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Resident Nutcase
'08 Highlander Limtd
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Ok for starters, you technically don't ever have to service the transmission if you never tow. It supposedly uses lifetime fluid (which I call :bullshit2 on....anyway). If you tow the service manual says to change it every 60k miles, well I change mine every 45k miles. Because of that, the fluid is still in fairly good condiiton (as you'll see). Speaking of fluid, there is only one kind this transmission takes, the good ole OEM ATF WS. There are no aftermarket equivalents or different types of fluids that will work, you have to use the OEM stuff unfrotunatly. They also strongly suggest you do not use additives in the transmission as well. The manual says a drain / fill takes 3.7qts, well mine drained a tad over 4qts. I put in all 4 qts I had and am still a touch low, so I'm goign to get more fluid monday and get it right. The dealer wanted over $100 to do this, well I paid $42.63 in supplies and did it myself. So do yourself a favor and save a few bucks :lol:

UPDATE: since this was posted, there have been a few aftermarket companies releasing products claiming equivalency to Toyota WS. Use at your own risk, the FSM still specifically states that anything other than proper WS can lead to issues and the price difference isn't that much so....

Tools / Parts Needed:
-Drain Bolt Crush Gasket - P/N 90430-18008 (~$3)
-4-5 qt's of Toyota ATF WS Transmission Fluid - P/N 00289-ATFWS (~$9 for 1 qt)
-Long narrow funnel
-oil pan to catch the fluid
-socket wrench
-10mm Hex socket driver
-torque wrench
-optional- 10mm socket and small flathead screwdriver

Time Needed: 15-20 min (if you leave lower skid plate on) OR 20-30 min (if you take lower skid plate off)
This is the fluid you want...nothing else will work:




1) Get the transmission warm, drive around some. You want the fluid and tranny warm to make it easier for the drain bolt to come out and fluid to flow. Then Park on level/flat ground

Optional Part There is a skid plate/cover that covers the bottom portion of the engine and transmission. Toyota left an opening where the drain plug is, but its barely bigger than the bolt it self.

I checked it is possible to get the bolt out of that opening, but you are more than likely going to get fluid all on the top of that panel. Combine that with wind from driving...well I didn't want fluid splashing around all over the place. So I dropped the panel. Its your choice to do it or not, but here is how. Also my car is missing a lot of the fasteners for this cover (along with the oil filter cover and front jack point cover) so I'll show where the fasteners should be.

O-1) There are 4 10mm bolts up front that have to come out. 2 of of them are at the edges and 2 of them are in the middle (that also hold the front floor jack point cover on). They are in yellow below. The circles in red are push pins. Remove those by using a small flat-head screwdriver, putting it between the "head" and base of the pin and twisting. It will pop it free. To re-install it, just put the pin in the opening and push the "head" back in place. it will lock it there.
Passenger Side:

Middle:

Driver Side:

Also notice this panel we are dropping goes ABOVE the one that comes down from the bumper. So remember that when you install it, it isn't the very bottom piece, it has to slide in above the other.

O-2) There are 5 total fasteners on the back (2 screws with 10mm heads and 3 push pins.
On each back edge there are a single screw and push pin (it works like the pins up front), and at the very back in the middle there is a single push pin (red circle).
Side:

Middle:

Once those are out it is completly free and will drop from the car. The picture below is the cover. I marked on it where the bolts are while you can see the whole cover, to give you a better idea.
again yellow = 10mm bolt ----blue = 10mm screw-----red = push pin


2) And Now you have access to the whole transmission


Put your drain pan under the transmission drain bolt, and use a 10mm Hex tool (I used a socket driver that fit my socket wrench) to break the bolt loose. Once its loose you can turn it by just twisting the socket driver by hand, no socket wrench is needed. It will start pouring out before the bolt is out. And if you drove around a lot before its likely to be VERY hot.


It will take 3-4 min to fully drain, while that is happening, you need to switch the crush gasgets out. The old will look slightly deformed:

Just remove it and put the new one on:


3) Now put the drain bolt back in place. If you have a torque wrench, get it to 36 ft*lbs. If you don't get it snug but don't kill it. You want to be able to get it out again, and the last thing you want to do is strip the pan.

