'04 Camry - black transmission fluid

Hey folks,

I bought a 2004 Toyota Camry in July 2013 with 75,000 miles on it. It had been serviced at a Toyota dealer since its purchase (1 owner), so I didn’t take it in for service until yesterday with 86,000 miles on it. Side note: I know, I’m a dummy, I should have had it looked at when I bought it.

Back to yesterday: my mechanic says my transmission fluid it black, and informs me of how grim the situation is. You know the story, a flush might save it but the Camry likely needs a transmission rebuild. The thing is, I don’t have any transmission slippage and the car drives great. I’m not sure if the tranny fluid was changed in those first 75,000 miles, but with dealer service at all the scheduled intervals I would assume it has been (again, assuming makes me a donkey, I know!).

Any advice on my next move? I’ve heard mixed reviews about transmission flushing with black fluid present. From my internet research (third instance of my dumbness, I know), I’m thinking I’ll do 3 drain/fill sessions with 15 miles of driving in between. Then I’ll take it in and have the filter changed and the pan checked for metal residue.

If any of you wise souls has advice for me, I’d be eternally grateful. Thanks!

Have you looked at the transmission fluid yourself? Do yourself a favor and pull out the dipstick. Note the color yourself and give it a good sniff. Report back.

I don’t know what Toyota “officially” says about transmission service intervals. But generally you want to drop the pan and change the filter every 30K miles. I doubt this will be found in any manufacturer service schedule, however. Chances are that the trans hasn’t ever been serviced because the interval is either ridiculously long or maybe even “never.”

Anyway - if the car is driving ok then you need a second opinion on the fluid. “Black” means a lot of overheating. So either someone towed with it a lot or it is slipping a lot, and you would notice the latter.

If you check the fluid yourself and it is ugly, I would drop the pan, change the filter, and THEN do a complete fluid exchange. Then I would drive it.

Thanks for the advice!

2004 is right around the year Toyota started making the sealed transmissions and using the WS (world stand fluid).

First off…just because the fluid is black doesn’t mean the transmission is completely shot. I’d replace it and drive on. Then keep an eye on it.

honda and toyota fluid does turn black quickly. seems to be a common trait of 02-05 era cars. i have seen honda trans with red fluid and black fluid with similar miles. use only manufacturer fluid. no universal stuff.

Toyota considered the T-IV ATF a lifetime fluid, unfortunately they appear to be wrong. Your transmission was probably never serviced.

My daughter had an 03 Corolla and hers actually started shifting roughly at 75k miles. Her ATF was black, so I did a drain and fill with T-IV right away. I could not get a new pan gasket that fit at that time, had to order one. That stopped the issues. A month later I dropped the pan, cleaned it out and cleaned out the filter and filled with fresh T-IV. I changed the ATF every 30k after that, just drain and fill and the transmission never had any more issues. The car is still running with about 190k on it.

Sounds like your mechanic was just trying to drum up a little business by making things sound grim. You can dab the end of the transmission dipstick (if your Camry still has one) and dab it onto a clean white paper towel. If it stains red with no burnt smell…you’ll be fine. Just make sure you follow through on your transmission filter and fluid change plan.

I agree with the others

A few years ago, I bought a 2005 Camry with 62K. The trans fluid had never been serviced and it was black. The transmission was shifting fine.

I changed the fluid and filter, and all was well.

Like I said, I never had a problem to begin with.

And neither did you.

Do NOT let anybody perform a flush. No reason to. And you might actually create new problems by doing so

By the way, your transmission uses T-IV. 5 quarts should do it. That’s how much I needed.

Here’s my advice. Get the fluid from the dealer.

Get the filter and pan gasket at a parts store of your choosing

If you try to get the filter and gasket at the dealer, they’ll look at you cross-eyed and claim it doesn’t have a filter. They’ll claim it has a screen, which supposedly doesn’t get replaced, only cleaned.

Ha ha ha

I agree with db4690. You have the same trans as my 02 U241E 4 sp auto. And unless Toyota changed up it has a replaceable filter not a screen. I got mine used at about 95k miles. I dropped/cleaned the pan replaced filter. Then did 2 more just drain and fills at 500 miles each. If you do the pan drop yourself FYI there are 2 bolts that are very hard to access.

Amen to @db4690 .

The 03 Corolla had a screen and none of the filters I tried from various parts stores fit. I had to clean the screen and reuse it. A replacement screen from Toyota would have cost $75 and had to be special ordered. I had to get the gasket from Toyota too as none of the ones from the parts houses fit. It was $15.