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Old 12-06-2010, 05:39 PM   #7
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I would change the Transmission fluid. That's was the maintenance manual says, and the fluid change at 30k is cheap enough.
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Old 12-06-2010, 06:05 PM   #8
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Old 12-06-2010, 06:54 PM   #9
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Old 12-06-2010, 07:06 PM   #10
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I would change the Transmission fluid. That's was the maintenance manual says, and the fluid change at 30k is cheap enough.
Alan....where do you see that? My maintenance manual says check, not change. And the owner's manual suggests that you never need to change unless using under brutal conditions (towing).

Thanks to all for the responses.....my gut is to do what ERD/REW suggest since I've read popular lore that dealers/non-dealers like to up the ante vs the factory. Yet, my service guy has generally not been one to do that in general. I kind of like Leonidas's idea of checking the oil.....my only problem is, since this is a qualitative and not quantitative test, whether my untrained and uncalibrated eyes can discern the difference. Maybe I'll play poker w/ the service advisor and ask them to inspect and report to me before changing. Then if the advice is to change, I'll go and inspect with them and raise a skeptical eye as if I know what I'm looking at. Perhaps they'll back down..........course, I'm a bad poker player too but might be fun to do. I suppose in the grand scheme of things $40 every 6 yrs isn't a big deal. I always worry about messing w/ stuff tho if it's working ok.
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Old 12-06-2010, 07:45 PM   #11
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Had a '95 Camry. When it was traded in with over 200K miles it had never had its transmission oil changed or topped up.
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:06 PM   #12
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Alan....where do you see that? My maintenance manual says check, not change. And the owner's manual suggests that you never need to change unless using under brutal conditions (towing).

Thanks to all for the responses.....my gut is to do what ERD/REW suggest since I've read popular lore that dealers/non-dealers like to up the ante vs the factory. Yet, my service guy has generally not been one to do that in general. I kind of like Leonidas's idea of checking the oil.....my only problem is, since this is a qualitative and not quantitative test, whether my untrained and uncalibrated eyes can discern the difference. Maybe I'll play poker w/ the service advisor and ask them to inspect and report to me before changing. Then if the advice is to change, I'll go and inspect with them and raise a skeptical eye as if I know what I'm looking at. Perhaps they'll back down..........course, I'm a bad poker player too but might be fun to do. I suppose in the grand scheme of things $40 every 6 yrs isn't a big deal. I always worry about messing w/ stuff tho if it's working ok.
Sorry, I misunderstood your post. If your manual says it only needs to be checked then I would not change it if you think it is okay.

There is no need to change it more frequently than the manufacturer's recommendations.
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:15 PM   #13
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Had a '95 Camry. When it was traded in with over 200K miles it had never had its transmission oil changed or topped up.
my 1997 was done in the same fashion
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:53 PM   #14
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I work for an outfit that makes automatic transmissions. I personally change fluid at 75-100k miles or 3-4 yrs miles in my cars which run moderate duty. I think 30,000 miles is way too often, but if your vehicle sits alot, moisture may collect in the pan and it only evaporates when the transmission is fully warmed up....this shortens the useful life of the fluid.

I pay about $75 for the inspection, tire rotation +oil/filter change or sometimes less at the dealership when they have specials. They give me a thorough report including tire tread and brake pad measurements. The dealer is banking on finding a problem to fix or they lose money on the inspection. Dealers in this area charge 100-110/hr for labor, so even at $200 it's not unreasonable if you don't want to do it yourself. It's worth it just for extending the life of the tires.
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Old 12-06-2010, 10:07 PM   #15
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On my 98 Camry, back around 60k miles the dealer told me the AT fluid was very dirty and needed to be flushed, so I got it done. About 2 months later, I had to bring the car in for another issue and was told the exact same story! I asked why I needed another one after only 2 months, he stumbled a bit and said it looked dirty to him. Makes me wonder if they ever did it the first time.
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:28 PM   #16
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On my 98 Camry, back around 60k miles the dealer told me the AT fluid was very dirty and needed to be flushed, so I got it done. About 2 months later, I had to bring the car in for another issue and was told the exact same story! I asked why I needed another one after only 2 months, he stumbled a bit and said it looked dirty to him. Makes me wonder if they ever did it the first time.
They changed your fluid the first time. They just want to do it again.
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:51 PM   #17
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They changed your fluid the first time. They just want to do it again.
I was just telling my friend about another thing the dealer mentioned, my window motor was noisier than normal and recommended I replace it at a cost of around $150 6-7 years ago. I just sold the car this month after 14 years and it never broke. Just can't stand how much they try to oversell you on the less than obvious items. I got the same story on my brake rotors that had never been cut, was told they're warped and pitted. Brought them in and the auto store said they're not warped and pitting was normal, turns out he supplies the auto shop that told me that and said they don't make any money on the resurfacing of rotors vs. selling new ones.
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:53 PM   #18
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Kanohe:

Something else to think about. Is it a "drain" or "flush". A drain only replaces 3 quarts or so. (depends on type of car).

A flush replaces all of the AT fluid. 10 qts or so.

Note: Some manufactures do not recommend a flush !!!. May loosen up some particles and cause problems down the road.

Also, does your Toyota have a transmission drain plug. If so, you can do the drain yourself.

On American cars, in the past, you had to remove the transmission pan, bunch of nuts, and clean out the filter.

I know Honda's have a "drain plug" on the AT.
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Old 12-07-2010, 12:27 AM   #19
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I change the atf in my toyotas every 10K. It's only 3 of the many quarts in the system. It's a piece of cake to do it yourself. I believe the 04 Camry takes Toyota T-IV type fluid. I've seen the fluid range from 4.50 to 8 dollars per quart. Call around to different dealers and keep a look out for the many coupons they send out and buy in bulk to save time and money. I've pulled the pan now and then and find only tiny fragments of metal. Nothing ever seems to collect in the filter. I have never found the need to change the filter. If you do it yourself at least you know what you're getting. I have well over a million miles on 6 toyotas and have never had a single problem. I pour the used oil back into the containers, store them in the case they came in, then bring them to our local hazardous waste round ups.
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Old 12-07-2010, 11:07 AM   #20
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I think it's a good idea to change the fluid at 30K. Some manufacturers say not to change the fluid for the life of the car. I've always done it and never had a problem.

Just a little story. Years ago my Dad had a 71 Buick and I told him to take it into a local transmission shop (Dr. Nicks) and have the transmission fluid changed as they were running a special. Almost right after the change the transmission started slipping. Then Dr. Nicks said the 71 Buick needed a transmission. So my Dad traded the car in at that point.

Years later one of my salespeople told me that he was in the transmission business years earlier. He said it was common practice for the transmission shops to run a special on the transmission fluid service change and loosen up the transmission bands so that the transmission would slip while shifting. Then the customer would come back and get the bad news that they needed a transmission.

Buyer beware! Lots of Scams out there, for sure.
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