My transmission / transfer case has "lifetime" fluid?

My Toyota mechanic tells me the transmission / transfer case fluid does not ever need to be changed in my 2004’ V8 4 Runner as it is “lifetime” fluid. I have almost 120K on the vehicle and have done all major service and parts replacement: timing belt, water pump, rotors, brake pads, tires, battery, etc., everything to get the next 100K out of this vehicle. Funds are a little tight these days and I do not want to purchase a new vehicle, so I’m stretching the life of this truck. My question is… how can this be “lifetime” fluid? I’ve towed a trailer quite a few miles and have a driven a lot of hard mountain miles in the Denver area and I assume the fluid has to be tired at 120K. What happens at 200K? Eventually the transmission will require a rebuild and will have to have the fluid changed, why can’t I change it now?

These “lifetime” fluids and service procedures are ill-advised to put it in polite terms.
In not so polite terms it’s utter BS and a decent mechanic should not fall for that line either.

The car makers (they’re all guilty) do this for one reason. It’s a PR stunt to convince the public their cars needs little to no maintenance.
Many of them actually started this kind of thing 25 or 30 years ago and it’s done nothing but get progressively worse over the years.

Automatic transmission fluid should be changed at 30k miles intervals and if a vehicle does a lot of towing or hauling heavy loads it should be done even more often.

I’m of the opinion that if a car maker says the fluid is lifetime then let them warranty any and all transmission problems for say 250,000 miles at a minimum.

The car owner and the car manufacturer have two different viewpoints about what the word “lifetime” means…Is there any practical way to change the fluid? It might have to be done on a “flush” machine…

Lifetime fluid to me means the transmission will have a short lifetime, like the 120K miles you have on it now. I’d vote for getting the old fluid out of there and some new fluid in the trans. I’d use Toyota brand fluid if this was my car.

My 05 4runner has the World Standard (lifetime fluid also)…I’ve already changed it 3 times. It’s cheap insurance. Transmissions are expensive…transmission fluid (even this special WS fluid) is NO where near the price of a new/rebuilt transmission.

I believe car makers went to this as many car owners took the approach of “lifetime” fluid themselves. My mechanic feels its about 50/50 chance you make it past 150k on original fluid without issue.

If you are changing it out make sure the Toyota branded fluid (likely synthetic mix of additives) makes it back in.

If you are changing it out make sure the Toyota branded fluid (likely synthetic mix of additives) makes it back in.

There are a few companies that make the Toyota WS fluid…But they’re all about the same price.

just change it yourself. it couldn’t hurt and it will give you peace of mind. rock on!!

The problem with doing it yourself, it’s very difficult to check the level, and there’s no “dipstick” to use to put the fluid in. You have to do it through a small hole, which is the level hole. Similar to a rear end, except you have a lot less clearance to work in.

Just get the fluid exchange done. It’s far easier, quicker, and will take about $120 and an hour. While this is all going on, they’ll also give the vehicle a once over, and let you know of anything else that may need work. That way, you can prepare for it, get it done somewhere else, or at the very least, verify it actually needs to get done.

I don;t think the OP said it was an automatic transmission??

I don;t think the OP said it was an automatic transmission??

Starting in 04…the 4runner only comes as an Automatic.

Also the WS (World Standard) Lifetime fluid is only for automatics that I know of.

OK. I wonder why, a manual is so much more fun and is so much more trouble free!!

Yes, it is…I wanted a manual, but they no longer offer them in the 4Runners. /sigh

Same as Pathfinder…No longer offer a manual…

I do like a manual…but NOT for towing…Automatics are far better for towing…


The answer to your question of why the 4Runner only comes with an automatic in the USA can be found here:

You can probably still find a 4Runner in other countries with a manual transmission, just not in the USA.

I’ve driven and preferred manuals for most of my driving life. With the exception of my Vega POS, I’ve never had a single problem. I even got 295,000 miles out of my original clutch on my pickup.

But, alas, my body wore out. Specifically my spine, which of course affects my hips. Now I need an automatic. Sigh.

You can tell the state of your transmission fluid by checking it’s color. As it becomes oxidized it turns from red to brown and eventually black! If you have a standard tow package on the vehicle the fluid could be okay, but if this is the original factory fill still in the transmission I’d be surprised if it still meets the lubrication requirements for your transmission. Only way to be sure if to take a sample and send it way for used oil analysis but the cost is approximately the same as 6qts of transmission fluid.

Regularly serviced transmissions usually outlast the ones that are neglected, even the ones that don’t have a recommended service interval.

Believe Rod Knox. He has an answer that I doubt if anyone can top.

My SIL had a reason to drive his wife’s 2006 Odyssey last week, and found it shifted poorly. He asked and she said it had been doing that for about a month. Sigh!

He dropped 3+ quarts and added back the same amount new of Honda ATF, and now it shifts smoothly.

I had assumed by the time a tranny starts shifting poorly because of bad oil, it is toast. I will be curious if it goes out soon.