I realize that this is an old thread, but for the benefit of people that may read this thread I think a few things need to be mentioned.
First, the original poster (rleescott) clearly had a legitimate concern with his dipstick's fluid level. At minimum his fluid level should have been at the lower 'HOT' level, not midway between 'COLD' and 'HOT' levels once the temperature is at operating temperature. This low fluid level brings to question why the fluid level was low on a low-mileage car that shows no signs of having a leak. Does Toyota turn out vehicles that are low on fluids? Has his Toyota dealer, and any other service dealer, ever checked the ATF level and seen that it appeared to be low...and not brought it to the owners attention? I find his low transmission fluid level strange too!
Moving on Donald E. George's comments (quoted above). I also own a 2004 Camry XLE V6 with 115,000 miles. The automatic transmission is a 5-speed (151E). Owners of [at least] a 2004 Camry will have a label on the ATF dipstick that states: NOTICE: NO NEED TO REPLACE ATF UNDER NORMAL DRIVING CONDITION
. Also, the owners service manual does not give any mileage or time period in which the transmission fluid is ever changed under normal driving condition. This leads one to believe the ATF never needs to be changed, regardless of mileage or age...unless the vehicle is used for severe service, e.g. towing, etc.
There's no doubt the topic of changing/replacing ATF has been discussed numerous times. But, I have yet to see a clear and concise response from Toyota about whether the ATF ever
needs to be changed/replaced under normal driving condition. Does that mean 300,000 miles? No fluid is forever...in my opinion. Lifetime could simply mean - until it gives out! Personally, I'd like to know what Toyota's engineering experts say about this never having to replace the ATF...but doubt I ever will.
I am under the belief that (even though Toyota suggests you never need to change/replace the ATF) that the transmission fluid should be replaced 'every so often' to help prolong the transmission's life. I do not like the idea of a so-called flush, but instead like doing a drain-and-fill once every 15K-20K miles or so. This method only removes about 40% of the 9.3 quarts, but is enough to keep a sizable percentage (40%) of fresh ATF in the transmission.
Some owners may have mileage approaching 6-digits, or even surpassing 100,000 miles, that have never replaced/changed there ATF due to Toyota's 'NO NEED TO REPLACE' statement (and no mention of replacing the ATF in the service manual). These owners might [now] want to consider replacing/changing the ATF to help prolong the transmission's life. These owners may all of a sudden have a different view about whether it's wise to 'never replace' the ATF. If so, the following should be helpful...
2004 Camry V6 5-Speed Automatic Transmission U151E
(Genuine Toyota Type T-IV Fluid - Total Fill 9.3 Quarts)
According to the service manual (and also the ATF dipstick) the transmission fluid never requires changing unless the vehicle is used for severe duty, such as towing. The ATF dipstick label states: NOTICE: NO NEED TO REPLACE ATF UNDER NORMAL DRIVING CONDITION.
You might consider freshening-up the transmission fluid ever so often with 3.7 quarts of ATF using the drain-and-fill method, in lieu of a full flush method that can dislodge gum, sludge and lacquer in vehicles that haven’t routinely had the ATF replaced.
Every time you do a drain-and-fill only about 40% of the total fluid is drained so 60% of the old fluid remains in the torque converter. When you drive, it circulates the old fluid in the torque converter with the new fluid in the pan, mixing the old remaining fluid with the new fresh fluid.
1st drain-and-fill will leave ~ 60% dirty fluid remaining
2nd drain-and-fill will leave ~ 36% dirty fluid remaining
3rd drain-and-fill will leave ~ 22% dirty fluid remaining
4th drain-and-fill will leave ~ 13% dirty fluid remaining
5th drain-and-fill will leave ~ 8% dirty fluid remaining
Multiply 0.60 each drain-and-fill to get the % of dirty fluid remaining.
To overcome a previously lax maintenance schedule – plan on doing at least 2 initial drain-and-fills back-to-back after driving the car for a minimum of a few hours (or wait a few weeks), then do a drain-and-fill at 2,500 mile intervals until it has been done a total of at least 4 times. This will get you back to where a ‘normal’ maintenance schedule of having a drain-and-fill (40% ATF replacement every time) can be done only once every 15K-20K miles or so.
Note: Approximately 3.73 Quarts (3530mL) is drained out, which of course must be replaced. (1 Quart = 946mL)
I would recommend using Toyota ATF Fluid TYPE T-IV: Toyota Part# 00279-000T4-01 309 ATF T-IV Q
The drain-and-fill method is very easy to do, but if you do not want to do it yourself most shops (oil change & transmission shops) will do it for you for a cost of around $50 or less, with you furnishing the ATF.
Note: Donald, you said you drained 4.5 quarts from your transmission. I have never drained out even 4 quarts of fluid - it's always been 3 3/4 quarts maximum...
Hope this helps...
PS - If you want to replace the aluminum crush washer on the drain plug, it's called the Transmission (Transfer Case) Drain Gasket: Toyota Part# 90430-18008