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Discussion Starter #1
I checked prior TN posts on point, but no one addressed my questions about this situation.

Just acquired a 2000 Camry LE Sedan with 181k miles and 5S-FE engine and AT.

Shifts okay, much better after transmission service. No unusual noises heard. No leaks apparent, but the entire engine/transaxle/suspension underside is fithy with black sludge.

Transmission fluid was dark brown and am on my third drain/fill.

The differential drain and fill plugs were TIGHT, making me suspicious that the fluid was never drained. Predictably, black fluid came out. More concerning was that the drain plug was saturated with black sludge and metal debris, about 3 mm wider than the edge of the drain plug and extending about 5mm above the drain plug. I didn't think to take photos, but it took about 5 minutes for me to clean off all the shavings from the inside edge of the drain plug.

Been there done with a 1989 Camry with 142k miles, but there were much fewer shavings in the differential drain plug. That car lasted 10k until the transmission gave out.

I refilled the differential with Valvoline MaxLife Fully Synthetic Dexron. Test drive is like a new car.

Did I dodge a bullet here, or need I be concerned?

And when should I next drain the differential?

Thanks!
 

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I’ve serviced I’d estimate 50 of these transmissions and a few had what you’re describing. I’d do another drain/fill and call it good. Doubt you’ll ever have an issue. Run the wheels off it.
 

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Was the 1989 a V6 or I4? If it is the V6, transmission is a major weakpoint on those.

Sounds like it was this bad.





Okay...well not that bad...right?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks.

Hooter1, how long should I drive before changing the differential fluid again?

Kingdom934, my car is a 2000 Camry LE with 4 cylinder 5S-FE engine.

I wasn't quite that bad, maybe 70% as much debris as your first photo. What did you do and what happened to the differenital?
 

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Here's the whole thread.


long story short -- car was having a weird noise (snap pop creaking) and it was having random binding (i.e. something dragging like slowing/resistant in the roll then POPPING, when it POPPED, the car rolled freely ok). I thought it was the CV axle binding as the boot was torn....found out that I believe the noise was from differential. There is a video in the thread above on the noises.

When I filled it up, the noise went away, but the differential keeps leaking all the fluid pretty fast. I have not had the chance to try replace the plate and try reseat the O ring as the car isn't mines...but thinking of buying it from my friend and 'take a swing at it'. Right now it's sitting in their driveway.

EDIT : I lied. I didn't link it in that thread. It was in a previous thread. Here's the youtube video on when the noise really starts to occur.


I'm thinking something cause the seal to get f up (not axle seal but an internal seal in where the plate/axle sits in) and the fluid was leaking all out. While driving without fluid, it caused excessive wear...OR something in the diff went out causing the internal to shift and start leaking fluid. Again, I'm not sure as I haven't had the opportunity to tear into it. Regardless, something happen to the diff causing the fluid to leak out. that or when a shop did the RMS on this car 5-6yr ago, they didn't fill it up and it ran dry for a few years until the thing occurred? I wonder how long you could run a diff dry before you cause damage?
 

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I've never seen it as bad as @Kingdom934 's pic, but I usually find some shavings (maybe like 20% of what's in that pic and much smaller particles, no large flakes like that). Somebody correct me if I'm wrong but I think most off-the-shelf ATFs don't have sulfur or phosphorus EP additives like gear oils do, so our diffs will see increased wear compared to a traditional diff lubed by gear oil.
 
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You know what is interesting is that in my dads 2001 5SFE automatic, when I did the diff a few times ( I ended up doing it like 3x in a 20K interval...forgot I did it LOL prior like 3x), the initial drain and refill at around 120K it came out with no particles and no metals. If anything just a little dust particles on the magnet.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
isnightbrewery, all of the owner's manuals on my Camry/Corolla/Tercels say to use ATF in the differential.

I'm reluctant to use gear oil in the differentials (though I gladly use gear oil in the manual transaxles).

Anyone put gear oil into the differential?
 

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That's not what I said; I just compared ATF in our differentials to gear oil use in "normal" setups. Do not use gear oil, use ATF.

isnightbrewery, all of the owner's manuals on my Camry/Corolla/Tercels say to use ATF in the differential.

