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Hi everyone.
I just got a 1998 red 2 door Rav4 with 2 wheel drive and automatic transmission.
I read through the manual and searched the internet high and low, but for the life of me I cannot find the proper procedure on checking the automatic transmission fluid level.

Some vehicles you can check level when cold and not running.
Some you have to warm them up and check while the engine is running.
Some you have to check in "Park" only while running.
Some you have to check in "Neutral" only while running.
Some you have to first go through all the gears and then check...and so on.

Some might say what's the big deal, but from my own personal experience i know, that doing the incorrect procedure can result in the dipstick showing much more fluid than there actually is, or much less.
Can anyone help out?
Thank you for any replies.
 

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I check mine for slightly above cold level after driving the car about 5 miles at normal operation temperature. I do this after selecting all of the gear options and check fluid in park position.
 

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OMG

but for the life of me I cannot find the proper procedure on checking the automatic transmission fluid level.
That may be because it's assumed to be "common knowledge", thus harder for newbies to learn unless they have mentors. All such: Get your noses out of cellphones, buy a great mechanics tool set, and go find someone to learn from.

Engine warm and running, parked on a flat surface outside, in either Park or Neutral (latter with the parking brake engaged). Fluid level then in the shown range (usually hatched) on the dipstick -- I keep it toward the top end.

Also look at, smell, and feel the fluid. Should be cherry red for most Dexron-type fluids; brownish means time to change, black means way past time and transmission damage is occuring. Odor must not be burned, and no grit in the fluid when rubbed between your fingers.

Make sure the added or replaced ATF is of the correct type for that transmission. When replacing the fluid, always change the filter and the pan gasket.
 

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That may be because it's assumed to be "common knowledge", thus harder for newbies to learn unless they have mentors. All such: Get your noses out of cellphones, buy a great mechanics tool set, and go find someone to learn from.

Engine warm and running, parked on a flat surface outside, in either Park or Neutral (latter with the parking brake engaged). Fluid level then in the shown range (usually hatched) on the dipstick -- I keep it toward the top end.

Also look at, smell, and feel the fluid. Should be cherry red for most Dexron-type fluids; brownish means time to change, black means way past time and transmission damage is occuring. Odor must not be burned, and no grit in the fluid when rubbed between your fingers.

Make sure the added or replaced ATF is of the correct type for that transmission. When replacing the fluid, always change the filter and the pan gasket.

Thank you for the reply, however I disagree with this procedure being a "common knowledge", as the transmission fluid level checking procedures vary across manufacturers (and even across different models by the same manufacturer) and do so for a reason.
Common knowledge would be something like checking your engine oil dipstick when engine is cold, as this kind of procedure is truly the same all across the board.
That being said, yes the procedure that you outline above is the most common procedure, but I didn't want to make any assumptions since I know from past experiences that even checking the level in "neutral" vs "park" can make a difference on the dip stick depending on the model.

Just out of curiosity (and please don't take this the wrong way)
The procedure you had described above...is that an actual procedure by Toyota specific to the 1998 Rav4 model, or is that only your assumption, which you are basing on the "common knowledge" phenomena?
 

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No difference between Neutral and Park except that a latch is engaged on the output shaft when in Park. Pretty much all geared hydraulic automatic transmissions are based on GM's hydramatic concepts, with the aluminum Powerglide being cited as the most influential (and still in use in racing cars):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydramatic
 

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Again...generally speaking you are correct, but there are exceptions to this.
For example in my 4.0 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 42RE transmission, the procedure specifically calls for checking the fluid level in "neutral" only after going through all the gears, because torque convertor fills differently in "park" and "neutral" positions.
Then you of course have the 54RFE (for v8 models) in which this does not matter, as the torque convertor fills the same in both positions, so the level can be checked in either mode.

Either way thank you for your reply, as it is most likely the correct one.
 

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1999 Toyota RAV4 with 3MZ-FE 6 cylinder engine, camo wrap, OME lift, heavily modded
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This is the proper procedure according to my maintenance manual:

- The transaxle fluid level should only be checked when hot (at its normal operating temperature). If the vehicle has just been driven over 10 miles (15 miles in a frigid climate), and the fluid temperature is 160 to 175-degrees F, the transaxle is hot. Caution: If the vehicle has just been driven for a long time at high speed or in city traffic in hot weather, or if it has been pulling a trailer, an accurate fluid level reading cannot be obtained. Allow the fluid to cool down for about 30 minutes.

- Park the vehicle on level ground, set the parking brake and start the engine. While the engine is idling, depress the brake pedal and slowly move the selector lever through all the gears, beginning and ending in Park.

