Trans fluid color?

saturn vue. 3.0 motor. af33 aisin trans. 5 speed auto. NOT the honda V6 and honda trans. made by toyota. uses toyota T-IV fluid. i did a trans drain at 100k and fluid was black. most online say its ok to use dex3. or any synthetic like amsoil or valvoline. i used t-4. why mess with non toyo fluid. so the question is. why is fluid black? all my gm cars use dex3 and the fluid is always red. is there some particular toyo design principal that makes their trans turn fluid black? the new fluid was nice and red. and i assume trans came from factory with t-4. and ALL the vue websites say to expect black fluid. thats life. nothing “wrong”.

Dark fluid has always been an indication of abuse and/or neglect for me but if Vue owners are commenting that the condition is not unusual and nothing is “wrong” you can apparently presume they are correct and continue with normal maintenance. I recommend flushing out the cooler, though.

It turned black due to heat. You should continue to use the T-IV, but change the fluid every 30k miles.

Maybe if the fluid were changed regularly it would never become black in the first place. Black usually points to a problem; either currently or in the foreseeable future.


I’m going to be a little cynical here . . .

I am assuming those other Saturn guys said it’s okay to use Dexron 3 for 2 reasons

  1. It’s cheaper
  2. It’s easier to get (any parts store, versus going to the Toyota dealer)

I have a 2005 Camry which also calls for T-IV atf. I bought it used with about 62K. I immediately did a fluid and filter service, because I was assuming it had never been done. The fluid was also black.

Glad to hear you made a conscious decision to buy the correct aft. Can’t go wrong doing that.

As for atf turning black, here’s something interesting.

The first generation Benz synthetic atf for the 722.6 5-speed autos also gets black very quickly. Benz issued documents stating that it is a normal characteristic.

About a year ago I serviced a 2003 Toyota Corolla with an automatic transmission and with about 60k miles on it. It also had black fluid on the dip stick. The fluid did not smell burnt. I did a fluid change, pan drop & clean, and a filter change. The T-IV fluid I used was pretty much clear. There was fair amount of sludge on the bottom of the pan; no metal debris, and minimal hair on the magnet. The transmission has been running fine as of this time.

I think that the T-IV fluid might have a detergent that holds the worn clutch material in solution for whatever reason. It almost looks like graphite so when I first saw the blackness, I thought it might be a friction modifier.

Still working on this.