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Hi Everyone,

My girlfriend drives a 2012 Corolla and used it for 3 years to travel from Peterborough to Oshawa daily for work. The car had 35K when she bought it in 2014 and it's about to roll over 209K. I admit I'm not an import guy but this car has had very little in the way of maintenance other than brakes, oil changes etc. Only one reoccurring issue I think is finally solved. It's been just over a year now after I found a fix but didn't want to post until I knew for sure the problem wouldn't return and alas it hasn't.

In the summer of 17 she was on the highway coming home when the the TRAC light came on followed by the SES light and she lost overdrive. I took the car out and other than loosing OD it seemed fine. I cleared the code and took it for a spin and back to normal. A week later light comes on again. Ok, time to dig in a bit. I looked thru the records and no trans filter had been serviced. So at a friends garage I drop the pan and see a fairly plugged filter. Swap the filter with some new fluid and off we go. I did mention to my gf that she had about a year and the fluid would likely need to be changed again based on what I saw. Sure enough to the month... a year later I'm driving it using cruise and suddenly the cruise kicks off. I look down fast enough to see the TRAC light come on before the SES light comes on. So the problem is the trans not the drive train computer.

Again I clear the code and it disappears only to reappear 4 days later. I had an acquaintance at Mr Transmission and decided to run it over there and maybe they could test it. I kind of suspected a failing or stuck solenoid but hey it been 20+ years since I dug into a trans axle. After a couple of hours I get a call and they give me their assessment. The solenoids were working but it might need a new converter. OK something I could do in my shop but the converter....somehow I wasn't convinced.I still had the suspicion the solenoids were either failing or weren't working correctly.

3 months pass and after 3 more resets I take the afternoon and drop the pan and pull the filter. Again after only 12 months there was heavy deposits on the magnet and after taking more than 4 hours to drip out into the bucket I got under it and started wiping the valve body and looking at the solenoids. A pretty heavy deposit of friction material was washed over everything so I took a full can of brake cleaner (Evaporates completely without any residue) and gave it a couple of squirts to clean the bottom and sides of the valve body. Wiping everything down (Lint free towels) I decided to give the solenoids a good blast. I got my gf to sit in the car run thru the gears cycle to change solenoid position. The amount of friction dust material poring out of the solenoid bores while spraying was very surprising. I went thru nearly the entire can before they blew clean. After about 20 mins there was still drips of grey oil coming out but I injected some new fluid with a small syringe and flushed and lubed the solenoids before installing the new filter and gasket.

I measured out the amount of new fluid needed and filled the trans and started it up in neutral. After warming up I took it out for a quick test and the difference was immediate! She complained that the car was feeling sluggish which was what I felt driving it an hour to the shop I was using but afterwards the shifts were snappy and smooth. You could no longer feel it downshifting (sometimes with audible groaning) and upshifting went back to Toyota's normal range.

It has now been 15 months and not a single issue. The trans still shift smoothly, cruise works flawlessly and the car began getting better mileage.

I'm not saying that this is the problem with every Corolla. After doing some due diligence before performing this it was clear quite a few Corolla's were plagued with this problem. Car forums has trans issues everywhere with this car exhibiting the same symptoms. But with most people being lured in at 130K for a full overhaul and others installing used transmissions and still others opting for $900 torque converters when the friction material seems just to be suspect and plugging solenoids and fluid passageways this repair cost us less than $80! Just a force flush of the solenoids and a new filter and the car was back to normal. Nearly a year and a half. No light, no codes, no problems at all.

I know my gf's car is high mileage but with lots of people likely over 120K on their cars or approaching that, they're at the start of the zone where these transmissions start to act up. I needed to find a work around that made sense and for the amount of reading I did I was suspect of an electrical problems in the solenoids. The solenoids were working until the friction material broke the electrical connection and the solenoids magnetic paths were blocked. Once they were literally power washed out every problem dissolved.

If you have this problem and have an afternoon, drop the pan and go for it. If you're a DIY'er with a little better experience than the layman you have this in the bag. I just wanted to post this now that I'm sure this was the problem. There is very little risk performing this procedure and to be honest if you perform it properly it feels great to tell Toyota or your trans shop to go to hell, I figured it out. I worked at a shop and my roll was specifically to diagnose issues some other fellow techs had problems figuring out but you get used to being right and it's just a normal day, (no ego I promise) figuring this issue out felt great! Especially with these transmissions plastered all over other car forums with all the same symptoms I had.

I'm not guaranteeing this will work for you, but for an afternoon with a couple of beers, a can of brake clean, a filter kit and some new fluid it's a no brainer. $80 vs a new trans, converter, or solenoids. If your Corolla is exhibiting the same symptoms (loosing OD, kicking out of cruise control, firing on Trac lights simultaneously) like loads of Corollas out there, this is the fix for it.

Good luck!!
 

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Thanks for sharing this info. I inherited a 2012 Corolla and was thinking about changing the transmission fluid and filter. It hasn't been done before and the car has around 75K on it. Are there pictures/videos on the Internet to show where/how to flush the solenoids? You used trans fluid to flush them or just brake clean? My Corolla hasn't had the issues you described, but the transmission does seem to hesitate a little shifting from 1st to 2nd (automatic).
 

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on a side not, I lost OD, had track VSC and check engine On, because of a dipstick not far in enough. (it didnt seal and the ecm detected a leak of some sort.)