The fluid that came out was slightly darker that the new stuff, but it was still in good condition. Again this was at a 45k mile interval, so it should be fine.


O-3) Your done working on the bottom of the transmission, re-install the lower cover, remember it goes ABOVE the slanted panel from the bumper up front.

4) Refill the transmission. Find the dipstick (its to the left of the air intake tubes, near the front right corner of the engine. Toyota doesn't want people to change their own transmission fluid, so there are no markings anywhere to indicate dipstick location in the manual or on the stick itself. Honestly at least there is a dipstick, when they first changed to using the ATF WS fluid, they stopped installing dipsticks on new cars, using a fill plug instead to keep people from changing their own fluid...glad to see they got their head out of their asses :lol:

Now your going to need a long narrow funnel

And fill her up through the dip stick tube. As mentioned above it took a little over 4 qts to fill my transmission. The service manual says 3.7. So if you can, measure how much came out of the transmission and fill that much (or a little less). Remember its just as bad as under filling to overfill a transmission, so put in a little less than you think you need. I put in 3.5 qts at first (I knew I drained 4+). At this point start the engine, and let it idle some. Then slowly shift through all the gears (I even drove around a little bit). The point is to let the fluid in the tube drain into the transmission and heat the new fluid up. Now you need to check the level, do it like you do engine oil. While the car is running pull the dipstick, wipe it clean, reinsert all the way back in, and then pull it back out again. There are 2 sets of notches on it. One for cold and one for hot. It needs to be in the hot zone (top set). If your below, fill it a little bit at a time, giving the fluid time to drain from the tube into the transmission each time you put more in (3-5 min). If you try to check to soon, the fluid in the tube can give you a false reading.

Once you get the level right, your done (besides disposing/recycling the old fluid). Go on a test drive and make sure it shifts through all the gears normally. Next time I change the fluid (in 45k) I'm going to drop the pan and change the filter. I'll show how to do that when the time rolls around.



Disclaimer: Do at your own risk. I will not be held responsible for any damage to vehicle or bodily harm when performing these modifications, or any voidage of certain parts of your warranty.
 

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05 Tacoma 4x4 DC LB
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Sorry Patrick, I'm full of comments. You've got a ton of experience/knowledge on the HL and there are so many things different in the designs between the HL and the Tacoma, I'm glad you're here!

I like the fact that there's a dipstick and that you can check the fluid that way. The Tacoma has a fill plug (like you mentioned) and you have to jump wires on a plug to get lights in the instrument cluster to flash just to know if it's at the correct level! Yes folks, appreciate how easy the HL is in this regard. Wish the Taco had a dipstick! On the Tacoma, the drain/fill replaces very little of the actual fluid and I'm guessing it's the same on the HL? IF (big if here) that's the case and they actually recommend a flush over a drain/fill (opinions seem to be split on that), guys have done the flush on the Taco by using the line to the tranny cooler. They disconnect the line and let the old fluid go into an empty container while sucking the new fluid in with a line going into the new bottle of fluid. There are some write ups in our DIY Sticky on it if you're interested.
 

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Resident Nutcase
'08 Highlander Limtd
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12,155 Posts
Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Sorry Patrick, I'm full of comments. You've got a ton of experience/knowledge on the HL and there are so many things different in the designs between the HL and the Tacoma, I'm glad you're here!

I like the fact that there's a dipstick and that you can check the fluid that way. The Tacoma has a fill plug (like you mentioned) and you have to jump wires on a plug to get lights in the instrument cluster to flash just to know if it's at the correct level! Yes folks, appreciate how easy the HL is in this regard. Wish the Taco had a dipstick! On the Tacoma, the drain/fill replaces very little of the actual fluid and I'm guessing it's the same on the HL? IF (big if here) that's the case and they actually recommend a flush over a drain/fill (opinions seem to be split on that), guys have done the flush on the Taco by using the line to the tranny cooler. They disconnect the line and let the old fluid go into an empty container while sucking the new fluid in with a line going into the new bottle of fluid. There are some write ups in our DIY Sticky on it if you're interested.
:thanks: again :lol:

Does the tacoma use ATF WS (I know some Toyota's use that type IV stuff)? Is the fill plug on like the side of the transmission? That's gotta be a PITA to get to. Strange that you have to jump the wires, I would have thought it would have been like a diff/transfer case in that you fill it till it leaks out the fill plug.

