Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Transmission Overhaul - in a Toyota?

Hi Car Talk Community!

I have a Toyota RAV4, 2003, Auto Trans, two wheel drive w/ 132K miles. It’s been a great vehicle (I would buy another one) except that - of all things - my transmission went “klaaboowie” and needs an overhaul. This was VERY disappionting, as you almost NEVER hear of a Toyota having transmission problems; my last car was a Ford Taurus, and guess what - it needed Transmission work at 65K. I seem to be doomed! Has anyone had any major problems such as this with their Toyota?

The Toyota transmission lasted twice as long as the Ford transmission. What are you complaining about?

Even Toyotas (and Hondas) have a problem now and then. Nothing is perfect. Get the transmission fixed and drive your RAV-4 another 132K miles.

Yes, indeed, it did! I needed that laugh :slight_smile:

I will drive my RAV-4 another 132K miles, no problem.

The truth is ALL brands have problems but luckily not the majority.

Do you actually maintain your auto transmissions like change out the fluid at specified periods? Also do you floor it from every intersection? Two seems pretty unlucky.

Yes, maintainance was kept up, and I had the car regularly serviced. I am tough on our vehicles, no doubt about it - but I don’t floor it from a stand still stop
(I have to admit, as a 4-cylinder, I wish I had the newer version with the optional V6).

There is a person posting on this Forum that Toyota programs their transmissions to explode at a certain mileage.
He claims internet reasearch that supports his claim.
Use your fingers and search engines to find out
He was told by CT to get a foil hat.

bum luck, good luck with the repairs.

I also have a Toyota RAV4, 2003, Auto Trans, 2 wheel drive w/only 78K. Toyota has issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TC002-06) which addresses “harsh shift” symptoms and advises problems with the Engine Control Module. Replacing this unit in my car did not fix the problem. Anyone else having this experience? Did Toyota remedy?

It’s still unknown, even after the question was asked, if the transmission was ever serviced.
“Maintenance kept up” means what?

No transmission fluid changed coupled with admittedly “being rough on our cars, no doubt about it” could simply mean the transmission was flogged to death.
At that mileage it should have had at least 3 (and preferably 4) fluid changes already.

Our family had a 92 'rolla bought brand new and the 3 speed auto went at 110k miles–we didn’t skip any fluid changes. But the 80’s era engine was so weak that sometimes it was hunting between 2nd and 3rd at 55 mph. I guess that wasn’t too healthy for it.

We sold the pile of steel to the mechanic for $100 and then he sold it to for a nice profit after he put in a rebuilt trans.

That generation Corolla had an issue with the differential failing in the tranny. Mine (an 89) used to shift very smoothly up to 150KM when I sold it. The differential needed lots of babying though.

The 2003 Corolla transmission has an integrated differential, that is it shares the transmission fluid with the differential. In the 1998, they were separate and the differential had to be serviced separately.

If you check your owners manual, I think you will find that Toyota claimed that this transmission did not require any servicing for its lifetime. Unfortunately, I think they missed the mark on this one.

I think your transmission would have had a lot longer life if the fluid had been changed at a regular interval. I can’t blame you if it hasn’t been done if Toyota didn’t recommend it, can’t blame your mechanic either if they/he were following Toyota’s recommendations.

Look at it this way, 20 years ago, 132k on an automatic was considered good. Now everyone expects 200k or more.


keith is correct that Toyota claims their trans fluid lasts forever, but for some reason those clowns at Toyota decided to put a drain plug on the pan, how convenient!

I have to believe that many problems with Toyota automatic transmissions is that they are serviced by shops that are clueless. They pump the same trans fluid into a Chevy truck that they pump into a Corolla. The problem with that is that Toyota has a proprietary fluid, yes you do have to use actual TOYOTA T-IV fluid, not Dexron III. This fact alludes all to many lube techs. And don’t let them sell you any of their friction modifying additives that supposedly turns Dexron III into T-IV.

Every 30k miles or so, put that mysterious drain plug to use and add a few quarts of fresh “TOYOTA T-IV Automatic Transmission Fluid” and your trans will likely live to a ripe old age.

Is BigFoot involved in this???

What a crock!!!

keith is correct that Toyota claims their trans fluid lasts forever, but for some reason those clowns at Toyota decided to put a drain plug on the pan, how convenient!

My 05 4runner does NOT have a drain plug.

Starting in 03 Toyota has been using the WS (World Standard) fluid. From what I read it’s a superior Synthetic tranny fluid and costs about $11/qt. According to my manual the ONLY time it should be changed is if I ever see the Tranny Fluid Temp light come on. Other then that…it NEVER needs changing…HOWEVER…I’m skeptical about that. Since I tend to keep my vehicles to around 300k miles or more I don’t need a to put a new tranny in my SUV at 180k miles. I’m going have mine changed. So far the ONLY tranny fluid I’ve been able to find that meets the Toyota’s WS fluid requirement is either through Toyota or RedLine. A complete tranny fluid change is about $200.