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Discussion Starter #1
So, I drained and filled the transmission fluid on both my cars about 2 months ago, and then was away from home for a bit. My sister drives my black one to school every day and the silver one is my parents' daily driver. My mom texts me one day that there's a big stain in the driveway from the silver car. She took it to the mechanic the next day, who informed her that "somebody messed with the transmission bolt". I asked my mom for clarification, was it the crush washer, was the drain bolt just loose, but she had no idea what the mechanic was even talking about. My mechanic told my mom that he tightened it and that "everything was fine now".

I thought it was strange because I know I tightened the drain bolt enough. My black one isn't leaking, and I've done 3 drain/fills on that car, so at least I did that one right. I'm wondering if the crush washer is the problem? I'm the only person to have ever touched the transmission drain bolt on my black one (the previous owner had never changed the transmission fluid). My mechanic did a drain and fill on the silver one when it had 50K miles, maybe he tightened the drain bolt to the point that he damaged the crush washer? What is the part number of the crush washer?

I'm home for the weekend and it looks like it's not leaking anymore. But I'm trying the check the fluid level and can't seem to get an accurate reading. The dipstick has COOL (2 notches) and HOT (2 notches) marks, for a total of 4 notches. I take this to mean the level should be between the 2 COOL notches when the transmission is cold, and between the 2 HOT notches when the transmission is hot. I checked the level yesterday, and it was in between the 2 COOL notches. But when I checked the level hot today (after a 1 hour drive), it looked like it was still between the 2 COOL notches and not anywhere near the HOT notches. How do I read this properly? I added half a quart through the dipstick anyway.

Also... when I pulled the dipstick, there were some particles on the dipstick. Almost like small dust sized clumps of something. Couldn't really tell if they were clumps of fluid or clumps of metal. I've never seen this before. I'm worried the fluid level was low to the point that the transmission fluid got cooked or something? It didn't smell particularly bad or look black, but I'm worried I damaged it somehow though. Anyone see particles stuck to the dipstick before?

Suggestions? I drove the car 100 miles today and the car shifted just fine. Should I just change the fluid again in case it was burned and replace the crush washer while I'm at it? Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes. I'd also pull the trans pan and have a look if any debris on the bottom.
The thing is, I'm don't think the fluid really ran low enough for the transmission to overheat. I'm just concerned because of the particles I see. I added half a quart and it seems pretty much full. I've never dropped the pan before so I'm a little reluctant to do that.

Do you know the part number for the crush gasket? Everywhere I search seems to only show the one for engine oil, not transmission. Thanks!
 

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japan-parts.eu so you can look up the crush washer.

Torque on the trans and diff drain plugs is seldom given, but IIRC 36 ft-lbs.

Yes, HOT is after driving around, on level ground, and go through the gears staying in each one for 3 seconds (I do 3 seconds going back up as well), then check in Park with engine on. IME these dipsticks can read sorta wonky, so don't worry about trails going up on both edges with a dead spot in the middile. Read at the highest solid fill.
 

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also remember that aluminum strips easily when hot, so even though you're checking the levels 'hot' don't remove or replace the drain plug with the trans hot or you run the risk of having to use an oversized plug. that goes for oil pan drain plug and spark plugs too.
tony
 

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I would replace the crush washers. These things will leak a decent amount if the crush washer is reused and not tighten enough and leaks. I usually reuse them...for a few times. best to replace them if it's been awhile. Torque to spec using a torque wrench. It's far to easy to strip the pan bolt.




Read at the highest solid fill.
This is a must.

Before I got educated, I ran my transmissions low on fluid because I checked them when cold and not running. If the transmission is cold/off and you check it, it will show way over if it is properly filled. Most of my cars, it ran without complaint. Only one car would it randomly jump out of gear at freeway speeds when it tried to upshift. Issue went away after proper fluid levels.
 

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[Edit: ATF level will rise as fluid warms up]. So it’s unlikely the level is at the Cold range both when cold and after warmup. Unless it’s the smears on the dipstick throwing you off.

It’s very possible your mechanic used an impact wrench on the drain bolt? Just pick up a washer from the dealer. I reuse it by flipping it over. Lasts many changes.