Your story is inspiring, have you cleaned the solenoids just recently, or a few months ago? (sorry.. I read back.. its 15 months ago...) Good job! Nicely done
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for sharing this info. I inherited a 2012 Corolla and was thinking about changing the transmission fluid and filter. It hasn't been done before and the car has around 75K on it. Are there pictures/videos on the Internet to show where/how to flush the solenoids? You used trans fluid to flush them or just brake clean? My Corolla hasn't had the issues you described, but the transmission does seem to hesitate a little shifting from 1st to 2nd (automatic).
Hi 98,

That's what frustrated me! No videos or pics and navigating blindly thru a car that must run day to day and be reliable. But when I was searching forums including ToyotaNation I realized what videos or pictures? Nobody has figured out the problem yet, hundreds of owners had either had the trans rebuilt, replaced or sold the car when the problem returned. These seemed isolated to Corollas and Camry's. But with thousands of these on the road the dealerships were raking in the dough. Now I'm not a Toyota guy, but I have to admit when I pressed for answers at two Toyota dealerships they had no answers. They shipped everything out. Trans shops never bothered to diagnose they just rebuilt. I was pretty stunned at the ignorance of the problem. The Trans shop here in Peterborough said they'd get 2 - 3 a week.


If you're going to do the change make sure the trans is warm. Get your car on ramps (front only, will help with draining) rears chocked. Pull pan and filter and really pay attention to debris depth around the magnet circumference. If you run your finger around the magnet and the debris fills your thumb and index, you have the problem trans. Let it drip for a few hours while you boldly down a few and play with the dog.

Once most of the dripping has stopped pat the valve body of drips. The problem solenoids are all along the back of the body. Please forgive me it's been a couple of years and I've done other transmissions since but I believe there was a small space between the solenoid and the body itself. Insert your straw from the brake clean between this gap and flood the bore. If you don't see a gap I've attached an edited picture.The green arrows are the gap between the solenoids this is where I started my flush.. This is not the correct valve body in your car! This is a pic of a Toyota CVT but was one of the only clear pics I could find to label. The red arrows will give you direct access to the valves and bores. Make sure as your flushing you have someone in the car running through the gears to change positions and flush out as much as you can. Make sure the ignition is ahead just enough to disengage the shifter but not engage accessories, or you'll wind up yelling at your other half who's singing like a virgin as you're yelling what gear to change into, won't repeat that issue again. Don't be cheap with the spray, blow it in like you own stock in the company!

Once the bores run clean leave the trans for about 15 mins. Allow all of the break clean to evaporate. Take a small syringe and fill it with new fluid and squirt it in the red access ports while again moving thru the gears. Install your new filter and pan and fill it. It is also important to remember that these transmissions must be spot on for fluid levels so measure what you dump and be precise with filling. Our trans got so bad we hesitated making the trip the hour to fix it. Cruise wouldn't work, Trac light was on, SES on and twice the trans in high gear locked for a hundredth of a second like the parking pawl somehow engaged. Two years on, not a single problem.

At 75k I don't know if you'll get a lot out, if your in a city you may see quite a bit. I hope this helps you and let us know how you make out!


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Discussion Starter #5
on a side not, I lost OD, had track VSC and check engine On, because of a dipstick not far in enough. (it didnt seal and the ecm detected a leak of some sort.)

Your story is inspiring, have you cleaned the solenoids just recently, or a few months ago? (sorry.. I read back.. its 15 months ago...) Good job! Nicely done
Hi CochiseG,

Yeah these tranny's are touchy. I have heard of this specific issue and I could see how it would drive owners nuts!
 

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I hope to change the fluid this summer. Will share my experience. My girlfriend is driving the car right now. Her car was a POS, so she drives it now. A new issue has popped up, but that is for another thread.
I haven't checked yet, but does the car have a dipstick for trans fluid? Wouldn't that be better to gauge when the fluid level is good? Do you put the new fluid in through dipstick tube, if it has one?
Can you recommend a small syringe to buy? I plan on buying everything I need soon and get a game plan set to do it.

Thanks for the picture.
 

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I bought a 2013 with 90K on it and the fluid looked grungy. so I pulled the pan, cleaned the metal sludge off the magnets and replaced the pickup filter. Then pumped 2 gallons of new fluid through it using the cooler lines while shifting it through the gears.. Then it started running pretty clear and still looks good.
 

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I taught Toyotas were known for their bulletproof transmissions.I will make sure my 2012 has a proper tranny fluid change before any problems arise. Mine has only 55,000km
 

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I taught Toyotas were known for their bulletproof transmissions.I will make sure my 2012 has a proper tranny fluid change before any problems arise. Mine has only 55,000km
They are very reliable. mine has 275K miles on it and it is fine. We just want to keep the fluid in good shape so they can keep running. Take a look at the fluid on your dipstick, if it is still opaque and not dark you could probably just pull the tranny drain plug and replace the 3 or 4 quarts that you can drain that way. Will freshen up the fluid. Its as easy as changing the motor oil, but you need a long funnel to refill the fluid.
 

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I thought Toyotas were known for their bulletproof transmissions.I will make sure my 2012 has a proper tranny fluid change before any problems arise. Mine has only 55,000km
Compared to transmissions used in most other vehicles, they are. But, the fluid should be regularly changed (30-50k miles). That will keep the transmission running like new its entire life.

Never trust those claims that a transmission's fluid is "good for life". Of course "good for life" means 75-100k miles to them.
 
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