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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi y'all, my girlfriend was recently gifted a 04 highlander and it's well passed due a good once over. So far I put in new rotors, pads, and rebuilt the parking brake. It's at about 180,000 miles.

Recently she had a power steering line blow out on her while she was driving. Got it home and it was swiss cheese down there. Got new lines but I'm stuck at which power steering fluid to go with. I know it uses atf+3. I have a bottle of Castrol transmax import multi vehicle that states it can be used in place of dexron 3h. I've looked it up and some people have said to not use the Castrol. Mobil 1 synthetic atf and valvoline maxlife were my next choices but out of the 3, which would you choose? On the topic of the transmission fluid, it looks like crap. Should I use Toyota branded atf or Aisin? I want to gradually replace the fluid, not a fan of a complete flush.

I'm a fan of wix filters, is their another preferred brand for Toyotas?

The VSC and check engine light had came on, after some time it came off. I used a fuel treatment and I read that it can cause that. Is that true or should I still be worried?

Bought new belts for it but I don't have the tool to measure the tension on it. How would you gauge if its tight enough or not?

Which is preferred over the other denso iridium or NGK iridium spark plugs?

Does the brand of antifreeze matter?

I apologize if these question have been asked already. I've looked it up and I'm uncertain about things and I just want a direct answer. I don't want to waste money on anything I don't need. Also I apologize for the lengthy post.
 

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Highlander(s)
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First off ATF +3 is a MOPAR only designation. Whether MOPAR fluid will work successfully is open for discussion. Valvoline makes a good Import Multi Vehicle synthetic fluid I have used with no issues in my 1st gen Highlander and in the 99 Camry I had along with the 2007 Highlander I sold last year. I don't know if that fluid is accesptable for the more modern 5 spd trans in the newer HL though.
If timing belt and water pump have not been done this should be done perhaps along with all the seals on the front of the engine.

I believe the engine calls for Iridium Plugs. Iridium is not a brand but a type of plug. IIRC Denso brand is OEM but I am sure NGK is also very good
Coolant simply use Toyota Pink again here too there are some aftermarket brands of this available and they work fine as well
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Sorry, I meant dexron 3. Is the transmax multi vehicle import fluid comparable to valvoline's? Also I know iridium is a type of plug, I was asking which of the two brands is generally preferred. As far as the transmission, should I use Toyota brand fluid or aftermarket?
 

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Highlander(s)
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I have never heard of Transmax. Like I indicated look in the owner manual and the trans spec will be in there. I believe Valvoline Multi Vehicle Import full synthetic in the blue jug is fully compatible. Dexron 3 is an obsolete spec and is technically no longer made. Whatever you do DO NOT use a Dexron 6 or Dexron 6 compatible. It will likely destroy the trans in short order. I recommend the Valvoline product as I have used it successfully in every Asian brand car/SUV I have ever owned with great success and even where true Dexron 3 is called for in the Saturn "S" series automatic as it is fully compatible with Dexron 3 specs.

As for the plugs use whichever you find easier to find. Both should work equally well as both are OEM suppliers for Toyota.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
At 180,000 miles of never having been serviced, would you guys reccomend not changing trans fluid? Gonna grab max life or Mobil 1 for power steering.
 

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power steering calls for regular mercron/ dexron fluid, not asian fluid.
As for the transmission, I would recommend dropping the pan and changing the filter. That will only drain an extra quart or two from the trans but I wouldnt be concerned about flushing the whole thing anyway. That concern is for transmissions that have had all of the friction material worn off the clutches and won't function without the friction material that is floating around in the fluid. I use the toyota brand trans fluid in mine as it doesn't cost much more and you only need 6 quarts or so, not gallons like the older transmissions, but any of the fluids mentioned should be fine and are definitely better than whats in there right now.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for all of the replies guys. Went with valvoline for power steering and it's much smoother than before. Any comment on how to judge how tight the belts should be on the 3.3?
 

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Take it or leave it, but find the mid-point of the belt (between the two pulleys) and it shouldn't move (deflect) more than 1/2", IMHO.
https://www.howacarworks.com/electrical-systems/checking-adjusting-and-refitting-drive-belts

After you've adjusted it but BEfore you tighten the bolts start it up and see if whines...go a bit tighter....and then ensure you secure all the bolts, etc.

Coolant: needs to be the correct 'color' for your engine. EDIT: see below - PINK.
Per OM:
“Toyota Super Long Life
Coolant” or similar high quality ethylene glycol based non−silicate, non−amine, non−nitrite, and non−borate coolant with long−life hybrid
organic acid technology to fill the radiator."
Definitely use the DENSO or NGK iridiums. Amazon usually has good $.


