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Automatic transmission issue

45K miles on this 2006 When vehicle is cold in the morning or if not used during the day. The transmission won;t shift into 4th. It winds up to 4K rpm and doesn’t shift properly for 1/2 mile or more. It will shift fine after. I purchased this 6 weeks ago and have had it to my mechanic and back to the dealer. Neither has been able to get to duplicate the problem. The fluid is dark and gritty according to my mechanic. The dealer said it is fine and fluid should last for 100K miles. What should I do?

The dealer is spouting the usual disclaimer suff. The fluid should be a clear pink color, like raspberry juice. Why not check it YOURSELF? Put a drop on a paper towel; it should expand to the size of a silver dollar and have NO GRIT and NO DISCOLORATION.

To check the fluid, put a warmed up car in park and let the ingine idle. Carefully poull out the dipstick, clean it off and reinsert. When you pull it out again, the fluid should be up to the full level.

Finally, because it does not shift properly, YOU HAVE a problem. If the car is still under the manufacturer’s warranty take it to another dealer. If out of warranty, go to a good, independent (not a chain) transmission shop for a proper evaluation. Don’t delay, you may wreck the transmission by doing so.

In spite of wat the dealer says, I would change the fluid and filter very 30,000 miles, no matter what the dealer or the manual says.

“Fluid is dark and gritty…”

The fluid should not be gritty. How are you doing with the warranty? Is the factory warranty still in effect? It sounds like you should still be under it. Unfortunately, the transmission must be acting up in from of the dealer’s serviceman to determine if it is a warranty repair. Try leaving it at the dealer’s overnight, and show him how it acts on first start-up of the day.

Warranty or no warranty? IMO automatic transmissions should have their fluid changed about every 30-40,000 miles. * Drain, refill and clean filter *

I would drain and refill the trans with Toyota brand trans fluid and get a new filter in there too. Your own mechanic can do this.

It could be normal for the trans not to shift to 4th until it warms up. My Toyota Sequoia ('01) does the same thing. But, new fluid in the trans can’t hurt and change auto trans fluid every 30K miles from here forward.

Just how cold is it there in the morning when the trans refuses to shift?


Thank you all…very fast results. Yes I am going to try to have the other branch of the dealer hold the vehicle over night and try it in the morning. The place that I bought it from is in town and they can’t get up to speed without going out of the area and the vehicle has shifted in lower gears several times and warmed up buy then. I did see the fluid and it is very dark. I couldn’t really detect the gritty feel that my mechanic said he felt…but he is the pro…that’s why I go to him for advice.
Thanx again.

A lot of Toyota models will not shift into 4th until the engine has reached full operating temperature. The computer is programed to disable 4th when the engine is perceived to be cold to improve warmup emissions. It is possible that your Coolant Temperature Sensor is out of calibration and may need to be replaced. However, I opine that the Rav-4 seems to be operating as other Toyotas in my experience.

Regarding the transmission fluid. Check with your owner’s manual for the type of fluid that is used in your transmission. Have the Toyota parts department or the service department show you a sample of the correct fluid. I bet it will be dark and gritty. However, as others have already replied, the tranny fluid should be drained, filter changed, pan cleaned, magnet defuzzed, and refilled with the manufacturer’s recommended fluid. It may well be that your transmission requires the WS (World Standard) fluid.

Hope this helps.