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Single drop of water in ATF?

OK, so I bought a 2004 Camry (4 cyl.) that was fairly meticulously serviced at the dealer. 30+ times in 138K miles. However, there is no mention of changing the ATF. So, I checked to see if it was burnt, etc… It is red with no odd smells.

Problem is, there was water on my hood, and while I had the dip stick out, a couple drops of water fell into the engine compartment. Not sure if any found its way into the trans dip stick. How worried should I be?

I have been reading on how bad water in ATF is. That it gets absorbed by certain things, causes corrosion, etc…

Also, I have heard many takes on changing the ATF. Some people say to not change it if it hasn’t been changed by a certain time. others say only change it if it is burnt. Etc… Not sure who to believe.

Toyota serviced the vehicle since it was new, and checked the tranny and performed all scheduled maint. So I’m not sure what to do in this regard.

Thanks for all your help guys. I really do appreciate it.

A few drops aren’t going to hurt anything. If you’re worried, take the vehicle for a nice long drive and get the transmission nice and hot–the water will vaporise and likely escape as steam through the transmission vent, assuming any got in. Now if you got a cupful or more in there, it might be a good idea to have the fluid changed.

Thanks Oblivion.

OK, the dipstick claims that the ATF never needs to be changed. It is type T IV fluid. The fluid is red and does not smell weird.

I am reading that this ATF should actually be changed. I am also reading that this is a bad idea, given the car is 10 years old and has over 100K miles and it has never been changed.

What a mess. I’m getting ready to drive 3K miles over the course of 4 days. What should I do?

Many car makers are claiming lifetime fluids, especially transmission. But, if you read the fine print, there are conditions where they recommend getting fluids changed out. I just bought a 2009 Rav4 with the 4-cyl with 79,000 miles on it, and the manual is also pushing the lifetime fluid line. But, the fluid was dark and the trans has a drain plug, so I did a drain and fill with 4 quarts of Toyota WS. I tend to keep cars untilbthe wheels fall off, so ‘lifetime’ fluids will get changed on a regular basis.

The trick with “lifetime” fluids is that you need to ask how they define “lifetime.” On the surface, all lifetime fluid claims are accurate, because they will indeed last for the lifetime of the transmission, especially if not changing it is the reason the transmission dies!

Yep, our toyota yaris says the same thing. Even the dealer said “well its a sealed unit, it doesnt need to be changed.” I said change it anyway. That was at 100k.

I’m a proponent of changing transmission fluid and filter (where possible) every 30,000 miles, not just because I make money doing it, but because fluid is cheap and transmissions are very expensive. A recent transmission job on a 6-speed automatic approached $5000.

But here’s the thing, much of the idea behind the lifetime fluids isn’t that bad. I read an informal study recently (can’t remember where) but the point was that for similar cars, there was almost no difference in the rate of transmission failure before 150,000 miles between those who did regular transmission services and those who didn’t.

Changing fluid won’t guarantee your transmission will last the life of the car, but it will improve the odds. But if you don’t plan on driving your car for such a long period of time, then you’re just improving the odds for the next guy who buys your car, if it’s still on the road. There are lots of other reasons a car is sent to scrap.

I can’t imagine a dealer servicing a car 30 times and not ever suggesting a trans fluid change.
More likely its been done more often than necessary.
Get it drained and refilled every 30K miles and you’ll be good to go.

Yeah I change my “lifetime” fluids every 30,000 miles.

Go by the dealer and ask for the service history. If it has not been done I would do it, its cheap insurance.

3 drain and refills and you are good to go. Make sure you get ATF IV from the dealer, mine has discount coupons on their website. Also ask for the crush washer (3 if you will) and you need a 10-mm hex for the plug.

There’s a couple reason why manuf’s say their transmission fluid doesn’t need changing. One is that consumer ratings agencies (who customers use to decide which car to buy) compare total ownership costs, and if a service is required, that ups that cost. So the manuf worries they may sell fewer cars.

The second reason is that the manuf may believe that folks messing with the automatic transmission may do more harm than good. Modern auto xmissions are very particular to having exactly the correct transmission fluid, filled to exactly the correct level. And accomplishing that isn’t so easy – even with experienced mechanics doing it – with newer transmissions.

That all said, if I were in your situation I’d not interrupt any immediate travel plans, but once things calm down in your schedule, ask a well recommended inde shop that specializes in Toyotas or Asian cars (or a dealership) to do an assessment, and if they think it makes sense, ask them to do a proper transmission service, which involves dropping the plan, draining all the old fluid out, replacing the filter, and adding exactly the proper amount of the correct new fluid. Avoid a shop that wants to do a transmission flush.

I emailed Toyota about the transmission fluid in my 2012 Camry.

One part of my owners manual clains it is their “world” transmission and is sealed for life and needs no servicing.

The maintenance schedule says to check the fluid every 30,000 miles.

I asked them why I should check the fluid on a sealed unit that needed no service and if I am supposed to check it, why did they take the dipstick.

Their reply was interesting : Checking the transmission every 30 000 miles consists of looking for transmission fluid leaks on the ground under the car and looking for seepage at the drain or fill plugs or any of the pan bolts.

They went on to say the car monitors both the temperature and viscosity of the fluid and if a problem is detected a light on the dash will alert me.

@oldtimer 11;

That is both sad and funny. I guess they weren’t expecting anybody will read the OM. They are probably publishing the same thing since the 2000 Model. Now I bet on the next version, they will edit that part out.

If the transmission fluid is nice and red, I would not worry about it. However, I would drain and refill at the earliest convenient opportunity. Its better to change it while it is still red, and you don’t need to do three back to back changes or flush it as long as you change it while it is still red. Once it turns brown, then you have to take more measures such as three back to backs or a flush.

BTW, If you do need to flush, you still need to drop the pan, clean the pan and screen and then refill with new fluid before using the fluid exchange machine.