Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Should I change auto trans fluid?

I have a 99 camry w 109K. I am taking it on a 1,300 trip, leaving on the saturday. I bought the car used about a year ago. It seams to be in good shape, the fluid look good but I was thinking about doing a drain and fill (It has a drain plug). Some people tell me if I don’t know when it was last changed that tit is better to leave it alone because it could stir up the debris if there is any.

What you were told is incorrect. Even if fluid looks good, after about 3 years or so, vital additives have been depleted. That is why this service should be done every 3 yrs/30k miles.

So–You should drain the trans and refill with the correct spec fluid, and replace the filter if it is accessible. Do NOT buy a so-called “universal” trans fluid, and do not believe the hype about adding something to other fluids in order to make them compatible. Use only a fluid that complies with the spec noted in your Owner’s Manual.

Since you apparently don’t know the vehicle’s maintenance history, and since the fluid should have been changed at least 4 times already, I would suggest changing the fluid again in about 5k miles. Then change it again in about 10k miles, and again ~10k miles later. This way, you will eventually get all of the old fluid out of there.


…and in following on VDC’s good advice, check the fluid now. If it’s any sort of darkish color and/or has any kind of burnt smell, consider getting it changed now, and not wait. I think he meant to say it, but missed it in the typing.

Thanks for the compliment Chase, but I need to add that I didn’t miss listing that important step.

If you re-read the OP’s question, he/she did state that "the fluid look good ".
However, as all of this board’s regulars (like you and me) know, trans fluid that looks good can still be far past its prime, hence my suggestion to change it now, followed by at three additional changes.

Anyway–thanks for the compliment!

If you bought the car at 109,000 miles with no proof of prior maintenance, then YES, you should change the transmission fluid.

There’s no reason to fear a transmission fluid change, despite what “some people” tell you, and many reasons to embrace one.

Change it, motor on, and be happy.

Thanks for the reply. It calls for dexron iii should I use brand name fluid or the stuff from wallyworld.

I believe the “official” answer is that you should use Dexron-VI because it’s backward compatible with transmissions using older Dexron fluids, and because Dexron-III is no longer officially licensed. It’s unofficially sold, labelled as Dex/Merc or D.M. or some other way, but can’t be labelled as Dexron-III.

That said, I use inexpensive Dex/Merc from Autozone when I change the fluid in my mother’s 2001 Chevrolet. I’ve used it in different cars for years.

I’ll only add that what you were told is an old wives tale which has a few slight variations but it all ends up the same; incorrect advice.

You actually should have changed it when you bought the car to be safe, but now is better than later.

Also, try to get any maintenance work done more than a few days before a long trip. You want to be able to drive it around town for a while to make sure there are no problems with the work that was done.