New Car: Questions

Not really new, but new for me. And I have some questions. It’s a 2002 Solara with a 4 cyl engine, auto. (1) any benefit to letting it warm up, or can I just start and pull away (it pulls away fine, I’m just wondering about engine wear, generally). (2) the owner’s manual talks about checking the auto tranny fluid, but never recommends changing. I thought tranny services were always recommended every 30,000 miles. And, if that’s so, is that a “drop and drain” or a full tranny power flush?

Thank you,


With today’s multi-weight oils, engine warm up is a waste of fuel. In addition, driving away gently will also warm up the coolant much more quickly and also the transmission, differential, wheel bearings, CV joints and all the other things that do not benefit from idling in the driveway. Forget it. On the other hand, never start up cold and slam the throttle, revving the engine when cold before the pistons, rings, and bearings heat up to normal tolerances. That can cause excessive engine wear.

Most automatic transmissions should be serviced (oil and filter change) every 30,000 miles or so. I would always use the “severe service” change interval listed in the owner’s manual, because stop and go driving is “severe” service. Forget the so-called “power flush.” It’s a money maker for the garage and is seldom really done. In fact, I’ve never seen a device that “power flushes” a transmission. Now, if you have a manual gearbox (good for you), there is no scheduled change of gearbox oil if not listed in the manual.

Best bet for starting up is to drive away as soon as the car will respond.  That may be a minute or two on very cold days.  Drive a reasonable speeds for the first mile or two.  

Idling to warm up an engine is not good for an engine (neither is winding it up to 5,000 rpm)  when it is cold.  It also does not warm up the transmission or suspension parts, which also need to be warmed up a little before doing high speed work, like the freeway.

You will get different opinions on transmission fluid changes with today's automatics.  I agree with a couple of our regulars who recommend changing it even if the manufacturer does not have that on the list.  It is likely not as important as it once was, but I feel in the long run it is prudent.

We have a 2005 Camry 4 cyl with 5-speed AT. Around the top of the AT dipstick is a message that says the auto trans fluid never needs to be changed. “Never” seems a little optimistic to me, so we will probably change the fluid at least by 80k-90k miles, or earlier if the fluid turns brown. If I understand correctly, there have been significant advances in auto trans designs during the past few years that make 30k mile fluid changes less necessary.

“Never” means they expect it to survive the warrantee period without a failure. How long do you plan on keeping the car?

I would say every 30,000 or so on the tranny with a drain and fill with synthetic if you can. I have a 92 Camry with 190,000 and tranny still fine with drain and fills (flushes scare me) every 30,000 or so. toyotas have a drain plug (well, hope they still do) and that makes a do it yourself job very easy. The filter, just a screen, can be looked at every 60,000 or so ( dropped mine twice in 190,000 and it was not worth doing, clean) but normally pretty useless to clean as it collects about nothing.