2004 Lexus es330 Transmission Fluid Disappearing Part II

I purchased a pre-owned 2004 Lexus es330 95K miles in Jan. It now has 103K miles. I noticed it shifting hard so when I got gas I had them check the transmission fluid. It needed fluid. This went on for the next 4 fill ups. After that I only need to put transmission fluid in about every 4 fill ups about 1/4-1/3 of a bottle.

This morning I checked the radiator fluid while it was cold which was a golden/green color. There was no film on the surface.
The transmission fluid is red as it should be.

Since the antifreeze fluid was clear in the radiator with no film, would it be possible that perhaps the modulator VALVE is sucking transmission fluid up into the INTAKE manifold and burning it in the engine?

So you do have a dip stick?

No. New cars do not have vacuum modulators. Maybe a 66 mustang but not a Lexus. U think the egr valve is vacuum operated? How about ur cruise control? Look under hood and let us know what u find.

Yes I have a dip stick. I don’t know what an egr valve is or where my cruise control is. I don’t use cruise control. What am I supposed to be looking for under the hood Stoveguyy? The only reason I asked about the modulator valve is because that is what someone told me to ask. I am a girl how do I know!!! Thanks for nothing:(

" I am a girl how do I know!"

I know a few “girls” who are more mechanically adept than the average guy.
Don’t sell yourself short.

Circutsmith! If my MECHANICS cannot find the problem I certainly cant! I don’t even know how to open the hood!

Just don’t use being a girl as an excuse.
And I won’t use being a boy as an excuse for misplacing things that are in plain sight.

1 Like

Checking fluid levels in some cars with auto transmissions yields different results. Each car seems to have a different way of doing it. If one guy checks it with the motor on and another with the motor off you get crazy inconsistent results.

Perhaps you really don’t have a problem? It is good the evidence shows no mixing of transmission fluid in with coolant. Other than cooling lines between the radiator and the transmission this is a “closed” system. Transmission fluid does not usually “burn off” unless you are really pushing the transmission such as in towing a heavy load, or racing. Neither is likely in your case. Otherwise there is no way for transmission fluid to mix with engine oil, brake fluid, or power steering fluid. If you rule out transmission fluid getting into coolant, and coolant getting into the transmission fluid - there is nowhere else that auto transmission fluid can go. Either it is leaking somewhere, it is burning off, or someone is misreading the dipstick level.

Though not likely the fluid could be leaking when the car is running and not leaving any drips you can see when parked. A close examination of the bottom of the car should show evidence of a fluid in this case. Make sure the same guy at the same shop is the one who checks the transmission levels. Perhaps the whole thing will stabilize, meaning you were low on fluid and now that it is up to the current level it might just stay there.

Your comment about not even knowing how to open the hood is going to cause you a lot of grief one of these days; if not already.
A vast number of cars end up with major mechanical issues because of low fluid levels and so on.

Being a girl has nothing to do with it because at the very least, boy or girl, a car owner should know how to check fluids on a regular basis.
My 20 something year old daughter is petite and checks everything on her car over every couple of weeks. With my guidance, she even did her own brake job about a year ago.

1 Like

ok4450 I am 65 years old. I was rather jokingly saying that I could not open the hood. If you READ my POST I checked the radiator fluid. I have given the pertinent history of the situation if you SCROLL BACK before you post. It ANYone knew where the transmission fluid was going I would not be posting on here!

Thank you UncleTurbo for your opinion. I go to a high end garage and no place else so I trust the mechanics. I stand there while they check the levels AND fill the fluids. Their service is professional and they are knowledgeable with most people driving high end cars, so they are experienced. I always check my transmission fluid with the car running, and I put it in all the gears first then back to park. I purchased the car last Jan and this has been a CONSTANT issue since I got it! I have had it on the lift 3 times; no leaks. Everything is tight. I do very little driving and I park in the SAME spot and there are no drips or leaks on the pavement. It is ALWAYS the SAME: 1/3 of a bottle of transmission fluid every other month. The car will actually start SHIFTING HARD so it reminds me to have it checked.

TODAY I noticed (and I don’t know if this has anything to do with this issue) that my HEAT was cooler on my drivers side than on the passenger side. I have duel temp controls. I can change adjust the temps on both sides to different settings, but TODAY I had them BOTH set at 74 degrees. The DRIVERS side was COLD. I had to turn it up to 80 to get some heat while the passenger side was fine at 74.

Would THIS have anything to do with this issue?

Please, no more wise remarks. I spent every dime on this car so I would have reliable transportation. I have no family to call if I break down, I am not married, and 3 different garages cannot find the answer. I am seriously trying to get some help here because I RELY on this vehicle PLEASE HELP :’(

well you’ve certainly got the Lexus attitude.

My remarks are not meant t be snarky or condescending so please don’t take them that way. You made the reference to just being a girl and gender has no bearing on checking things under the hood.

The bottom line is that if your transmission is losing fluid there are only two places it can go; on the ground or mixed with the engine coolant. There are no other options.

