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Serpentine belt, transmission fluid question

I have an 05 Rav4 with 46,500 miles on it. I have two questions one regarding the serpentine belt and the other about flushing and filling the transmissin fluid. The service department at the dealership said my serpentine belt was cracked at 39,000 miles and said it should be replaced. I got a second opinion and they said it was fine. I asked the dealorship if they could show me the cracks in the belt and they said after they replace it because they have to remove it in order to see the cracks. They told me that the mechanics routinely remove the belt (no charge) to inspect it. Does this sound plausible? The dealer did a tranny flush and fill at 29,000 miles and told me that I needed another one 18,000 miles later (less than 2 years). What do you think?

Ask the dealer if he also sells shares in the Brooklyn Bridge. If you read your Owner’s manual, you will fing that the transmission on a Toyota has a very long service interval. And that same manual calls for DRAINING the fluid, and changing the filter, not flushing it.

The belt bit sounds like hogwash; I have never seen a mechanic pulling a belt off just to look at it, unless he was doing long interval, warranty-mandated inspection. Belts are normally inspected with every major service interval (10,000 miles); my Toyota dealer does this, without removing it. It’s included in the service package price.

A typical Toyaota transmission calls for a fluid drain and filter change at 6 years or 60,000 miles whichever comes first. I would do it more often, such as 40,000 miles, but DRAINING the fluid.

Toyota calls for belt inspection every 10,000 miles or 12 months. If your belt is cracked they should be able to show it to you.

Please read your owner’s manual; it supersedes any nonsense a service writer tells you!!

Hey, take it easy. I didn’t say I believed them and I actually do read my owner’s manual ad nauseam. The information appears very vague to me. For example, it states to have the transmission fluid inspected at 30,000 miles and again at 60,000… When the dealership puts in writing that it is dirty and needs to be serviced (I checked it myself and it was dark) wouldn’t it give them an opportunity to weasel out of honoring the warranty if I decline the service? Now…trying this again, less than 20,000 miles later, is a different story. As for DRAIN (geeze, you don’t need to yell), vs. flush & fill, I have gotten differing opinions about which to do.

I honestly did not believe for one second that they take my serpentine belt off to check it, but I am not a mechanic, so I am looking for others wiser than myself to tell me this is insane. The book states to have the drive belts initially inspected at 60,000 miles and than every 15,000 thereafter. They are trying to scare me into having the belt changed which angers me a great deal. I am not a push over nor am I an idiot…just trying not to look like one on the side of the road with my Rav that won’t go.

Thanks for your reply!

The dealer mechanic did NOT remove the serpentine belt to inspect it. He just looked at it, which you can also do.

Belts have tiny cracks in them about a week after you install them. That’s just the way it is. If you replaced your serpentine belt every time you saw a crack in it you’d replace it every month.

They’re just trying to sell you a belt, which you don’t need yet. Don’t be angry about it. That’s what they do. They want to make some money.

I’d let them do a transmission fluid change, or flush, every 30K. If the fluid is dark, change it now. Automatic transmission fluid should never be dark or dirty.

Take the Rav to a Independent for service. This dealer is a rip-off.

Why would anyone remove a serpentine belt inspect it…find it’s bad…and then put it back on??? MOST of the cost in replacing the belt is labor.

If your transmission fluid is indeed dirty (black) it should be changed, although I’m puzzled how 20,000 miles of normal driving can do that. If you are towing a trailer or do off-roading with the vehicle, I could see the fluid going dark that soon. I would keep a very close watch on that; it there is an internal problem, it would be covered by warranty.

As other point out, belts gradually wear out up to a point; then they go fast. My Toyota says to inspect the belt very 10,000 miles, no need to take it off. I would automatically change the serpentine belt at 60,000 miles. It’s a long distance and the safety margin gets to be quite small. A trip across the desert in the summer may leave you stranded with a belt that looked OK at 60,000 miles.

If transmission fluid needs to be black to qualify as dirty, than mine is not dirty. It looks pink. I don’t do any off-roading or towing. Grrrrr.

Thank you for the serpentine belt info. I would definitely rather change the belt before it breaks than roast in the desert. 60,000 miles sounds reasonable. I looked at the belt myself, realizing I can only see part of it, and could not see any cracks.

I am having some trust issues with these guys (Toyota dealer) and will be looking for a new place to have my car serviced. They also tried to tell me that to replace my cracked fog light assembly would take 1 hour of labor. I called another place and they said they would do the job and charge $15 for labor…not much to it, according to them! I have been a customer at the Toyota dealer for 16 years, buying and servicing my vehicles and it just aggravates me that I can’t believe a word they say.

Thanks. You have been very helpful!!

Automatic transmissions need to be serviced every 25-30k miles regardless of what the owners manual says. As far as the serpentine belt goes, you can usually see whether its cracked without removing it from the vehicle. Its either cracked or its not cracked. If it IS, replace it. They’re not expensive and you dont want to lose that on a cold rainy night.


A simple test for transmission fluid is the paper towel test. Put a drop of it on a clean paper towel, and let it sit. The fluid should be an EVEN pink, expand to about the size of a silver dollar with no rings, and have no impurities of any type showing.

In cars that have been driven very moderately on the highway, the fluid could stay pink and clean for close to 100,000 miles. However, most driving will require changes at 40,000-50,000 miles to ensure long life. The 20,000 miles, on the other hand, is way too short if you are a moderate driver.

Other than agreeing with Transman about the fluid change intervals, I’d bet the belt also needs to be replaced. At 46k miles and 5 years of age it’s more than likely due.

An owners manual should not be the final word on the upkeep of your car for the simple reason that the people who provide that manual have a vested interest in making your vehicle appear to be more “maintenance free”.

Toyota is not the only one guilty of this and additional maintenace applies to items other than transmission fluid and belts.
(oil change intervals, spark plugs, filters, valve lash inspection, etc. are some examples)

I am still left wondering how to find out what maintenance needs to be done what fair charges are for labor and parts.

The reason I didn’t jump to have the serpentine belt changed is because according to Toyota’s maintenance schedule, the belt initially gets inspected at 60,000 miles. They claim that they removed the belt at 39,000 miles and less than 4 years old, to inspect it (no charge), found it was cracked and needed to be replaced and put it back on. They took the belt off again (no charge) at 46,500 miles and 4 years old and said again that it had cracks and should be replaced. Again they put the belt back on. I took the car to another mechanic who told me that the belt looked fine…no cracks. It didn’t look cracked to me but I don’t really know what I am looking for. I am just trying to avoid replacing it if I don’t really need to. Money doesn’t grow on trees where I live:)

What does “servicing the transmission mean”? Flush & fill or drain & fill?

Yep, I’m with these guys. If you see small cracks across the inside of the belt, replace it. At 46K, it needs replacing. They are difficult to see on the car but not impossible. If you don’t trust the dealer, just do it yourself.

I’d take really good care of that transmission, too.

I’m grinning ear to ear at the thought of changing that belt myself…I will be sure to videotape any attempt I make, for others to enjoy as well. I’m more of a change my own cabin & engine air filter kind of a gal.

So, does taking really good care of the transmission mean flush & fill or drain & fill?

No, I don’t trust the dealer.