- With the engine still idling, check the level of the fluid on the dipstick.

Lugnut is right about looking at the fluid for color, smell, and feel. If it smells burnt, feels gritty is brown or black change immediately.

BTW, from my experience, DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO BACKFLUSH YOUR TRANNY unless the filter screen and pan has been cleaned first. I don't care what a mechanic says about it being safe, BS!!!! This cost me a transmission when a mechanic lied to me and said he pulled the pan and cleaned the screen on an older car that I had, when I checked later it was obvious that the seal hadn't been broken on the pan. If you backflush without cleaning the pan and screen you are pulling all the grime and grit back into the tranny, TERRIBLE IDEA!!!! The best way to change tranny fluid is to drain from the drain plug, pull the pan, and clean the screen and pan. Note if there is any debris in the screen or bottom or pan, a little is okay that's normal wear, a lot is letting you know that you probably have a problem. Replace the pan, refill, and now if you want a really good flush, now it is safe to reverse flush the tranny, this will get the most fluid out. I would only do this if there was a problem like brown or black fluid, gritty, and/or burnt smelling fluid.
 

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1999 Toyota RAV4 with 3MZ-FE 6 cylinder engine, camo wrap, OME lift, heavily modded
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I failed to mention that regardless of recommended automatic or manual transmission fluid changes it should be completed at 50,000 miles along with the rear differential (if 4x4). All oils breakdown over time, they can also become acidic causing damage. Your transmission will last longer, shift better, and save you a lot of money and aggravation in the long run if you take care of it BEFORE it gets bad.

While I'm on the subject of fluid changes brake fluid should be replaced at no more than every three years. The engine coolant change interval depends on the type fluid used and how it tests, including tests for acidity. Again these fluids break down and become acidic over time and cause damage, this is well documented.
 
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This is the proper procedure according to my maintenance manual:

- The transaxle fluid level should only be checked when hot (at its normal operating temperature). If the vehicle has just been driven over 10 miles (15 miles in a frigid climate), and the fluid temperature is 160 to 175-degrees F, the transaxle is hot. Caution: If the vehicle has just been driven for a long time at high speed or in city traffic in hot weather, or if it has been pulling a trailer, an accurate fluid level reading cannot be obtained. Allow the fluid to cool down for about 30 minutes.

- Park the vehicle on level ground, set the parking brake and start the engine. While the engine is idling, depress the brake pedal and slowly move the selector lever through all the gears, beginning and ending in Park.

- With the engine still idling, check the level of the fluid on the dipstick.

Lugnut is right about looking at the fluid for color, smell, and feel. If it smells burnt, feels gritty is brown or black change immediately.

BTW, from my experience, DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO BACKFLUSH YOUR TRANNY unless the filter screen and pan has been cleaned first. I don't care what a mechanic says about it being safe, BS!!!! This cost me a transmission when a mechanic lied to me and said he pulled the pan and cleaned the screen on an older car that I had, when I checked later it was obvious that the seal hadn't been broken on the pan. If you backflush without cleaning the pan and screen you are pulling all the grime and grit back into the tranny, TERRIBLE IDEA!!!! The best way to change tranny fluid is to drain from the drain plug, pull the pan, and clean the screen and pan. Note if there is any debris in the screen or bottom or pan, a little is okay that's normal wear, a lot is letting you know that you probably have a problem. Replace the pan, refill, and now if you want a really good flush, now it is safe to reverse flush the tranny, this will get the most fluid out. I would only do this if there was a problem like brown or black fluid, gritty, and/or burnt smelling fluid.


I agree with every word Eodgator says here. Especially "Never back flush an auto trans.!!" Underline that about ten times. If a mechanic suggests doing that then that tells me that this guy does NOT understand what's going on in an automatic transmission, which makes me wonder what else he's confused about. At any rate I would find another mechanic because "those who can't be trusted with small things cannot be trusted with important matters". And an automatic transmission is a very important thing.
 

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If might add to the above. Your transmission filter is metal, and you can wash it out, but for the cost of a new one, I will replace them every time. If you do just wash it out, do not reuse the "O" ring filter seal, buy a new one. As your Rav4 is a 98, the pan has likely been off before. b\Before installing the new gasket, have a close look at the bolt holes, there should be no metal deformation around the holes, the metal should be flat. If necessary use a flat piece of metal as a backer and using a small hammer you should be able to re-straighten the metal. Many people will use rtv sealant or the like to get the gasket to adhere to the pan. If you opt for this be certain that you only use a very small amount as cured silicone is not good to have floating around your transmission, enough of it could even impair fluid flow through the filter. And don't forget to put the magnet back in.
 
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