Your right the drain/flush only changes so much. IIRC the total capacity of the transmission is 9.5 qts bone dry. The drain / flush was only ~4 of that (I imagine the torque converter is full of fluid still). Next time I'm goign to drop the pan and replace the filter so that should get a few more qts of that total capacity. I've seen people flush the transmission that way before, but I don't trust flushes. I've heard too many stories where flushes can break loose a lot of contaminants (or something along those lines) and cause the transmission to fail. Honestly if you change the transmission fluid frequently enough, I personally don't think a flush will ever be necessary. This fluid is suppose to be a lifetime fluid for non towing HL's (again I call BS on that) anyway. even towing ones are only recommended to drain/fill every 60k, I just don't think its worth it to fully flush the sytem.


edit: I found that DIY you were talking about... Oh how I wish there was that much room to work on the Highlander :lol: I also saw on there tacoma's do use ATF WS and there are aftermarket equivalents...Is that confirmed? I looked a long time and never found any concrete evidence there were equivalent fluids out there (guesses of compatibility yes, but never a company saying its compatible (Toyota specifically)).
 

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05 Tacoma 4x4 DC LB
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Yeah, it's WS fluid. And yes, fill hole is on the side of the tranny underneath. Remember though that the Tacoma sits a ways off the ground so no need to jack it up for things like differentials and TC fluid changes. I'm of the opposite opinion on the flush vs drain/fill on the tranny. I believe it should be flushed on time every time.
 

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Resident Nutcase
'08 Highlander Limtd
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12,155 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Remember though that the Tacoma sits a ways off the ground so no need to jack it up for things like differentials and TC fluid changes.
You know I'm jealous of that extra ground clearance the taco has :lol:. Its a tight fit under the HL to get those back fasteners on that skidplate. Next time I'll probably jack it up....that or lose weight to fit better :lol:
 

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Solara & Highlander
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I just changed the tranny oil in my jeep and what I did to get all the fluid out of the torque converter was pump a bit of it out at a time. You just have to disconnect the supply hose to the radiator, shift the transmission in neutral to engage the pump, and pump out 2 to 3 quarts at a time in a marked milk jug. Then top it off. Repeat until you cycle 9 or however many quarts you choose. The HL pump may engaged differently compared to the Jeep, you will just have to mess with it. It's also better to have a helper as one person can watch the fluid pump out and direct the other person to turn the HL on and off.

Also that's nice Toyota puts a drain plug in the pan. Jeep doesn't do that so it forces people to remove the pan to replace the filter. I had to put a drain plug in it so I don't have to take oil baths anymore!
 

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Toyota fluid is NOT the only fluid you can use.

http://www.amsoil.com/storefront/atl.aspx

Also when the dealer does it, they also drain the torque converter, and other areas of the tranny that you cant drain by doing what you did. There are probably another 5.5 - 6 quarts in the system. Just sayin!

Typically the problems you hear about with auto trannies are when people neglect them. Typically what ruins an auto tranny is the owner has a small leak, doesnt get it fixed, and then the cluthes and bands get so wasted they trash the inside of the tranny. When an inexperienced shop decides to try and flush the system to fix trashed parts, it just compounds the issue, resulting in a trashed tranny.

I need to change mine, as Im running up on 90k, and its never been done, but the fluid is still bright pink, and doesnt smell burned. I assume this is due to my all highway driving. I guess Ill drop the pan, and change the filter, but sometimes this worries me as the tranny doesnt leak now. It shouldnt leak afterwards either but you just never know.