The car needs to be inspected and scanned, preferably by a competent, independent transmission shop and this does not mean a chain outfit like AAMCO or Cottmans.

I will add that “certified, pre-owned” means nothing other than a sales pitch. You bought a 9 year old used car and the fact that it has a Lexus badge on the back does not guarantee reliability. A Lexus will break just like all of the rest and you need to keep in mind that the transmission, and all of the rubber parts inside that make it work properly, are 9 years old. Anything is possible at that age.

I’m critical of the “certified pre-owned” thing because I’ve worked for dealers who sold cars advertised as such. The question arises as to who exactly is doing the certifyin’ because it sure wasn’t we mechanics in the shop…

The temp difference on the vents is a separate issue and would have nothing to do with the transmission shifting.

When you checked the coolant (radiator fluid) did you look in the reservoir or did you take off the radiator cap?
Just want to make sure both are clear of contamination.
It’s possible the transmission is leaking only when the car is up to speed.

I took OFF the cap to look at the radiator fluid, when it was cold, to see if there was a film and there was none. It has NO leaks whatsoever. I have had it on the lift several times. AND… if it was leaking while warm, believe it or not, I would have at least a FEW drips from my tranny when I park it. Nothing. Clean.

" I would have at least a FEW drips from my tranny when I park it. Nothing. Clean."
Not necessarily. I had a similar situation once a long time ago on a 66 Dodge Wagon. It lost a little fluid from time to time but I could not find the leak. I didn't let it bother me, I just checked the level and when it went low, I added some more fluid as needed.

I was in the Navy and while on a cruise, some gas station jockey convinced my wife that she needed to have the transmission rebuilt. He couldn’t find the leak but that was his answer. So she went to several shops to get quotes and second opinions, no one could find it so she took the best offer from an independent shop with a good reputation.

When I get back, the transmission still looses ATF from time to time, I’m out more money than I can afford and the guy who did the rebuild can’t figure it out. This one was difficult because the level would stay full for up to a month and then suddenly drop a half or full quart all at once.

I messed around with it on day in the yard. I parked it and let it idle in various parts of the yard so it was on different angles. After about an hour I was rewarded with a copious leak from the selector shaft seal. It would only leak if the car were at a particular angle, and then it really pumped out. It squirted out without leaving a trail on the transmission. No drips in the driveway because the driveway didn’t have the required angle. I put in a new selector shaft seal and it never leaked again.

I’m not saying that you have a bad selector shaft seal, but there are a number of seals that any one of which may leak only under certain circumstances, and those circumstances do not include being up on a lift. These can be very difficult to find and time is money. Mechanics usually are only allowed a few minutes of FREE analysis and they cannot always guarantee that even if you pay for hours of diagnostics, that they can find the problem.

If you are losing less than one quart of ATF per month, you most economical choice might be to just check the level on a regular and frequent schedule and top up as needed with the correct ATF. My Dodge had been loosing ATF, maybe a quart per month for many years before that gas jockey got involved. As long as I kept the level up, it wasn’t hurting the transmission and it did not need to be rebuilt. even the guy who did the rebuild tried to talk her out of it, but she had been scared into believing that it HAD to be done.

Let me pose another possibility. What if this hard shifting is not related directly to the fluid or the transmission?

What about an iffy throttle plate situation in which the plate is not operating smoothly and which in turn can cause a balky shift which is interpreted as being hard?
Sticky throttle plate, iffy Idle Air Valve, and so on might possibly be behind this problem due to the age and miles on the car.
Just some food for thought anyway.

Thank you ALL for your comments I truly appreciate it. As for the HARD SHIFT when I feel it I drive right into the station and sure enough… the ATF is low, about 1/3 of a bottle. As soon as I put some in it shifts so smooth again you can’t feel it at all.

Well… after all these posts I still can’t figure out how to use this site. There was no contamination in either the radiator (I removed the cap and looked for slick or film while cold) and nothing like chocolate milk in the transmission fluid. I do not want to say this in haste but if you do not see my return to this site, it means that… I HAVE FOUND THE PROBLEM AND I THINK IT IS FIXED!!! … When I was last here, I brought it to a transmission specialist who _______ and _________ and thus far, it has not been low! Can anyone still guess what the issue was? I will be back to check… this is a GOOD ONE :wink:

1 Like

About the only place xmission fluid can go is to leak out and evaporate, or if the leak is severe enough, drip on the ground, or leak into the radiator through the cooling line.

Any good mechanic can tell you straight-away if you have an xmission leak into the radiator. They have tests they do all the time to determine that. And you yourself can tell if there’s a leak dripping on the ground. Just put a piece of newspaper under where you park the car and look every morning for drips. Small xmission leaks may not result in drips onto the ground though. The xmission fluid will stick to the housings, etc, and as the engine gets hot, it evaporates away instead. Or it get blown away by the wind as you drive. But again, a good mechanic could do a visual inspection and determine if this is happening. It may take several hours for the mechanic to do a thorough visual inspection, so expect a few hundred dollars bill for this.