Owner's manual: https://www.toyota.com/owners/resources/owners-manuals/highlander/2004

Warranty / Maintenance guide: https://www.toyota.com/t3Portal/document/omms-s/MSTOYALL04_MS0010/pdf/04u2smt.pdf
 

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Never use orange coolant. That is DexCool made only for GM cars. Either the Toyota red but it was superseded by pink which is backward compatible. Just had my 01 flushed at the dealer and is now pink. No advantage in using red any more
 

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Don't know whether it's true or not, and the chemical compositions of the red vs pink coolant, but I read that the red coolant is forward compatible (you can use the red coolant in a newer car) but that the pink coolant is not backwards compatible. I think the older cars had heater cores made of a different metal than the newer ones and the newer pink coolant is not good at protecting the old heater cores from rusting.
 

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Nope, even if you go to the dealer they don't even carry red anymore. The pink superseded the red and the red is NOT forward compatible
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you for all the previous replies. Finally getting around to the transmission after getting my car fixed. For the trans fluid Toyota atf ws is the recommended fluid, right? For the filter do you guys recommend going oem also? Any brands to stay away from? Would the vin etching tell you if it's a 4 or 5 speed? Car hasn't been on the highway only local roads.
 

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I don't think WS is the proper fluid. I believe it is Toyota Type IV which is the same as TRUE Dexron III NOT to be confused with Dexron VI which is NOT backward compatible in many applications being more similar to Type WS. Aftermarket the best stuff going for a good price is Valvoline Multi Vehicle Import in the blue container. It matches Toyota IV, Nissan D-Matic and the Honda spec very well as all 3 used to use the Dexron III specs.

But, check your owner's manual to be sure.
 

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I think the oem trans filter is supposed to be a mesh screen that you can just clean and re install. When I bought my 04 3.3l awd, it had already been serviced and had a regular trans filter like I've always seen. Don't know if the screen was thrown away, or if it always had a filter. I just get the top quality one that advance auto sells and use toyota type iv fluid and all is well with 261,000 miles. Just remember when you drop the filter, more fluid drains out and your trans will take a quart or two more than what is listed in the owners manual which is probably only thinking you are pulling the drain plug.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I don't think WS is the proper fluid. I believe it is Toyota Type IV which is the same as TRUE Dexron III NOT to be confused with Dexron VI which is NOT backward compatible in many applications being more similar to Type WS. Aftermarket the best stuff going for a good price is Valvoline Multi Vehicle Import in the blue container. It matches Toyota IV, Nissan D-Matic and the Honda spec very well as all 3 used to use the Dexron III specs.

But, check your owner's manual to be sure.
Somehow I completely missed the part in the owners manual regarding transmission fluid. You're correct, sorry about that. I'll either go with the Toyota type IV or the valvoline depending on price.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I think the oem trans filter is supposed to be a mesh screen that you can just clean and re install. When I bought my 04 3.3l awd, it had already been serviced and had a regular trans filter like I've always seen. Don't know if the screen was thrown away, or if it always had a filter. I just get the top quality one that advance auto sells and use toyota type iv fluid and all is well with 261,000 miles. Just remember when you drop the filter, more fluid drains out and your trans will take a quart or two more than what is listed in the owners manual which is probably only thinking you are pulling the drain plug.
I know that it has never been serviced after translating the previous owner's records. I rather just go brand new. I found them on https://www.rockauto.com/en/catalog/toyota,2004,highlander,3.3l+v6,1428982,transmission-automatic,filter,8600 for cheap. I'm just confused about if the location of the inlet matters. There's two types of filters. Also the kits come with a new gasket and seal for the filter.
 

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2003 V6 AWD 333k miles, original owner.
My research on the subject indicates early HL transmissions came with a stainless steel mesh screen. The screen is cleanable and reusable. However the Toyota factory began using paper filters in later models. The date of the switch over is unclear.
If your unit has a mesh screen you can clean it and keep using it. Or not, it's up to you. If paper replace. Thing is, the filter body looks very-very similar so you need to actually peer inside through the ports to determine the actual media.
I also discovered, if serviced prior at a Toyota dealer they most likely just cleaned and reinstalled the screen. If serviced elsewhere it was probably replaced with paper.
Hope this is clear. Good luck, Haha. :smile:
 

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I should have mentioned earlier that I bought my 04 used in 08 with 76000 miles, hence it having been serviced. My Haynes manual said to just flush the stainless mesh screen with clean atf, so I did, until I realized it was a felt filter inside...
 
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