Transmission Fluid

Can transmission fluid that measures above the ‘normal’ level on the dipstick cause the transmission to go out? We had our 1994 Camry LE serviced last week, and the next day, the car started having trouble with the transmission. It has trouble and sometimes cannot get into or out of first gear. We checked the fluid at the time for color but didn’t think about quantity. Checked again a few days later at the recommendation of a friend, and see that the fluid is above normal line. Called mechanic who worked on it who said he put in the required 3 qts - that’s all, and that shouldn’t have created a problem. What do you say about it?

I say you have a problem, but it is not the level of fluid, It sounds like you had some work done, why did you feel you needed the work and what was done, and what is the mileage?

How far above the normal level are we talking about?? An under filled or overfilled transmission can cause problems which could lead to failure. How did the mechanic service the transmission?? Did he flush it, do a drain and fill, change the filter??? What exactly did he do?? When you checked the level was the transmission at operating temperature yet??


I also have to ask what the ‘service’ was. Was it a flush? These are notorious for causing transmission problems.

In addition to answering all of those questions describe exactly what is happening. All you’ve said is “It has trouble” and “sometimes cannot get into or out of first gear.”

No one can even start with that. By “cannot” get it into first? That leads me to think about a manual transmission. Is it a manual? Or is it an automatic and you’re saying the gear shift lever won’t move? Or are you saying that you put it in drive and it won’t go? What does happen? What else is going on?

When you checked the fluid, in addition to being hot was the car running and in Park and on a level surface?

Took car in for a 30,000 mile service. The car has 215,00 miles on it.

On my bill, there is just a charge for 3qts of transmission fluid. On the standard list of items done for the 30,000 mile service it says, “Change automatic/manual transmission fluid”. No mention of a filter being changed. . . The level was checked immediately after car was turned on . . .

I’m not a mechanic, and that’s why I’m writing to ask. Since I am not an expert in this field, it’s hard to know even the questions to ask or explain the problem. The car, with an automatic transmission, when put in drive, will not shift into any forward gear. IT will only shift into reverse. The car was not hot, but was on a level surface when the fluid was checked.

Was it running when you checked it? You have to check transmission fluid with the car running at idle.

Still not clear. This is what I understand so far. You have a 94 Camry with 215,000 miles. You are following the service schedule that repeats every so often, so you had the equivalent of the 30k service. In your first post, it sounded like the linkage might be binding so you could not get the stick to go into drive at times, at other times it would be in drive and would not come out, but in a later post, it sounds like the stick will go into drive but the vehicle won’t move. We need you to clear this up. You don’t need to be a mechanic to tell us exactly what you are experiencing.

When you check the fluid, the engine has to be running. If the engine was off, the fluid will read high on the stick. On Toyota’s that I’ve checked, there are two marks on the stick, one for cold and one for hot, but the engine still has to be running when you check it. You have to wipe off the dip stick, insert it and withdraw quickly to get an accurate reading.

Thank you for the clarification about checking the level of the transmission fluid.
I will try to clarify the rest: I took the car in for a service only. There were no issues with the transmission before I took it in, and when I drove it home from the mechanics (25 miles), there were also no issues. My son drove the car the next morning, and said it felt like the tires were ‘slipping’ on the road/that the car was 'running rough;, but he made it to his destination, 20 miles away. It was raining hard, and he thought it might have something to do with that. When he drove it again (this would be the 3rd time since the service) the next day, the car started and he drove a short way to a stop light, and then the car had a difficult time getting into gear. the engine was racing and he smelled burning. He was able to get it home (20 miles) by trying to treat the gas pedal the way he would when driving a manual at the few stop lights he came to (his words - I wasn’t there). After he was able to get it to second gear, it shifted fine between 2nd / 3rd/ 4th automatically (it’s an automatic). We checked the trans fluid the next day for color and it was clear. We didn’t check the level until a number of days later when someone suggested it. When my husband tried to drive it the day after my son did, he could only get it to go in reverse. He could not get it to go in drive.
I hope that helps clarify the issue. Part of it is that I am the one asking the question, though I wasn’t the driver at the time of the problem. . . Thank you for any feedback. I’m not sure if there is any recourse, but I just wonder if the problem was caused by the mechanic. He says, no, and he has been trustworthy in the past. I actually got recommended to him from this website years ago, though his shop is no longer recommended on this site!

I don’t like that reference to “smelled burning”. That sounds like trouble.

Ok. We still don’t even know whether the fluid was checked with the engine running or not. If you check transmission fluid with the engine off it will appear to be overfilled. If you check it with the engine at idle in park as you’re supposed to it could actually be low.

But all of that engine revving and burning smell is a really bad sign and probably means that the transmission is now toast. See if you can limp the thing back to your mechanic so that s/he can look at it and drive it. But if its behaving badly I’d consider a tow.

If anything about the service is related it would have come from putting the wrong kind of fluid in the transmission (I really hope the fluid wasn’t “clear” when it was checked - it should be red), or improper fill level - which we still don’t know about.

Thanks for your reply. We checked the fluid while the engine was running, but not necessarily ‘warmed up’. Just running. The car is toast at this point, and I think I will not use that mechanic any more even though he has been good up to this point. It just seems too coincidental . . .

As cigroller asked–is the fluid actually “clear”?

If the fluid in the transmission is not a reddish/pinkish color, then it is very possible that the wrong fluid was put into the transmission.