Mechanic said my transmission fluid has never been changed?

Sorry, it won’t let me select a make and model. It’s a 2006 Toyota Rav 4. It’s been taken in many (many, many) times for service and I just hit the 100k mark. I’m the second owner, so I can’t attest to what happened in its past life.

I had to have 4 tires replaced and the shop said it looked like my transmission fluid had never been changed. This seems impossible since it’s been serviced so many times, and I feel like I remember another mechanic telling me he’d changed it. Is it at all possible they’re trying to upsell me (something this place has tried to do in the past)? It just seems impossible for a 14 year old car to have never had this done.


Very possible. While I’m not a believer in it…Toyota’s transmission fluid (WS) is considered a lifetime fluid.

Personally I’d get it changed every 50k miles.

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Believe me, there are lots of people who avoid doing anything other than oil changes and a few other maintenance procedures, so it is entirely possible that the trans fluid has never been changed.

You didn’t tell us how long you have owned this vehicle, but I can tell you that the trans fluid and filter should be changed every 30k miles if you want to get maximum life from that transmission.

I never change my transmission fluid because usually I sell my cars with 60,000 miles on them.

If I got rid of my cars after 60k miles, then I might do the same.
My way of doing things is to buy a new vehicle, maintain it meticulously, and drive it for over 120k miles. I have never had a transmission failure.

Same here except I drive well over 300k miles and never had a transmission or engine failure.

Since you have had the car serviced, you should have the receipts, and they would indicate whether the transmission fluid had been changed. Of course, if you didn’t specifically request it, it wouldn’t have been done.


A lot makers don’t have you do it until around the 100000 mile mark . I dont know what toyota’s service schedule is on the Rav 4 . Unless you specifically requested at a earlier time then it probably hasnt been done . If you have only had the work done at Toyota then your answer is one click away on their computer system . They know when you had all service done and they know it . If you have a tire place telling you this then DO NOT let them do that . Take it to a dealer or a qualified mechanic that knows what he is doing . you are correct the tire places are ALWAYS trying to pull that crap and sell you stuff like that . Never get anything other than tires from one of those places .

If you remember where that mechanic was they should have records of what was done .
The transmission fluid would only have been changed if the previous owner or you approved the work.

… conversely, I have known a few people who never maintained their transmissions, and who wound-up having to overhaul their trans by anywhere from 90k to 120k.

Have someone look to see if there is a dipstick for the transmission. Manufacturers started eliminating them from vehicles around the time your vehicle was made. If you have a dipstick, then you can check the fluid for yourself.

Just pull out the dipstick and look at the color of the ATF on the end. If it is bright red, it is good and has probably been changed in the not to distant past. If it is light pink to almost clear, it is getting near the end of its life and should be changed, but it isn’t urgent yet.

If it is brown, then the urgency increases, the darker brown it is, the greater the urgency, but not to panic yet. If it is black, then it is time to panic, almost panic anyway. Find a trusted mechanic or go to a dealer and get it changed. The dealer will use the correct ATF. Independent mechanics may need you to go tot he dealer and buy the ATF if they can’t get it themselves. Do not let them put in a universal ATF with additives.

Do not go to a chain store to get this done. They always use a universal ATF with additives and that will shorten the life of the transmission, especially if your transmission calls for a synthetic ATF.

One more thing to consider is whether to have the ATF flushed or not. If the fluid is still in the pink category, I don’t think that is necessary. A simple drain and fill will be sufficient. AS you get into the brown to black colored fluids, a flush becomes a better idea. A very light brown can be OK with two drain and refills with some run time in between.

Darker brown to black, it is best if the shop drops the pan, cleans it out, drops and cleans out the filter (or replace but yours is OK to just clean, it is a fine mesh stainless steel screen). Then they replace the pan and fill the transmission back up with fresh ATF. Now the pan will be clean but there will be about an equal amount of old ATF in the body and torque converter. They can hook up the fluid exchange machine and flush out the rest of the ATF getting it all.

I do not recommend getting the flush without dropping the pan first. Despite their claims, the fluid exchange (flush) machines do NOT get out all the old ATF if the pan was not dropped first. But if the ATF is in hte light brown stage, you can do just the flush instead of the two back to back drain and fills.

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I think 04 was the last year Toyota had a dipstick. My 05 4runner didn’t have one.

If @Alicia_Winokur’s transmission doesn’t have a dipstick, then it is highly unlikely that anyone at the tire shop checked it. That is too much work.

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At 30,000 miles I took my car to the Acura dealer and said I wanted the differential, transfer case, and transmission fluids changed. You have to tell them. They won’t change the transmission fluid unless you tell them to, or they recommend it and you say OK. Check your records or start over and get up to date, then keep a history.

“Regular Service” to many means just and oil & filter change and a few air cleaner filters!

Toyota only specifies transmission service for heavy use like towing and extreme climate conditions.

So, change the fluid and filter and you are lucky Toyota has robust transmissions!

Our 2013 Highlander has a trans fluid dipstick. Cool, eh? I believe 2014 Highlander did not.

I agree 100%. They have a boat payment coming up.

The 2006 Rav4 has an automatic transmission fluid dipstick.

This place somehow lost the records for my car being serviced there, so I have no idea if it’s been done. Great place. Love it. I’ve ended up there twice not having other options and it’s not great.

I also was wondering if a $5.50 tire disposal fee is around average? Really trying to not get gouged here.