I’d recommend measuring what you drain out. Try a new washer first.

If that doesn’t work pick up a new pan. strainer/gasket kit on rockauto and try it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
ATF level will drop if the engine is running. So it’s unlikely the level is at the Cold range both when cold and after warmup. Unless it’s the smears on the dipstick throwing you off.
Hmm, I think this might have been throwing me off. I thought the level was supposed to be lower when the car was running (this is what I was told/taught), BUT, on the dipstick, the HOT notches are above the COOL notches, suggesting that the level was supposed to be higher when hot? Didn't make sense to me.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks to everyone who responded. I checked the fluid level properly before I left home yesterday and it seems fine. I wiped away the particles that I saw on the dipstick and they didn't reappear after a ~5 mile drive yesterday. I won't be home again for another 2 months or so. Any ideas what the particles I saw on the dipstick were, and do you think the particles are cause enough for concern that I can wait to change the fluid or should I have my mom take the car to the mechanic for a drain/fill while I'm away?
 

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Hmm, I think this might have been throwing me off. I thought the level was supposed to be lower when the car was running (this is what I was told/taught), BUT, on the dipstick, the HOT notches are above the COOL notches, suggesting that the level was supposed to be higher when hot? Didn't make sense to me.
It's probably because of thermal expansion. The (mostly) aluminum trans will expand too, making the internal volume larger, but fluids expand a lot more than metals when heated.


Edit: Found this chart which says oil volume expands by 0.00039 per °F. So if the oil goes from 72°F to 200°F, that's a 128°f rise. So the fluid expands by 128 x 0.00039 = 0.050. That means 10 quarts of fluid at 72°F becomes 10 x 1.050 = 10.50 quarts at 200°F.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
It's probably because of thermal expansion. The (mostly) aluminum trans will expand too, making the internal volume larger, but fluids expand a lot more than metals when heated.
That's what I figured, since all fluids expand, but based on the above posts, I'm assuming that if the fluid reads in between the COOL mark when cool but lower than the HOT mark when hot (inconsistent readings), then when in doubt I should always go by the HOT reading and fill it more? As a result, the fluid will read over-filled when cold?

These dipsticks are really hard to read... I always just assumed that if I was somewhere in the ballpark between hot and cold then I would be fine.
 

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You’re right about expansion. I should have said therefore both warm and cold fluids shouldn’t BOTH be in the cold range. LOL. (Corrected prior post)


Hmm, I think this might have been throwing me off. I thought the level was supposed to be lower when the car was running (this is what I was told/taught), BUT, on the dipstick, the HOT notches are above the COOL notches, suggesting that the level was supposed to be higher when hot? Didn't make sense to me.
 

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Yeah, I use the 0.0004 expansion coefficient for cold filling newer transmissions without dipsticks.
I don’t bother with the wait until the temp rises stuff. In very cold climates it would matter a little.

https://www.toyotanation.com/forum/103-camry-3rd-4th-gen-1992-1996-1997-2001-1st-gen-solara-1999-2003/1534434-1995-le-v6-camry-finding-right-spark-plug-wire-set-other-misc-work-3.html#post12937906




Edit: Found this chart which says oil volume expands by 0.00039 per °F. So if the oil goes from 72°F to 200°F, that's a 128°f rise. So the fluid expands by 128 x 0.00039 = 0.050. That means 10 quarts of fluid at 72°F becomes 10 x 1.050 = 10.50 quarts at 200°F.
 

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Just changed to trans fluid in my Solara (I used the ATF cooler lines to radiator to drain old fluid), and getting the level correct is a PITA.
Fresh start, Cold, idling in PARK, dipstick says it's overfilled.
Let it idle until HOT, or until cooling fans come on....for as long as you like, dipstick says it's overfilled.
Only after you drive it long enough to get thoroughly warm, then check ATF level while ON a level surface will you see a correct reading.


But, then again it's not as much a PITA as doing same thing w/o a dipstick on the newer transmissions.
There, effectively, you need a lift, or a good jack + 4 identical jackstands, to CHECK the ATF level.
 

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This is why they created torque specifications. If you ignore them you do so at your own peril as you've abundantly illustrated here.
 
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