Reading the Toyota recommendations on how to adjust fluid levels, its rather convoluted and requires jumping 2 pins on the OBD connector, watching flashing lights, etc. Im in the school of thought that if you take out 5 quarts, well you put 5 back in. Pretty simple!
 

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Resident Nutcase
'08 Highlander Limtd
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12,155 Posts
Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Toyota fluid is NOT the only fluid you can use.

http://www.amsoil.com/storefront/atl.aspx

Also when the dealer does it, they also drain the torque converter, and other areas of the tranny that you cant drain by doing what you did. There are probably another 5.5 - 6 quarts in the system. Just sayin!

Typically the problems you hear about with auto trannies are when people neglect them. Typically what ruins an auto tranny is the owner has a small leak, doesnt get it fixed, and then the cluthes and bands get so wasted they trash the inside of the tranny. When an inexperienced shop decides to try and flush the system to fix trashed parts, it just compounds the issue, resulting in a trashed tranny.

I need to change mine, as Im running up on 90k, and its never been done, but the fluid is still bright pink, and doesnt smell burned. I assume this is due to my all highway driving. I guess Ill drop the pan, and change the filter, but sometimes this worries me as the tranny doesnt leak now. It shouldnt leak afterwards either but you just never know.

Reading the Toyota recommendations on how to adjust fluid levels, its rather convoluted and requires jumping 2 pins on the OBD connector, watching flashing lights, etc. Im in the school of thought that if you take out 5 quarts, well you put 5 back in. Pretty simple!
There is another 5 quarts (its 9.5 quarts total)...not sure how you would drain the torque converter without doing a flush to get (or tearing into the transmission more). You sure you aren't talking about a fluid flush? For just a drain/fill this is all Toyota docs specifies. A drain/fill is only meant to get 40-50% of all the fluid for a transmission, kinda like a engine oil drain/fill only gets 80-90% of the oil. Neither get all of it.

As for the fluid, I had heard of aftermarket saying they were equivalent to OEM fluids...but until I hear something from Toyota confirming this, I won't touch that stuff with a 10 foot pole. :lol: Oils, brake fluid, etc... have specifications/ratings, Toyota recommends a rating, and you pick a fluid based off that. For trans, toyota only says their ATF WS will work. I'm going to take toyota's word for it. It would be like Toyota saying to only use their brake fluid, instead of DOT 3. They were specific for a reason. Plus its cheaper than that aftermarket stuff per qt anyway.

Mine wasn't bright pink, it was a good deal darker than the new stuff even after only 45k :lol: Towing I guess makes a big difference.

If you replace the gaskets it shouldn't leak if you drop the pan, but I'm like you I measure what came out, and put that back in. Easiest way to get the level right.
 

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Catanzaro
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Change your fluid. No matter what the dealer tells you. $50 every few years saves you a lot of $$$$ in the long run of repairs. Also a great selling point if you ever sell the truck. I would even recommend changing the fluid (drain/fill) no additives every 25K-30K miles. For most people that is every 2 years. Checking the color of the fluid also helps. If still very clean then a differnet story. I always recommend taking some out on the dipsitick and comparing to new fluid. Fluid changes are important. Lifetime is a bunch of you know what.
 

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Why would you not use that fluid? It meets the same specs as the Toyota WS. Ive been using Amsoil fluids since 1990, and have never had a single failure of anything.
 

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I agree with Sweeneyp, I would much rather use OEM than amsoil. If I were to use any other Synthetic oil it would be Mobil one. Amsoil spends way too much time telling and trying to convince everybody that it is better, Mobil One doesn't have to. That alone keeps me away from Amsoil. It may be good but I hate having it spammed down my throat everywhere I go. Plus I can pick up Mobil one anywhere I am, try that with Amsoil.
 

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Resident Nutcase
'08 Highlander Limtd
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12,155 Posts
Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Why would you not use that fluid?
-More expensive
-Not guaranteed to work (Amsoil's word only, Toyota still says only ATF WS will work)
-Gonna follow the manufacturer's recommendation, I imagine they know a good deal more about the transmission (in terms of specs, requirements of fluid, data on using different types of fluid, etc..) than Amsoil.
 