I'm reluctant to use gear oil in the differentials (though I gladly use gear oil in the manual transaxles).

Anyone put gear oil into the differential?
 

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I've never seen it as bad as @Kingdom934 's pic, but I usually find some shavings (maybe like 20% of what's in that pic and much smaller particles, no large flakes like that). Somebody correct me if I'm wrong but I think most off-the-shelf ATFs don't have sulfur or phosphorus EP additives like gear oils do, so our diffs will see increased wear compared to a traditional diff lubed by gear oil.
That is correct. ATF is generally made without phosphorus additives where gear oil usually is. It's one of the larger differences.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Update: after 29 miles, I checked out the differential fluid. It was basically unchanged from the first time I changed it. In other words, there was metallic black sludge (though can't see the metallic particles) and the fluid was grayish in color.

Suggestions for the next step?

Thanks
 

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Did you do a drain and fill or did you do a full flush which consists of drain, fill, run, drain, fill, run until it comes back clean.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
29 miles ago, I drained the old differential, then filled it up with new fluid. I just checked and drained that fluid. Should I be concerned that it got dirty and sludgy on the drain plug after only 29 miles?
 

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Yeah, Insight meant the different fluid properties, not about using gear lube. For these Toyotas just use Dexron type ATF.

I wonder if the separate chamber Toyota designed in was originally really meant for gear lube, which are an Extreme Pressure type. I guess there were concerns about ATF and gear lube mixing so they went with ATF in both. Since these are light duty vehicles, ATF is working fine.

A separate differential fluid chamber design just sucks.

If after 29 miles the diff fluid still looks the same, then you should do additional (even multiple) drains/refills of the differential with Valvoline Maxlife to try to "flush out" the sludge and debris. You should see the fluid gradually clear out. it's better for the axle seals as well not to have the abrasive fluid.

29 miles ago, I drained the old differential, then filled it up with new fluid. I just checked and drained that fluid. Should I be concerned that it got dirty and sludgy on the drain plug after only 29 miles?
 

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Differential on the 5sfe 4-speed automatic is a separate sump from the transmission. It has its own drain/refill plugs and they come off easily with a powered ratchet or impact wrench, when using quality sockets/tools.

The differential takes a Dexron ATF fluid. Since the spec is obsolete and pathetic, just use any of the full synthetic equivalents for an upgrade. I would not even consider any generic or conventional dex/merc replacement.

The 1st drain/refill of the diff will have all the break in wear and look the worse. It should improve after a couple drain/refills. Like ANY gearbox, I recommend a 30k mile 2-4 year drain/refill regimen.

My differentials on my 5sfe Camry's were filled with ATF+4... because it was a full synthetic ATF and one of the few with gear protection from shear stable base/VM/VII and heavy boron dose. I also recommend full synthetic ATF's like Mobil1, Amsoil, Redline, RoyalPurple, any TES295 synthetic, pretty much all the full synth boutique fluids.....Valvoline Import, and any synthetic ATF+4. Unless you're an MPG hog, or in an extreme cold climate, I don't recommend using the LV ATF's that are common now.... give me the visc for gear protection.

GoldPlug and Dimple have excellent drain/refill plugs if you want a stronger magnet.

Unlike the differential where a single drain/refill gets all, with the automatic transmission pan fluid, you will need about 5 drain/refills with a 10 mile trip in between each before you can consider it a flush. Might be quicker to do an ATF cooler line exchange.
 
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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks. Just to be clear, I'm talking about the differential, which has a separate compartment from the transmission.

I didn't know that only 1/3 of the differential gets drained. That's a relief, but not that the fluid is unchanged in color and the amount of sludge is unchanged.

Should I be draining and refilling every 10 miles (which is fine if it saves the differential)?

Also, does it make a difference draining hot (as I did the second time) or engine cold?
 

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The differential FULLY drains with each drain/refill.

You have oxidized burnt ATF coating everything in the differential sump. Use a quality synthetic ATF and repeat as needed. Run the new diff ATF fluid longer(like 100 miles, then 1000 miles) and change again. Don't waste your time with 10 mile or 29 mile changes.
 
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+1 Greasey

leave it in there for a while for the detergent to do its work
 
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