Change transmission fluid?

Hi. I own a 2004 Toyota Celica GTS 4-speed automatic, 24,600 original miles. The car is maybe 11 / 12 years old now. I’ve noticed that in extremely cold Wisconsin weather it takes a while for my car to shift into fourth gear. It kind of hangs onto third and then eventually shifts into fourth at about 40 - 45 miles per hour. Not sure if that’s anything to be alarmed about or not. Drives fine and shifts smooth in warmer weather. I am the second owner. I am going to assume the original owner never changed the transmission fluid, or for that matter, never had a reason to. I purchased the car several years ago. So… is slow shifting enough to change the fluid? Or age of the fluid anything to worry about? Any good advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.

That’s normal for it to take a while for the transmission to shift into 4th when it’s cold.

This is done so the engine warms up faster to lower emissions.


I would take it to the dealer and have them change the fluid and filter. Colder weather affects the viscosity of the fluid causing the slow shift. The dealer will have the correct fluid and filter and I paid $85 for my Camry to be done. That’s cheaper than I could do it.

Is this your first winter with this car? On a lot of Toyota’s or even new cars in general they will not go into over drive until the engine coolant has reached a certain temperature. I want to say that on my 02 Camry the temp is around 150*F but I can’t find the documentation right at the moment.

If I had a car that old I would change the fluid, symptoms or not.

If it’s 10 year old fluid, then get rid of it. Cheap insurance. There is a temp sensor for overdrive. Mine is shifting within a mile of driving, but I live in the south.

First pull the dipstick and examine the fluid. If its clear and bright red, then it is as good as new. If it has a brownish tint, or darker and not clear (transparent), then get it changed, not flushed. Fluid exchange with a machine is OK as long as the pan is dropped and cleaned and the filter is cleaned or replaced.

Did you notice this start to happen, when it didn’t before? Or you haven’t owned the car long enough to have driven it in cold weather until now? If the latter, me, I’d assume this is normal operation, for the reasons mentioned above.

If the former, that this is a new problem you’ve noted, first thing would be to give the transmission a proper service. Drop the pan, clean it, change the filter, and refill with the correct fluid. You may have some gunk forming due to the age of the car and fluid, and fresh fluid might well clean things up a bit. If doing this helps, but not completely, then in 3 months, do it again.