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-More expensive
-Not guaranteed to work (Amsoil's word only, Toyota still says only ATF WS will work)
-Gonna follow the manufacturer's recommendation, I imagine they know a good deal more about the transmission (in terms of specs, requirements of fluid, data on using different types of fluid, etc..) than Amsoil.
Will work, WS (World Standard) is NOT specific to Toyota, its just a spec, this is ATF WS!
If so then you wouldnt have changed the oil, Toyota recommends you NOT change the transmission fluid, EVER!

Clearly you dont like Amsoil, but they are a reputable company that has been around for a long time, and thats fine. I have used their products for many many years, and they have been fine for me.

Most likely Amsoil hasnt updated their entire site yet to show the new stuff, OR they are making sure that it is compatible. I guess with them its better to verify the application then just say yes, and have something happen.

I dont know where you all see that Amsoil is shoving advertising down your throat, I actually see more Mobil1 commercials than Amsoil. Im not trying to sell you anything, just saying there is an alternative that will work.

Also not that you care, but we run their products in our 7 second Mustang Cobra (roncoxracing.com), and the motor trans, and rear end look perfect. Your not gonna replicate those conditions in a Highlander. Plus we have a very good friend in the transmission business (www.atfspeed), that knows a thing or two about trannies. i have asked him, and they say the other oils that are WS are also fine for use (Amsoil, Mobil1, or whatever your flavor).
 

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Resident Nutcase
'08 Highlander Limtd
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Discussion Starter #18
Will work, WS (World Standard) is NOT specific to Toyota, its just a spec, this is ATF WS!
I know ATF WS is short hand for world standard, but the manual still said their product specifically.

For the other fluids, it says genuine Toyota fluid OR equivalent...or it just lists a specification.

If so then you wouldnt have changed the oil, Toyota recommends you NOT change the transmission fluid, EVER!
:eek: what? Toyota actually recommends you change the fluid every 60k if you tow....

Clearly you dont like Amsoil, but they are a reputable company that has been around for a long time, and thats fine. I have used their products for many many years, and they have been fine for me.
I have nothing against Amsoil, I've never used their products.


I understand you have experience/trust Amsoil, but I won't risk a several thousand dollar transmission to aftermarket fluid companies claims and the car manual's loose wording. If it said equivalent fluid, I would be more than open to other stuff, unfortunately it doesn't, so I'm not.
If an independent source came out with data/testing showing the fluids were identical, then I would be more open to it.
 

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05 Tacoma 4x4 DC LB
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^ And, doing it the way it was done in this writeup (drain/fill), you'd be mixing two fluid brands. Not something I would do either. So stick with OEM fluid on a drain/fill. If someone wants to switch to Amsoil, do it on a complete flush.
 

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I don't care for the "warning" in the owners manual. When Toyota builds an engine without bursting rubber oil lines, a vehicle without clunking steering, and supports owners with these issues(and others like sludge) outside of warranty, I might reconsider... For now, I won't worship the owners manual or its negligent recommendations. Read it, consider its foolish recommendations, toss it in the attic, and do whatever you want with your vehicle depending on YOUR expectations, budget, etc... Its a waste of space in the glove box.

Any fluid that mentions WS is good enough for me. Just can't find a transmission failure directly related to non-OE fluids, that meet the spec'. Aftermarket has it covered well!

Mobil1 doesn't have a WS fluid at the local autopart store. Both Mobil1 Synthetic ATF and Mobil MultiVehicle ATF meet JASO 1a and have excellent cold flow pumpability. I'd definitely consider it as a top-off in a desert middle of nowhere emergency, but not as a flush since WS isn't mentioned.

I've never seen mixing ATF or oil brands an issue either.
I've done drain/refills with Amsoil, Redline, Valvoline, Amalie and they're all mixed in with the factory fill WS. I guess that I've been trying to fluid damage this transmission to no avail. 80k miles and shifts perfectly with the soup of ATF.

Concerning Amsoil for 2012 or newer, sometimes it takes a little time for their R&D department to make the recommendation. And, I'd go with Amsoil before Mobil1 any day.
 
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